Saturday, February 10, 2018

Liberalism, population and the growth of religion

Reading a paper published on my university site make me feel very atheist. I am. Rafael Domingo, according to his paper, is “a Professor of Law and ICS Research Professor at the University of Navarra (Spain), and Francisco de Vitoria Senior Fellow at the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University (Atlanta, GA)”. His paper is A New Global Paradigm for Religious Freedom. So why did Domingo’s paper wind me up? In his introduction, still in the first paragraph, he said: “For liberal secularists, on the other hand, religion is one among many expressions of individual freedom and does not call for special treatment.”
What does ‘liberal’ mean to you, here, in Australia? Is this country so different – or so stupid – to everywhere else in the world??

‘Liberalism’, means “the belief in freedom and human rights”, as defined in Wikipaedia (I know many don’t believe anything they say – but for this article they have 227 notes and 73 reference books, so check it out). ‘Freedom’ means “having an ability to act or change without constraint”. And ‘human rights’ means having rights to which “a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being”. Is this supported in Australia? If not, why not?? “Liberalism” to the LNP government, many feel, means getting everything they (the rich) need.

Jonathan James, a writer for The Conversation, said, at the start of his August 21, 2017, article: “In a nation that is increasingly secular, religion still plays a vital role in the way we run our country.” I agree with that we’re increasingly secular, but what is a “vital” role?

Many of the LNP politicians are religious, and their churches are tax-free and make money.  Catholic makes more than $100 billion a year; the Pentecostal Hillsong group, which has sprung up all around Australia, makes millions a year; older Protestant churches – Baptist, for example - own billions of properties.

John Howard, LNP, and Bob Hawke, Labour, get on together these days – many years after they both left parliament. Howard, on ABC in August last year, said that Australia needed to rethink its democracy and try to include “men, women, whatever their ethnic background”, but that weincreasingly find this pursuit of individual groups and the idea is to get all the little groups together”.  Hawke, an agnostic from Labour, thought that getting rid of the constitution was something we had to do if we wanted “to optimise the chance for democracy to be effective in this country”. This constitution seems to be where it was 200 years ago. Why?

I believe that getting rid of the constitution, getting rid of the present government, and being much open to all people in this country is where we should be. Getting rid of the constitution, and getting rid of religion within government, will make a huge different to all people. Religion, every religion, demands that we don’t listen to anything other than they say. They want to exist – grow – make more money. But they don’t care about anyone who doesn’t believe in their religion.

Wikipaedia’s page on the growth of religion, with 227 notes and 73 reference books (did I mention that earlier?? Well it can’t be called b/s! – Ed.), wrote about many different religions which seem to have grown in the last 5 or more decades. It said that in 2006 atheism (non religion) had grown to 21% in Australia, and 39% in New Zealand! 16% of the world non-religious population is currently 16%, but might reduce to 13% in 2050. Why? Because non-religious people stick to only 1.7 children in their families, while the main reasons that religions, say, Catholic and Protestant, expand, according to Eric Kaufman of University of London, “is because their religions tend to be "pro-natal" and they have more children.” On atheism (people like me), it said that: “Sociologist Phil Zuckerman's global studies on atheism have indicated that global atheism may be in decline due to irreligious countries having the lowest birth rates in the world and religious countries having higher birth rates in general.”

Zuckerman’s book* is referenced at the bottom of this blog. Maybe I need more books like that!

The global population increased in 100 years from 1.5 billion to 6.1 billion between 1900 and 2000. Hugely, in 37 years of the 20th century, it doubled from 2.5 billion in 1950 to 5 billion in 1987. By 2024 it will be over 8 billion people. Where did that come from?? It hadn’t even reached 1 billion until the 19th century!

And where are the religions during this population explosion? They’re growing, along with the population. As a percentage, many of them haven’t changed, but their global numbers have.

Section 116 of the constitution talks about religion. It says: “The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.

And yet, according to John Warburton writing about the senate in 2006, religions did work with governments: “In discussions of the religious component of twentieth century Australian politics most attention has been given not to constitutional issues but to the link between denominations and parties in voting and representation, Catholics with Labor and Protestants with the Coalition, as well as the denominational character of the Labor Party Split of the 1950s that produced the Democratic Labor Party.

