In response to my open letter to all Australians aimed at raising awareness of the implications of the Morrison government’s legalisation of religious abuse, sorry “Religious Discrimination Bill”, I received a comment stating that Australia was built upon Christian principles and therefore it should continue to do so. Another commenter then accurately pointed out that Australia was secular, not Christian.
Secular politics means our government is supposed to work independently of religious or spiritual matters. Therefore, to have a federal Religous Discrimination bill that overrides all other discrimination acts in each state and territory is a bold move away from nurturing a secular society that is supposed to support all religious and non-religious people equally. I have made my views of Morrison’s apparent biases and hidden agenda to tilt the scales of secularity towards religions very clear, so I won’t flog that horse any more.
Having said that, I think it’s also good to consider the idea of “Christian principles”. Many Australians have some form of Christian heritage, so what are these principles that we supposedly need a law designed specifically to protect them?
Crickey, there so many versions of Christianity: Catholicism, Lutheranism, Methodist, Eastern Churches, Latter Day Saints, Reformed Christian, and many more, including Pentecostal. However, on a theological level, all these variations of Christianity involve believing in one God, who is the creator of heaven and earth, a Nazarene dude who lived 2000 years ago is the saviour, and if you just believe in these two things then you’re on your way to heavenly bliss once you’ve kissed this mortal toil goodbye.
But wait, there’s more. To embody these beliefs you need love. You need to love thy neighbours and you need to love enemies. Everything about Christianity after these factors, I would argue, has more to do with traditions, rituals, rules, guidelines, specifications, and cultural values that have been added on to the core principle of Christianity, love.
Love, in the Christian sense, is supposeded to be non-discriminatory. Jesus set the tone for this standard by hanging out with corrupt tax collectors, the bourgeois of fishing villages, ex-prostitutes, and crowds of everyday people. I’m yet to find a convincing Biblical text were Jesus said we should love everyone but discriminate against the gays (yes they existed 2000 years ago, yawn), and the Jews (Jesus was Jewish, why would he discriminate against them, unless the were pompous hypocrites?), women because they have less superego than men, sorry I mean spirit (Freudian appropriation of Greek theology came much later), or any other criteria. As for those foreigners, especially those with a different faith, I’m pretty sure Jesus said something about being a good Surmaritian. But what would I know? I’m not a religious leader nor a pastor. Maybe I’m just too simple and cannot see all the regulations around loving people like some other Christians can?
Perhaps loving everyone is not the core principle of Christianity? I mean, if it were, why would we need to create a legal document that says a person’s religious beliefs need to be protected? Of course, the Religious Discrimination bill isn’t just about Christianity. The next biggest religion in Australia is Islam (I’m skipping over atheism because it’s not a religion; my apologies to the 30% of Australians associate themselves with this group). I’m not a Muslim, however, I’m aware that Islamics have five pillars of faith. They’re kind of like the Christian theological principles of believing in one God, honouring Muhammad (=/≠ Christian’s honouring of Jesus), and maintenance of traditions, etc. Beyond all that, love of Allah is really important and can be shown by loving others.
The next biggest religion in Australia is Buddhism. This has a very non-attachment kind of philosophy, however, paradoxically encourages love in all scenarios. Kind of like love everyone equally but stay non-attached to expectations and rigidity. Buddhism doesn’t have a supreme God that demands to be worshiped but it is open to the idea that spiritual beings are a thing.
The last big religion I’ll mention is Hinduism. It’s the oldest known religion around the world and recognises thousands of Gods and Goddesses. Crudely, it’s each to his own regarding which ones should be worshiped. (I find it fascinating that Zoroastrianism – an ancient Babylon/Persian religion – can be traced back to the ancient Hindu texts, the Vedas. And subsequently, Zoroastrianism has links to Judaism and Christianity – stories for another time.) Hinduism places love in the same realm as the divine.
I know I’m super simplifying complex religious beliefs here, but the bottom line is that regardless of deity/ies a religion venerates, love for others is a really important component of all major religions (I suspect a lot of atheists also rank love for others as being important).
