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The recent Gods and Politics conference in Copenhagen adopted the following Declaration on Religion in Public Life. The conference was the first European event of Atheist Alliance International, and was co-hosted by AAI and the Danish Atheist Society.

It is an interesting read:

We, at the World Atheist Conference: "Gods and Politics", held in Copenhagen from 18 to 20 June 2010, hereby declare as follows:

  • We recognize the unlimited right to freedom of conscience, religion and belief, and that freedom to practice one’s religion should be limited only by the need to respect the rights of others.
  • We submit that public policy should be informed by evidence and reason, not by dogma.
  • We assert the need for a society based on democracy, human rights and the rule of law. History has shown that the most successful societies are the most secular.
  • We assert that the only equitable system of government in a democratic society is based on secularism: state neutrality in matters of religion or belief, favoring none and discriminating against none.
  • We assert that private conduct, which respects the rights of others should not be the subject of legal sanction or government concern.
  • We affirm the right of believers and non-believers alike to participate in public life and their right to equality of treatment in the democratic process.
  • We affirm the right to freedom of expression for all, subject to limitations only as prescribed in international law – laws which all governments should respect and enforce. We reject all blasphemy laws and restrictions on the right to criticize religion or nonreligious life stances.
  • We assert the principle of one law for all, with no special treatment for minority communities, and no jurisdiction for religious courts for the settlement of civil matters or family disputes.
  • We reject all discrimination in employment (other than for religious leaders) and the provision of social services on the grounds of race, religion or belief, gender, class, caste or sexual orientation.
  • We reject any special consideration for religion in politics and public life, and oppose charitable, tax-free status and state grants for the promotion of any religion as inimical to the interests of non-believers and those of other faiths.  We oppose state funding for faith schools.
  • We support the right to secular education, and assert the need for education in critical thinking and the distinction between faith and reason as a guide to knowledge, and in the diversity of religious beliefs. We support the spirit of free inquiry and the teaching of science free from religious interference, and are opposed to indoctrination, religious or otherwise.

Adopted by the conference, Copenhagen, 20 June 2010.

Originally posted to RandomActsOfReason on Tue Jul 13, 2010 at 05:52 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Maybe they should start... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    WarrenS

    ...by getting Denmark to stop having a state church, funded by Danish taxes.  And getting the Christian cross off their flag would be nice too.

    The urge to save humanity is almost always a false face for the urge to rule it. ~ H.L. Mencken

    by Jay Elias on Tue Jul 13, 2010 at 05:59:09 PM PDT

    •  Are you under the impression that the... (6+ / 0-)

      ...World Atheist Conference is somehow affiliated with the Danish government?

      I agree that having a state church is silly, and having a cross on your flag is silly...but as far as I can understand, the Conference rented space in Copenhagen because it's a good place to have conferences, not because they were trying to change government policy.

      Freedom isn't "on the march." Freedom dances.

      by WarrenS on Tue Jul 13, 2010 at 06:07:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  No, but the Danish Atheist Society is Danish... (0+ / 0-)

        ...I presume.

        It is, of course, quite a bit more pernicious than it is silly.  Meanwhile, isn't the whole point of this declaration to change government policy?

        The urge to save humanity is almost always a false face for the urge to rule it. ~ H.L. Mencken

        by Jay Elias on Tue Jul 13, 2010 at 06:15:00 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Which is why your reaction is a bit unclear (5+ / 0-)

          This Declaration, like atheists in general, is not anti-religion, it is pro-pluralism in the true sense - not what religionists mean when they say "inter-denominational", but truly pluralist as in including people of all faiths and atheists, agnostics, humanists, freethinkers, etc, with full equality and rights, recognition, respect and dignity in a free society.

          Including, of course, the right of atheists to publicly articulate and promote their convictions just like the followers of any religious do, in a free marketplace of ideas.

          Always make new mistakes - Esther Dyson

          by RandomActsOfReason on Tue Jul 13, 2010 at 07:01:40 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  and it expresses it perfectly. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Iranaqamuk

            Dude, A+ for the folks in Copenhagen coming up with that document.  It scores across the board.  

            The only thing missing is something that most people in the world have no reason to even suspect is needed:  freedom from indoctrination in prisons, parole/probation programs, drug treatment programs, and psychiatric in-patient programs: all of which can be mandated by courts.  

            These types of things have become a real plague in the US, per diaries by Troutfishing and Dogemperor.  In some places, there are no options other than hardcore religious programs, where failure to convert translates to the threat they'll revoke your probation and send you back to prison.  The courts have started to recognize the problem but only just started.  

            I have some specific ideas about how these types of programs could be set up to embody secular values, but that might be another conversation for another day.  

            Anyway, there's no reason the folks in Copenhagen would ever have suspected what's going on in the US in this regard; most people in the US have no idea about it either.  

            •  Actually, there already are secular counterparts (0+ / 0-)

              to all the programs religion has created to indoctrinate the vulnerable, including prisoners and the mentally ill; it is the taboo against criticizing religion in our culture that helps to influence courts to favor religious programs over secular ones that have equal track records, and in many cases superior track records in terms of recidivism and recovery.

