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Religious Instruction in State Schools.

Should religious instruction be permitted in New Zealand State Schools?

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The vote is already over! It ended on Wednesday, 30.April 2014 (00:00).

jVS by www.joomess.de.

The New Zealand Association of Rationalist and Humanist [NZARH] consider the time is overdue for the citizens of New Zealand to claim their democratic right of ‘legal equality’ back from the dogmatic theologies that have perverted the governmental laws of the country. These freeloading religious institutions have received favoured treatment in the form of tax exemption on both income tax and Local Body rates, at a cost to the general tax payer who is required to pay extra to make up for the taxation freeloaders share. The NZARH is spear-heading an inquiry into this economic and ethical injustice on behalf of the near 50% of the population that voted ‘no religion’ in the latest census. As this will most likely require expensive legal procedure the NZARH is asking the thinking public’s help with both moral and financial support to achieve this goal.

 

Psychologist Sigmund Freud claimed, “The first human who hurled an insult instead of a stone was the founder of civilization.” By using Freud’s guideline of dialectical nonviolence and by insisting that nothing, be it physical, metaphysical or supernatural, should be exempt from the citizen’s right to question its truth. Many people would agree that some of the basic philosophical tools of critical enquiry would include dialogue, logic and reason. But beyond all doubt, the most effective tool of all is the inquisitive child’s favorite word ‘why’ and why will be the key word of this paper.

The philosopher Bertrand Russell suggested that scholastic philosophy developed from primitive economics and a need to ask questions vital to human survival. The need to know why the crops had failed; or why no one bought the produce when it went to market, had baked beans become antisocial? ‘Why’ was used to find the solution to the problem, with the intention of correcting it and achieving a beneficial outcome. This grassroots link between economics and ethics has continued up to present times e.g. "so sorry about your rise, we would like to be more generous, but we just cannot afford it at the moment.” Perhaps the outcome could have been different if the boss were in a more financial position through not having to pay the religious freeloaders tax for them.

 

‘Why’ is a word that is seldom used, unless we have suffered a tragedy like having an earthquake destroy all of our possessions; or in more happy times when we have had the luxury of leisure time allowing us to engage in some speculative reflection. Leisure is the reward of economic prosperity. Plato makes this clear in his construction of the ‘ideal state’ [not all that different to our current system]. In The Republic, Plato proposed a structured three class society. The most populace class is the commoners, and it was their duty to work and provide most the wealth of the state. The second most populace class is the military and they are paid to defend the state and prevent civil disobedience. The third class, and smallest by numbers, are the leisured class of aristocratic philosophers; they were economically secure, housed, clothed and nurtured by the state. Plato’s reason for providing an income for the governing philosophers was to allow them to focus purely on the business of the state unaffected by bribery or financial temptation. Once again the philosophical ‘why’ was driven by an economic and practical motive. Historically philosophy was respected by the enlightened population and most of the civic leaders had professional philosophical training. Philosophy prospered as a guiding force by combining critical inquiry with evidence based experimentation for the mutual benefit of the entire population.

 

Democracy was an outcome of philosophical discussion, but around the beginning of the present era democracy’s emphasis on equality was eroded by the doctrine of the dogmatic Roman Catholic Church [RCC]. The first blow came when the pagan Roman Emperor Constantine imagined he saw a cross in the sky, and converted to Catholicism. Soon after converting, he confiscated the wealth of the pagan institutions and gave them along with the total wealth of the Roman Empire to the RCC. The second and fatal blow was dealt by St Augustine a Manichean Gnostic heretic and later pious catholic convert. Augustine was an ascetic who did not eat meat or participate in physical sex, [even when legally married] but transcended into slobbering ecstasy at the mention of God. He declared that of the three basic Christian Virtues, ‘faith’ ‘hope’ and ‘love’; faith was the overruling virtue. Augustine’s faith was not the plebeian dream, that when you die your soul will ascend to a five star geriatric home with panoramic views.