Love, unconditional love, means being non-discriminatory. At least, I wish it was that simple. The infamous Hillsong Church illustrates this point well with their message that they love everyone, but if you’re gay then you can’t have an active leadership or ministerial role. Apparently, according to Hillsong, the apostle Paul was super clear on this topic. However, if you ask others, Paul was a clear as mud, and really what he was expressing was the equivalent of an ancient #metoo sentiment. Who should win such an argument? Those who believe the confusing transcript of an ancient text that has had dubious re-writings? (Islam has the similar issues.) Or modern psychological science that says homosexuality is not an illness? (Even psychoanalytic associations have apologised for Freudian ideas that homosexuality is condition that needs to be cured. I’m still patiently waiting on psychology establishments to apologise for Freud’s remarks about females supposedly meaning “Yes” when they say “No” to sexual advancements from males, but that’s yet another story … then again, if freedom of religion goes too far then perhaps the the justice system will return to allowing husbands the right to rape their wives? You know, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22), and that jazz. Personally, I wish there was more awareness of the terms “wife” and “mother” being used symbolically in scripture to represent “church”. Isaac Newton knew this well.)
The issue of sexual orientation and discrimination is an easy one to get lost on when objecting to the Religious Discrimination bill; however, the fact is, the bill goes much deeper than sexuality. Nuances of giving religious bigots of any faith having the right to to express discriminatory statements of beliefs towards others has far reaching ramifications. For example, I know of a Christian group that claims that in order to enter heaven followers must hate their parents. The leader quotes Luke 14:26:
“If any man come to Me and hate not his father and mother, and wife and children, and brethren and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.”
To most of the Christian world, the above quote is figurative speech and/or an example of a family system used to symbolise ancient religious hierarchies. To a fundamentalist who interprets the Bible literally, Luke’s words are justification for tearing families apart. I do not wish to give notoriety to a particular religious leader who enforces this doctrine, so I will not mention them by name. Suffice to say, if legislation is passed that overrides other laws, then such people can and will use ancient texts to support their beliefs and discrimination practices. Being discriminated against for being a parent may sound absurd, but this and even stranger beliefs could be upheld if Morrison’s shortsighted bill goes ahead.
Under current laws, specifically in Victoria, a religious person using coercive practices to indoctrinate others can be charged with radical extremism and hate crimes. I feel some sense of reassurance in knowing the current premier, Dan Andrews, opposes the bill and has stated that if it is passed he will not acknowledge it’s authority within Victoria. As a further act of commitment to anti-discrimination, the Andrews government has very recently amended the Equal Opportunity (Religious Exceptions) bill, to ensure religious organisations and schools will no longer be able to sack or refuse to hire people based on protected attributes such as sexuality, gender identity or martial status.
If the federal Religious Discrimination bill is approved acts of prejudice and terrorism will be given the green light. I cannot stress enough that the bill states it provides:
The Morrison’s government wants to OVERRIDE ALL OTHER COMMONWEALTH, STATE OR TERRITORY ANTI-DISCRIMINATION LAWS!
In other words, if a religious leader wants to claim that it is their belief that all parents are evil, then they can do so as easily as a religious leader can claim homosexuality is a sin. Not all religious beliefs are created equal.
A few days ago, I posted a copy of my Open Letter on my personal Facebook page. In response, an old friend who is a devout Christian sent a personal message in which they said they said they did not agree with everything I said but they had experiences with “crazy Christians”. The correspondence that continued was a wonderful exchange in which it became evident, despite our differing views, we were connected by the common agreement that love for others is what matters above all else. Their words were not empty. “I’ll do what I can to help,” they said.
The term “crazy” is rude and improper. Nonetheless, it aptly captures the problem with Morrison’s Religious Discrimination bill. While most Christians, Atheists, Islamics, Buddhist, Hindu’s, and others would not dream of hurting others through discriminatory and prejudicial practices or beliefs, the fact remains that there are some “crazy” individuals out there who would. Just as there are “crazy Christians” there are “crazy Islamics”, “crazy Buddhists”, “crazy Hindus”, and other “crazy” religious people who take things to a level of radical extremism, sometimes even going so far as to engage in hate crimes. The right to religious freedom should not override other human rights.
Religious freedom cannot be duly considered without also giving due consideration to religious belief. Alternatively, in consideration that love, moreover, non-discriminatory love, is a prime principle of most major religions no new law to protect the freedom of religion is needed. And finally, as a secular society, non-discrimination (aka love) should be the backbone of our laws.