              The eight years of the Bush Administration stacking the courts with Dominionists and their sympathizers, to please backers, donors and the then-Dominionist head of the US Office of Personnel Management doesn't hurt either, particularly when those judges are supported and reinforced by thousands of Dominionist appointees to the federal bureaucracy courtesy of same former head of OPM, Kay C. James, former Dean of the School of Government at Pat Robertson's Regent University, training ground for the Dominionist political troops.

              Among other things, James was a major backer and pusher of the Prison Fellowship.

              Always make new mistakes - Esther Dyson

              by RandomActsOfReason on Tue Jul 13, 2010 at 11:25:36 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  PZ Myers links to Ken Ham's... (6+ / 0-)

    ...apoplectic seizure on reading this document.  It's pretty funny.

    Freedom isn't "on the march." Freedom dances.

    by WarrenS on Tue Jul 13, 2010 at 06:04:48 PM PDT

    •  It is, I guess. But totally wierd. (0+ / 0-)
    •  it's also clinical paranoia. (0+ / 0-)

      From the excerpts provided, Ham (who also rapes piglets, spread the word) has persecutory delusions, and probably hears voices telling him he's damned and he's going to hell.  

      Makes you wish for the good old days when "those nice young men in their clean white coats" could come and take him away (ha haaa!).  

      OTOH we can always push him just a little bit further over the edge.  If we keep repeating "Ken Ham rapes piglets," that'll be the first thing people see in the search listings under his name.  

      Remember, Ken Ham rapes piglets.  

      Spread it far and wide.  

    •  part of Ham's freakout is.... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      smarty jones

      .... he can't conceive that anyone could have a source for morality other than within his own specific denomination.  (And Ken Ham rapes piglets.)

      For example he can't grasp that the "unalienable rights" in the Declaration of Independence referred to "inherent characteristics" that are demonstrable facts of nature with backing from modern science:

      The right to life: organisms seek to preserve their own lives.

      The right to liberty:  free will, demonstrable all the way down the phylogenetic scale to the level of fruit flies (Maye et. al. in PLoS One, May 2007).  

      The right to the pursuit of happiness:  pleasure-seeking, pain-avoiding behavior, demonstrable all the way down the phylogenetic scale to the level of planaria (flatworms), per the classic experiments with flatworms in T-mazes with sugar water on one side and a mild electric shock at the other side.  

  •  Amen. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    G2geek, RandomActsOfReason

    So to speak.

    "It's not like she's marrying out of her species or anything," Ms. Lynch said.

    by mem from somerville on Tue Jul 13, 2010 at 06:14:20 PM PDT

  •  A few disagreement.... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    G2geek

    among my overall agreement with the sentiments expressed:

    and no jurisdiction for religious courts for the settlement of civil matters or family disputes.

    This is similar to an agreement to arbitrate among any individuals, but in this case it is based on religious edicts.  This assumes a freedom to leave the religion, which among some radical groups is not allowed.  If they attempt to stop anyone by force, then we have access to the common law to prevent or punish.  

    Sadly, the very word "secular" is being turned into an epithet, note a recent article and I believe a book of the same title by Newt Gingrich that accuses President Obama of being both Socialist and Secular.  

    •  I would be interested in your disagreements (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      G2geek

      Always make new mistakes - Esther Dyson

      by RandomActsOfReason on Tue Jul 13, 2010 at 07:02:30 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  why does it assume a freedom to leave (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      G2geek

      the religion.

      Isn't it simply saying that governments will not accept a structure wherein certain religious groups get their own court system?

      Please say more.

      •  here's the issue: (0+ / 0-)

        (I know a few things about this, credit to Troutfishing and Dogemperor for their diaries.)

        In some denominations, apostasy (leaving the religion of one's birth) is regarded as a sin and a crime at the level of incest or cannibalism.  

        Where that belief is dominant in a society, there is effectively no freedom for individuals to leave the religions into which they were born.  And then those religions establish courts that assert control over family issues such as spousal and child abuse (usually in favor of it), divorce (usually against it) and anything having to do with sex.  

        In some cases, apostasy is criminally punishable, in some cases by death.

        This contributes mightily to the oppression of women in those societies.

        In some cases it even extends to the ability of religious courts to inflict severe physical punishments including the death penalty.  

        This is really bad stuff in terms of human rights violations, and it needs to be addressed firmly.  

        First of all, people need to be free to choose their belief systems and any affiliations arising from those beliefs.  That means putting an end to apostasy laws.   And it means putting an end to the control by religious courts.  

        •  Among Orthodox Jews (0+ / 0-)

          the behavior of any Jew reflects on all Jews, so they cannot be content to live and let live.

          For a view on the consequences of giving political power to such belief systems in a putative democracy, see recent events in Israel, which funds religious schools at higher rates than secular public schools, grants a monopoly over marriage, divorce and all matters of family law to religious courts, where religious leaders run in religious parties and are granted Cabinet portfolios which they proceed to use to benefit their minority communities at the expense of general public interests, and where undo deference is given to extremist terrorists merely because they couch their extremism in religious terms:

          http://www.meretzusa.org/...

          http://www.meretzusa.org/...

