Friday, 11 April 2008

We who are atheists:

Take great joy in freethinking and open-minded enquiry. Apart from the company of others, the greatest reward in life is to investigate, to learn and to attempt to understand the universe around us. We positively enjoy not knowing - and finding out.

Are human with human weaknesses. We don't claim to be perfect and we are not hypocrites when we aren't!

Are humanists - we put the welfare of people first, last and everywhere in between and we place great emphasise on social and personal responsibility based on a strong moral and ethical code which pre-dates all the world's religions and is shared with most of them.

Accept the cycle of birth, life and death. We have no problem with mortality and after death our atoms are recycled.

Have no need to invent a god to explain those things which we do not yet understand.
have no need of the rewards of a heaven or the punishments of a hell to encourage the living of a good life.

Why do we care? Why don't we just let religions get on with their mumbo jumbo?
We care because we see things done in the name of religion that threaten our freedom and, in some cases, our lives.

We would be happy to let the religious get on with it in private - and that's the key - when their beliefs and delusions start to impose on what we can do, or even on what we are allowed to think and say, then we draw the line.

Every day around the world, we can see people being killed, maimed, raped, having their homes destroyed, being made refugees - all in the name of religion.

Religion is the elephant in the room - and it is time we did something about it.

It is religious terrorism and religious sectarian violence that is killing people - and the people who do it use their religion, their holy books and their religious leaders to justify it.

Religion is extremism and has always led to conflict, terrorism, violence and war - no matter how much the liberal, tolerant, sensitive, middle classes try to claim otherwise.

Respect and tolerance - Limits to our tolerance
We place certain reasonable conditions on our tolerance of the religious:

They should not attempt to impose their beliefs on others.
Examples include extremist Christians trying to impose views on contraception, abortion and stem-cell research as well as Muslims trying to dictate what people wear and how women behave.

They should not attempt to indoctrinate children in their beliefs. There is no such thing as a "Catholic child" or a "Muslim child" - there are only "Catholic parents" and "Muslim parents." No-one is born a Catholic or a Muslim - becoming one requires information, freedom of choice and decision making - or indoctrination.

Adults can make up their own minds about religion but children should not be pressurised to believe, or not believe.

We oppose the existence of socially divisive "faith" schools. For example, Catholic and Protestant schools in Northern Ireland; Catholic, Church of England, Muslim, Judaist and extremist evangelical Christian schools in England.

About 1/3rd of schools are already faith schools - and we taxpayers pay 100% of their costs.

Their actions should not bring harm to others.
Examples include religious persecution, religious wars and physical/intellectual religious terrorism - which we see every day on the news.

They should be tolerant of other beliefs and they should not set their religion above all other beliefs - religious or non-religious
Religious arrogance leads to religious fundamentalism which leads to religious intolerance which leads to religious terrorism which leads to religious war.

There is no doubt that the views of non-believers are totally unfairly represented in our national institutions - simply because church and religious leaders (often self-appointed and totally undemocratic) are given public appointments by default.

They should accept that religion is about ideas - and all ideas should be open to criticism, satire and ridicule.
We oppose all forms of discrimination against individuals based on race, sex, sexuality, age, disability or religious belief. However, religious ideas have no protection against our right to free speech.

Zero tolerance towards the intolerant
Muslims are demanding protection against "Islamaphobia" and "moderates" everywhere are calling for "tolerance" and "respect".

Everyone has the right to believe what they wish but our position is simple: you have to earn respect by your actions and we will not tolerate the intolerant.

It does not matter whether it is "moderate" or "extremist", whether it is Islam, Christianity, Judaism or whatever, we will not tolerate you if:

you condemn homosexuality so that homosexuals in your religion live in fear of being outed;

you force particular dress styles on women through your preachings or through the pressure of your religious community;

you force women into arranged marriages;

you deny a woman the right to control her own body and to choose for herself about abortion;

you discriminate in any way against anyone on the basis of their sex or sexual orientation;

you deny contraceptives to other people on the basis of your religious beliefs;
you demand the right to educate your children separately from children of other beliefs;

you attempt to indoctrinate children into your belief without given them the chance to study other religions and non-belief systems;

your aim is to establish a state which is run by the rules of religion;

you condemn people who choose to leave your religion;

Religion is an idea and, like any idea, is subject to continuous criticism, satire and mockery.

There can be no protection under the law for "the Muslim race" (you are not born a Muslim) and there can be no protection under the law for an idea. The Race Relations Act defined Jews as a racial group (technically debatable) but the protection is not for the belief some of them share (Judaism) but for their racial group. The Act created an anomaly when it defined Sikhs in the same way simply to avoid problems that arise from the wearing of turbans.

You make a deliberate choice when you select your religion - in the full knowledge that others will criticise and mock your beliefs. Just because a belief is "profoundly held" and "at the core of our community" does not mean that it is right nor that it should not be mocked.

So, as with all intellectual debate, if you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.


People may or may not be entitled to respect - it depends on how they behave and what they do.

Abstract ideas, such as those behind religions, are never entitled to respect - they should be open to testing, to challenge, to criticism - and often to mockery and ridicule.

We are deeply upset and offended when the religious behave as if they have some special insight into humanity and some monopoly on morality that allows them to dictate what we should think and how we should behave.

We respect the ideas of religion as much as we respect the idea that the earth is flat or that fairies live at the bottom of the garden. We view supernatural religious ideas as a relic of the superstitious beliefs of the early iron age when they met the needs of those who understood little of the universe.

We fully understand why some people have a personal need for a religion - however, we have no such need. To us religion is a force that has cost millions of lives over the last two millennia - people killed in the name of religion. One glance at the news shows that religions continue to kill in religious wars and religious terrorism.