Religion and religious people - against their quest for special treatment 

Religion can be broadly understood as a community based around revelations, including a code of behaviour, from a higher power that they think can respond to prayer and worship.

Here are the reasons why religion should not get special privileges.

Religion says a political party should not be given a privileged position.  So it expects the secular state to regard it as something sacred and even more important than any ruling political group!!!

Religion says religion should be - .

a) because unlike political parties it claims allegiance to supernatural beings such as God

b) because people hold their religious beliefs with passion and would live and die for them. To insult the beliefs is to hurt them deeply.

c) because only religious beliefs become part of a person's identity. No other kind of belief can do that. The beliefs make you who you are. [Don't forget the problem with saying, "Its okay to have an identity as long as it is not seen only as what you are about."  Everybody knows that.  One false identity of yours that  you give enough importance to becomes a hazard.]

d) because secularism has borrowed its values from religion and unless religion is valued and given special rights even secularism itself is threatened.

e) because without God there will only be totalitarianism. In other words, the state then becomes God. The state needs to be devoted to God and admit that it derives its authority from him.

f) because the alterative is to suggest that religious beliefs should not be respected. The beliefs of a Catholic who is forced by the secular state to let gays adopt children are not being respected.

Let us examine these arguments:

ARGUMENT: "Religion should be given special treatment because unlike political parties it claims allegiance to supernatural beings such as God."

Religion is political in itself. It's God's political party. It might not be about earthly politics but about heavenly but it is still political.

God claims to be king. Religion says he comes first. That in itself does nothing to encourage true loyalty to the state. Indeed, if there is a conflict of interest it implies that God's interests are the ones that matter.

A religion can be devoted to Krishna, or Jesus or some other alleged God. Just because a religion has a god doesn't mean it must get special treatment. Also, each religion does not recognise the others as worshipping real Gods so they surely can't believe that it means that each religion should get special treatment.

Not all religious entities are religious to the same degree. Some religions are very agnostic and secular. Not all religion is religion to the same level. If you are going to favour religion then it is better to favour the more secular ones! You cannot favour all religions the same if you are going to favour religion!

ARGUMENT: "Religion should be given special treatment because people hold their religious beliefs with passion and would live and die for them. To ignore or insult the beliefs is to hurt them deeply."

If people think the state should give their religious group special treatment because they are passionate about the religious teachings, then they are clearly admitting that they are fanatics and suffering from an obsession. It's therapists they should be looking for.

There are other forms of passionate devotion. Why not argue, "We love our wives and husbands more than anything. Therefore we should get special treatment from the state. For example, we should have a better voice than unattached people have. We should get the jobs rather than them."

Most members of any religion may at times pretend to be passionate about the faith. And others are passionate one week and lukewarm the next.

Do we want to get to the point where audits have to be done to find the most passionate religion so that we can confer special rights on it?

The state hurts wives who passionately love their husbands by exposing their husbands as rapists and thieves for example. If the law should give passionate religion special treatment then it should refuse to try and establish the guilt of those men. 

ARGUMENT, "Religion should be given special treatment because only religious beliefs become part of a person's identity. No other kind of belief can do that. The beliefs make you who you are."

It is not true that only religious beliefs are that important. All our beliefs are built on our secular or non-religious attitudes. For example, your basic beliefs will all be non-religious. You believe that your senses always tell you the truth unless there is something wrong with you or unless you are being tricked. In neither case, is the fault with the senses. For example, if you see red as green. It is not the sense of sight that is the problem but some interference with it. Anyway, the belief is our most basic belief. It makes us what we are.

Some religions claim that once you join them there is an ontological change. Your nature changes. You are not the same being any more. That dehumanises people by refusing to see them as a human being and seeing them as a religious being. The suggestion (for example) of some that when you receive Jesus as Saviour, you lose your sinful nature and get a new nature and become a new being is doing just that. When that change is regarded as morally necessary, clearly there is an element of hate for ordinary non-religious people.

If you consider religious or political beliefs to be part of your identity, that is shows you are suffering from an obsession and need help.

Your sexuality is more important and foundational than your religion. Even your sexuality is not all of you.

There is more to you than your religion, career and skills. For example, we talk about people with disabilities not disabled people. A disabled person does not exist. It is a person who has disabilities.

People have a habit of identifying themselves with things they do. They mistake the part for the whole.

Much religion seeks to manipulate people to identify themselves with the religion. That way, they are able to insulate the person against influences that are hostile or indifferent to the faith. For example, if you see yourself as having a Catholic identity you will see anything that refuses special treatment to the Church as offensive and as a personal attack on you. You will be dead against anybody who says they think the faith is wrong.

In fact, those who say they believe not in men or in their own reasoning but in God's are being untruthful. They believe in their own judgment. You cannot accept what God says unless you make the decision to agree with him. Strictly speaking you are agreeing with yourself and not God at all. Therefore it is your judgment that you can identify with. Not the religion. Identifying with your religion TO ANY DEGREE is an illusion.