In the Howard era the LNP seemed to collect more Catholics supporters, and by 2004 it got many more supporters from those of any denomination who attended a church. Throughout his government, many – including politicians - had tried to encourage the churches to stay out of politics, with the exception for the ‘moral’ issues - abortion, sexuality and euthanasia. The churches pretty much ignored them and dug into the government’s coalition parties. Religion seemed to disappear when Labor’s Julia Gillard was the PM, and yet, after LNP’s Tony Abbott became PM, the churches popped up again within the coalition. 

In 2013, for that election, many (most?) LNP politicians were religious and yet many of the voters were non-religious. Most of the country voters no longer supported the tax-free attitudes for religions, and yet it still went on and still hangs around. That is not ‘liberal’. That is not ‘human rights’.

John Craig, who “had over 20 years generalist experience in strategic policy research, development and application, with the Coordinator General’s and Premier’s Departments in Queensland”, started a group called the Centrefor Policy and Development Systems (CPDS) in 2008, and he wrote on the economic strategy that “[t]he federal government's preference is to liberalise markets rather than regulate. It has an objection to 'producerism' (involving government support for producers at the expense of consumers).” His CPDS seems to have been almost closed down now, but there should be a lot of people throughout this country who would read it and agree with it – if you want to advocate changes within politics.

Craig further pointed out that Kevin Rudd, who took over from Gillard, argued that “institutionalized Christianity (the church) should take the side of the poor and voiceless by becoming involved in politics” and yet Craig felt that “the failure of global efforts to deal with poverty is not simply a moral issue as was suggested… cultural factors (which are universally put in the 'too hard' basket) seem to be a major factor in the ability of any society to achieve material prosperity, and in difficulties in developing a global order in which all might reasonably be expected to succeed…”.
  • Over the last years, as the religion has grown within parliament, many have tried to push it out.The Rationalist Society of Australia had, in 2006, a conference titled “Religion and Politics: opportunity or threat?” and said that “[r]eligion is perhaps more visible now in Australian politics than it has been for almost thirty years.”
  • An article titled “Do Australian MPs believe in God?” was written by Candace Sutton for in March 2013. She said that “[m]ore than 80 per cent of the federal politicians who responded [to a survey] said they believed in God and would be attending at least one church service this [Easter] weekend.” 
  • In January 2014 Greens Senator Richard Di Natale said religion is a private matter and that prayers don’t belong in parliament: “I don't think we need to ensure that the parliament is there as a place for the recitation of various prayers and I just don't think that it does reflect the fact that we do consider that religion and politics should be kept separate.”
  • John Dickson from ABC wrote after Di Natale that “[t]he proposal of the Greens to drop the Lord's Prayer from Parliament rightly saddens Christians around the country; but, then, so should the saying of a prayer that nobody really means. The Christian love of prayer is more than matched by the Bible's aversion to hypocrisy.
  • Clementine Ford wrote, in May 2015, an article for Sydney Morning Herald titled “Want equality for all? Then spurn organised religion”, and subtitled that “The influence of Christianity in affairs of state is intolerable in a progressive society.” 
  • Brian Morris, for New Matilda in August 2015, titled “It's Time To Make The Politicians Wear Their Religion On Their Sleeve”, said that “[r]eligion can dramatically dictate an MPs attitude to a whole raft of contemporary social policy. Voters have every right to know the bold facts of their candidate's religion.” 
  • In August, 2017 last year, Luke Beck, writing for The Conversation, wrote an article titled “Official prayers in federal parliament are divisive and unconstitutional, and should be scrapped”. 
  • In September last year, George Williams from the Sydney Morning Herald wrote an article titled “Parliamentary prayers should be consigned to history”.

And. So. Many. More! Google ‘religion in australian parliament’ and look through the thousands provided! That might just turn you off religion ‘participation’ in parliament!

This country is our country, not the ‘religious’ country – regardless of what religion is out there. Those who have asked… and asked and asked and asked… for religion to be dropped out of parliament have been ignored, not because every politician is religious, but because religions support (donate to) every party. Why do they do that? Why do political parties accept that?

Religion is not some ‘thing’ that politicians can follow publically. We should not have religion in parliament nor a Chaplain in parliament. And those who disagree with the religious activities carried on in parliament should all be heard… because we are in the majority.

Is it time for this? Yes, it definitely is! 

*Zuckerman, Phil 2007. Martin, Michael, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Atheism. Cambridge Univ. Press. p. 59. ISBN 0521603676

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