When our society in Australia talks of “alienation” and “making people feel welcome” there is a certain smugness and “lord of the manor” tone present, even to a privileged, white, educated, many generation Australian woman such as myself. I cannot complain. But I have felt myself marginalised on many an occasion on the specific issue of religion.
I have been an athiest for over sixty years, and openly admit my lack of belief occasionally, but even today feel very reluctant about how and where I am free to express my views.
Over the years I have had many very good friends who are either Christian or Jewish, nevertheless have mostly felt a necessity to keep my opinions to myself.
Not so with many with religion, such as Cardinal Pell, who openly went on record to grudgingly admit there could be good people who were non theists but they obtained this goodness “on the coat tails of Christianity”. Tony Abbott very recently expressed the view that we had to acknowledge the Christian/Judeo basis of our society.
About a decade ago we were lucky to welcome to our immediate family a Muslim woman and enjoy our time spent with this lovely lady. I do not have religious discussions with her either, rather discuss family and world issues, but I feel distressed for her with the societal views hinted at, when not openly expressed, in that somehow the Islamic religion is very different from the other religions freely practiced in this society.
Apparently atheists are also obliged (as I have felt) to be very contained when expressing their views. People like Richard Dawkins are said to be too overtly critical of religions and he and others have been criticised for the use of atheism as a “religion”.
Apparently in our “Christian/Judeo” society (I wonder what our first people think about that) it is OK to have other beliefs as long as those who practise these beliefs (or non beliefs) do not do so overtly or too openly espouse them!
Meanwhile, over the years they, promulgate their own. They infiltrate secular schools with School Chaplains. Churches receive very favourable tax exemptions. Christian prayers have been received or tolerated on public occasions such as the opening of Parliament and at Anzac Day memorials. And meanwhile most people who do not agree with this have nevertheless had to disagree “with respect”.
Our laws are unbiased and nobody should be immune from obeying them. Breaches should, and are, dealt with across all viewpoints without fear or favour.
But acceptance of difference, from speeches of parliamentarians, through religious leaders and then through the general population are not so lacking in bias. People like me are expected to toe the line or else this reflects poorly on our beliefs.
In the current environment I am sick of this. For the first time in 60 odd years I will say stop all this . Each one of us is as flawed as the rest. I will not be lectured to about what is good or bad by proponents of a mythical Christian god who are so absorbed in nepotism that they conflate a father and son into the same entity, Islamic people who believe in the same god but who have argued for centuries about their prophets, or Judeism, which smugly does not need such prophets. (Or even Google who steadfastly insists that god is spelt with a capital “G”.)
Let us accept each other with respect. Let us have the same expectations of each other as we have of ourselves. If we want to worship openly in society we must fully, not grudgingly, also accept others’ rights to do so.
If we cannot bring ourselves to do this then we must make all public institutions completely free of religious overtones and ALL worship in private.
I have, until today with my diatribe above, respected the right of others to hold beliefs, which I seriously think are flawed, without making open criticism. I have, at times, felt quite alienated in this role but I am prepared to accept this. But I am not prepared to accept, in my own country, wrangling about the relative values implicit in religions.
In the world each of us is responsible for what we do or think.