Excellent News from Holland and Ireland for Secularists

Each of these countries believes that all its citizens should be subject to the same laws. Crazy concept – let’s hope it catches on.

Fuck knows what they smoke in Holland but it’s working and other countries need some, urgently.

The Dutch Parliament has outlawed any form of slaughter where animals are not stunned prior to killing.  This is great news for the animals and great news for the people of Holland, be they carnivore, herbivore or omnivore.  Why?  Because it demonstrates that the law should be for everyone without any exemption on religious grounds.

Despite having theological differences which are quite literally irresolvable, including the planet’s longest-running and most bloody piece of real estate litigation (for which the big man Himself must surely take some responsibility in his capacity as a crooked, double-dealing “omniscient real estate broker”, to use Sam Harris’s phrase), Jewish and Muslim leaders will join forces to misdiagnose this as religious persecution; in fact, the UK’s chief rabbi Jonathan Sacks already played this particular card a few weeks ago when this change in Dutch law cleared the first legislative hurdle.

There is a simple rebuttal to this accusation but sadly it is necessary to make it repeatedly, so that even a chief rabbi can grasp it: the removal of a privilege does not equate to persecution; it equates to the removal of a privilege.  It’s like arguing that MPs and peers in the United Kingdom are persecuted for their parliamentary expenses, whereas in reality their archaic, unreasonable system of privileges has just been dismantled because there is no objective reason to retain it in its previous state.

The Jewish Post has compared this to the ban by the Nazis of this practice in 1933, so we also have to deal with that slur.  That the Jews (and others) were persecuted horribly by the Nazis is completely undeniable.  But it does not follow that anything that happens today which took place under the Nazis is the same as Nazism or the same as persecution of Jews.  As always, it is necessary to analyse the details of what has happened to establish whether persecution has actually taken place, rather than summarily and lazily convicting on the grounds of guilt by association (which I also cover here: does my fondness for German Shepherd dogs, a trait I share with Hitler, make me a Jew-hating Nazi?  Answer: no).

Likewise, putting forward a most reasonable argument that all people in a country should be subject to the same laws – whatever their religion, if any – does not make me a Jew-hating Nazi.

Failure to give religious beliefs special legal status is not persecution.  Human rights are for human beings; they are not for the protection of beliefs and they are not for the creation of legal loopholes for religious groups – in this case, the maintenance of a cruel system of animal slaughter based on nothing more noteworthy than a tatty old book.

While we’re on the subject of religion and Nazism, by the way, Hitler’s major strategic blunder in my view was not invading Russia; it was failing to market Nazism as a religion.  It’s surprising he or Goebbels didn’t think of this because Nazism was similar to the so-called “great” religions of today in so many ways: it was intolerant; it had elements of the occult; it was violent; it was war-mongering; it was genocidal; it was racist and supremacist; it had weird uniforms; it was hostile to dissent or even criticism and ruthlessly extinguished these; and it had at its head a jealous, psychopathic, megalomaniac loco with significant sexual issues.  If Hitler had pursued the religious strategy and if the Third Reich had been victorious, our world would now have one more religion, the excesses of which could be celebrated and defended by the cultural elite on both the left and the right, and by cultural relativists, as religious and cultural freedom.

In Ireland, meanwhile, the Prime Minister (a Catholic, incidentally, just to remind everyone that Secularism isn’t the same as Atheism, not that there’s anything wrong with Atheism) has possibly administered a final, deadly blow to the vile privileges enjoyed by the Catholic Church in that country and hopefully elsewhere.  In a speech to the Irish Parliament, he said:

“The rape and torture of children were downplayed or ‘managed’ to uphold instead the primacy of the institution, its power, standing and ‘reputation’”.

And he also said:

“This is the Republic of Ireland 2011. A Republic of laws, of rights and responsibilities, of proper civic order, where the delinquency and arrogance of a particular version – of a particular kind of ‘morality’ – will no longer be tolerated or ignored.”

That the complete moral failure of the Church, the apparent moral guardian of the country, has finally been recognised in Ireland is incredible.

Some might query whether these news events are really as significant as I suggest.  Yes, they most certainly are.  It is imperative that legal exemptions or privileges which rely for their effectiveness on nothing other than religion are discarded, otherwise they take firm root and spread viciously, leading to ever more demands for legal exemptions and privileges – not just for that religion but by definition for a literally limitless number of other religions and denominations.  This eventually rips a gargantuan and irreparable fault line through the very mortar that ought to define a nation: a set of laws to which all its citizens are subject.

In giving religious beliefs or institutions special treatment, society can be subtly conditioned to condone, for example, the irreversible genital mutilation of baby boys on religious grounds, whereas any functioning human being would normally vomit in horror and disgust if such a thing was done to a helpless baby for any reason other than an objective medical one, and then only by a qualified medical practitioner. (If you can read that link without being physically repulsed then you have a stronger stomach than I do.)

In giving religious beliefs or institutions special treatment, society can be subtly conditioned to believe that crimes committed amongst families in the name of religion are not crimes but matters of honour which have to be dealt with by law enforcement agencies “sensitively” (which is often code for not being dealt with at all).

In giving religious beliefs or institutions special treatment, society can be subtly conditioned to believe that war crimes are not war crimes because they have the blessing (literally) of the appropriate religious leaders.

In giving religious beliefs or institutions special treatment, society can be subtly conditioned to allow widespread abuse of children and the intentional cover-up of those crimes.

Nothing gives barbarity the gold-plated seal of approval quite like religion manages to.

This is a big deal but it should not be.  One would have hoped that in the twenty-first century western liberal democracies would have finally understood the distinction between religious freedom and religious privilege and that secular legal systems reflecting this were the norm.

I long for a time when any legal exemptions or privileges on purely religious grounds belong at the very most to the same family of laws that exist in theory but not in practice, and which only exist because legislative bodies have more worthwhile things to do than simply reformat statute books; laws which are so comical or obscene that people can be trusted to take them for what they are: mutated, freakish, historical relics; the statutory equivalent of gruesome archaeological artifacts.  Have a look here for the kind of laws I’m talking about.

Perhaps one day my children will study these news events as school projects and as I help them with their homework they will say to me, “Help us understand this, dad, because we’re confused.  In 2011 your legal system gave people legal exemptions and legal privileges based simply on which god or gods they chose to believe in and which book they considered to be holy?  All someone needed to do in order to achieve a legal exemption or legal privilege was to say their religion demanded it of them?  You lived in a time where you had access to historical records showing you just how destructive religious differences had been for humans?  In fact, you lived in a time when those religious differences continued to cause conflict?  You lived in a time after the Enlightenment?  Great scientists and philosophers such as Darwin, Voltaire, had gone before you?  You saw a man walk on the Moon?  You were able to peer towards the very limits of our universe and actually begin to comprehend it?  You sent an object beyond our own solar system, to inter-stellar space, and you were still able to communicate with it?  And yet your laws and legal systems, the very infrastructure of your self-governance, were ultimately subordinate to the supernatural beliefs of ancient desert cults?”  And I’ll say, “Correct.”

Religious privilege in all its forms will hopefully die out completely, one day.  I just really hope I’m around to see it.