His ‘faith’ derives from an ‘Old Testament’ Hebrew word meaning ‘steadfastness’ or loyalty. When ‘faith’ was officially accepted by the RCC it evolved into the papal edict, ‘an acceptance of a statement on authority’, or in modern lingo, what the boss, the Pope says, is true. This was carried to the ultimate theosophical conclusion and made reason, logic and dialogue subservient to faith and nulified their effectiveness as tools of critical assessment. It was forbidden under papal law to contradict RCC dogma, or ask ‘why’, and disobedience could result in execution; [burning at the stake was a very popular method, though skinning alive was preferred by the more sadistic]. Through Constantine’s tyranical partnership connection of church and state, faith was later enshrined in secular law, giving freedom of religion but not freedom from religion, and making heresy and the blasphemy secular laws with a capital punishment penalty. This effectively demoted philosophy to the handmaid of theology. It remained this way for the next millennium; the moribund period historically known as ‘The Dark Ages’.

 

Politically, nothing much changed for us until the reign of Henry 8th of England, when after an argument with the Pope he broke away from the RCC. In the ‘Act of Supremacy’ Henry was established as Supreme Governor of the Church of England [CoE] but ironically he kept the title given by the Pope ‘Defender of the Faith’. Under the Tudor reign the Crown gave the CoE certain privileges like permitting them to raise funds by tithing their parish. The privilege was granted on the condition that CoE provided food for the poor and guaranteed to ensure that no commoner in the parish would die of starvation. [Again economics is linked to ethics].

Queen Elizabeth 2nd as head of the British Commonwealth has inherited Henry 8th titles and ties to the church. New Zealand is a commonwealth member and Elizabeth 2nd is NZ head of state. Because of this, the NZ Government cannot open its Parliament without her agent the Governor General’s permission and a Christian prayer. This effectively makes NZ a soft theocracy and establishes favorable precedence to the Christian Church allowing them to give ‘religious instruction’ in nominally secular state schools. The NZARH asks why it should be assumed that any system of ‘religious education’ should hold the moral high-ground given their track record and their past and present propensity towards scientific ignorance and interchurch violence.

Five centuries later in contemporary times, little has changed. The merciless Islamic Faith considers the Quran is perfect and forbids critical enquiry and has the death penalty for heresy and blasphemy. With a list of other things, like female adultery {even when the female victim has been gang raped}, the penalty is death by public stoning; totally in line with their stone-age thinking. Under Islamic Law even something as trivial as drawing a picture of Allah warrants a death sentence. Muslim woman are forced to cover their bodies and faces in their patriarchal society where their law states the testimony one male equates to the testimony of two women. Until recently, Christianity wasn’t much better and scientists were burnt at the stake for saying that that sun did not revolve around the Earth simply because it contradicted the Christians’ Earth centered dogma.

The Christian Church only dropped the death penalty for heresy a few centuries ago, and it was not voluntary, but due to civic pressure. Every monotheistic religion believes it holds the moral high- ground, because they believe their laws are God’s supreme laws; and all this is done without an iota of proof. Not a single reclusive God’s signature or a dated document in the Bible or Quran to prove it. Ignoring this they still receive privileged treatment from a nominal secular state, with tax exemption at both local body and central government levels. They bleat about tolerance and the ‘freedom of religion’ but insist that God’s law overrules man’s law. They show no tolerance for those who want ‘freedom from religion’ and a level playing field for all people.

NZ has a serious child poverty problem, but the churches continue stuffing money into their coffers; more concerned with children’s invisible souls than their patent poor health. Amnesty International has recently condemned the NZ Government for its record on child poverty, but the wealthy churches stay very quiet, too busy fund raising to restore their faux archaic stone temples to worry about the health of hungry kids. If the tax exempt churches were made to pay their share of the taxes the state would have more funds to solve some of its urgent social problems.

 

Strategically, because of the proposed Constitution Law changes the time is right to return to true equality and assert the philosophical ‘why’ by asking the Government a few simple economic and ethical questions.

 

  • Why should a supernatural element be grounds for tax exemption?
  • Why should religious followers receive special privileges? [ like biased immigration quota assistance]
  • Why is blaspheme a part of NZ secular law with a penalty of up to one years imprisonment? [When we have hate laws to cover defamation and slander].
  • Why should a woman be paid less than a man when doing the same work?
  • Why should a section of society be permitted to integrate with their faces masked when it is forbidden to other sections?

 

The NZARH suggest the thinking public should take the initiative and ask their members of parliament to answer these questions and to encourage them to introduce the appropriate legislation to ensure lawful democratic equality for all citizens.

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