Religion can never become an integral part of who you are. You change over time. It is possible to be even a nun or a monk and pretend to believe in the religion. You might have believed once but not any more. The search for special treatment form the state will lead people to feign religious devotion to get power and prestige - money cannot buy those blessings! Devotion however can!

Your religious label is not what you are all about. You are a human being. That is what you are all about. It is dehumanising to see your religion as defining your core and your essence. You are more than an adjective. Secularism necessarily opposes attempts to challenge this.

Many football fans show devotion to their team that is on a par with religious devotion. A teenager may have posters of Lady Gaga all over his room. He listens to a Gaga song in the morning for he finds that perks him up and energises him for the day. He promotes Gaga. He buys Gaga merchandise. He attends her concerts in many different countries. He feels her presence. His devotion is stronger than that of many passionate religionists. He is an example of the fact that people who claim the right to special treatment because they consider their religious faith to be integral to their sense of self have no such right at all!

If your religious identity defines you as a person, if you are your religion, then what about religions that forbid you to go that far such as Buddhism? If Catholics are to see themselves as Catholics and not as people, then what about the huge majority of Catholics that do not go that far? If you get rights because of your identification with your religion, then it follows that the more you see yourself as a member of a religion and the less you see yourself as a person the more the law should legislate to suit you.

Does each religion then want the state to arrange psychological audits to test how people identify with their religion and to what extent so that it can give the most rights to the religion that has the highest number of people who identify totally or strongly with the religion? Every time a religion seeks special and intrinsic rights, it implicitly declares war on other religions.
It is degrading to see a person merely as a Catholic or whatever. They are more than that.

ARGUMENT: "Religion should be given special treatment because secularism has borrowed its values from religion and unless religion is valued and given special rights even secularism itself is threatened."

This is really saying that secularism is rubbish and that the Church and state should be one.

As we have to judge even God himself before we decide that we agree with him, it follows that all values come form humanism not religion. Religion is borrowing human values and pretending they are religious values.

Religion must be given special treatment because our freedom depends on the principles taught by religion and by morality. Men do not give us the right to freedom. God does. Our freedom comes from God's authority. It is ours because of his authority.

This is really just saying we have no intrinsic right to freedom but need an authority to give it to us. But no authority however great can do that. The right to freedom means we deserve freedom. We either deserve it or not. Authority makes no difference. It would be as easy for an authority to make an innocent person guilty or a guilty person innocent as to make us deserve the freedom we are not entitled to.

This is also saying that the state has no right to be free from the control of religion. And it has to be the true religion. Only the true religion can tell us what we should be free to do and not free to do.

ARGUMENT, "Religion should be given special treatment because religious people pay their taxes."

If you pay your taxes, what has your religion got to do with it? It is like saying that because most taxpayers support a particular football team in a nation that the state should give loads of public funding to the team. The argument implies that it is against the rights of Catholics in a Catholic country for the state to appoint non-Catholic doctors and nurses and teachers etc.

There is nothing stopping from a religion educating the children outside of school itself in the religion.

The view encourages the attitude, "I have to pay my taxes. The state will therefore promote my religion by funding schools for it. It is violating my right." It makes the person pay taxes more reluctantly. That is disloyalty to the state.

ARGUMENT: "Religion already gets exemptions from the law. We need to consider giving it more."

That is the same as saying we have already stolen ten dollars so let us steal more!

Here are some of the exemptions from the law religion enjoys in the UK:

- the barbaric halal and kosher slaughter of animals is allowed

- Sikhs are not required to wear crash helmets

- vaccination can be refused on religious grounds

- employment can be religiously specified where is it a requirement

- Clergy and Catholic priests are allowed to do all that counsellors do - and without qualifications and training

- doctors are not compelled to perform abortions if against their beliefs.

Is it not seen that the exemptions actually remove the right to free exercise of religion? The laws fail to be religion-neutral and generally applicable.

The secular state does not identify itself with any religious label

Many countries claim to be Muslim. Many claim to be Hindu. Many claim to be Christian.

How does that fit into secularism? If most people in a country call themselves Christian, the secular state will not say it is a Christian country. There are other religions and people of no-religion. It might say it is largely a Christian country. But the problem is the state is judging what makes a Christian a Christian. This is a theological/religious matter and a controversial one. Anybody can claim the label just as the Pope can claim to be a Satanist. The state must abandon consideration for religious labels. People are not to be objectified with a religion label but seen as human beings and treated on that level. Muslims and some religions claim that all babies are born into their religion and are led away from it say into Catholicism by those who look after them. For the state to label the children say Catholic because they are baptised in a Catholic Church is therefore a violation of secularism.

No religion or Church should be the established or official state religion or state Church.

It is said that if the state does not have religious labels, it still has to acknowledge they exist. After all, if the state has no right to force a Jewish congregation to employ a Christian minister then it would seem that this recognition of labels is needed. It is argued then that the state has to take the label seriously to apply anti-discrimination law correctly. This argument is flawed. Choosing the best person for the job is not unfair discrimination and a Christian minister cannot be of any use to a Jewish congregation. It is not about labels at all.