          In fact, exclusion of religion from government was a deliberate decision by the Framers of the US Constitution, and both government and religion are better off for it.

          Always make new mistakes - Esther Dyson

          by RandomActsOfReason on Wed Jul 14, 2010 at 11:11:55 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  It seems like mostly a fine, democratic (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    G2geek

    declaration. But I don't like this:

    "We assert the principle of one law for all, with no special treatment for minority communities, and no jurisdiction for religious courts for the settlement of civil matters or family disputes."

    Cultural diversity needs some room if its to function, and the majority can be mighty disruptive without even noticing. In this county, for instance, reservation laws -- let's say the Navajo tribal laws -- may deal differently with some things because they really do have a different culture, and in many ways an impressive one. Family customs, ways of holding property, etc may be different. Why is it in the interests of an atheist declaration to forbid that, and declare that they must abide by modern individualistic and corporate concepts?  Because some parts of Navajo culture are framed in terms of spiritual beliefs? In tribal cultures, spiritual beliefs are woven through the culture, not separate. In the long run, they may be separated. Or not. I don't know. BUt that should be up to those Navajo who have (at considerable cost to themselves sometimes) stayed on the reservation and made efforts to preserve their traditional culture.

    The Inuit in Alaska get "special treatment" in that they are allowed to hunt a limited number of whales, since that is such a key part of the traditional culture.  Is that wrong? Is it better, more "rational," if all traditional cultures are homogenized into modern urban culture as fast as possible?

    I realize some European countries are worried about Muslim minorities and Sharia law. HOwever, from what I've read, at least in England, a sharia court is a voluntary thing, and so essentially the same as if two people decided to go to an arbitrator instead of a court. Why should the government forbid that?  THe sharia court can't actually enforce their rulings, as I understand it. Maybe I'm wrong on this, and it may be more complex than I realize. However, I find the flat statement that there should be "no special treatment" for minorities disturbing, as it seems to place no value on making room for cultural diversity in modern mass societies, that can so easily steamroller right over any divergent culture if they don't make an effort to allow some space.

    •  Native, or First Americans as they are called in (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      G2geek, Iranaqamuk, Demena, toilpress

      Canada, have unique rights because of their status as quasi-nations, and the jurisdiction they are granted on reservations and in Territories - not because of some privileged Constitutional exception for Indians.

      That does not contradict this Declaration.

      I grew up in Israel, where marriage, divorce, adoption, and other aspects of family law are the monopoly of Orthodox religious courts. Believe me, that's nothing to celebrate.

      This Declaration does not seek to prevent people from voluntarily submitting to non-recognized courts, whether they are Sharia courts or some TV judge. The Declaration merely states that religious courts should not have legal authority in a state - an essential pillar of separation of religion and politics. As you note, Sharia Courts have no enforcement authority in the UK. Would you prefer they did? I'm not sure you are fully aware for what life under religious law - the kind with teeth - is really like.

      No, no minority should receive special treatment in a democracy - the basic principle is that we are all equal. The only exception we have recognized in the US is temporary remediation to compensate for disadvantages that are the result of historical inequities. That is the basis for affirmative action, for example - not some idea that a particular minority is inherently worthy of special treatment simply because of their group affiliation.

      All things being equal, shouldn't we all be equal under the law?

      Always make new mistakes - Esther Dyson

      by RandomActsOfReason on Tue Jul 13, 2010 at 07:10:40 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  No, I would definitely not prefer that Sharia (0+ / 0-)

        courts have legal enforcement authority. I'm not sure what might have given you the idea that I would.

        You're right that Native Americans have quasi-nation status. But that's particular to the US. In Scandanavia, there are teh Sami, the reindeer-herding people whose culture goes back to Neolithic times; there are indigenous people in the northern part of Japan; etc. I'm sure not all of these people hae the kind of treaties Native Americans have. Is it therefore wrong to deliberately make room for the continuation of those ancient cultures?

        I'm frankly not sure where I'll end up on this issue. I believe firmly in the separation of church and state. I'd never heard that interpretted to mean "nobody has special rights." I"m not sure what the implications of that are, and I would cheerfully bet that all the implicatins haven't been thought out. I"m not sure that everyone being treated exactly the same is actually the path to justice.

        I'm not sure why the declaration doesn't just stay with the concept of separating religion and the state.

        Anyway, food for thought.

        •  Interesting discussion, (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          toilpress

          and thanks for the opportunity to exchange ideas. Apologies for framing my argument in inappropriately personal terms, it was more a reaction to my own personal experience than any intention to presume your preferences.

          I'm interested by the defense of the notion of special rights. It seems to me fundamental to democracy - and liberalism/progresivism - that all people have equal civil rights, that all people are equal under the law.

          Arguing "special rights" is usually used by those who oppose equality, e.g., arguing that marriage equality for the LGBT community is somehow granting them special rights vs those of all others, or arguing that freedom from religion would be a special privilege for atheists, vs freedom of religion.

          As I noted, the only instances in which progressives have defended the granting of special privileges to a group has been to temporarily compensate for historical disadvantage. I have never heard a specific argument granting a specific group special rights for some inherent reason.

          I'm not sure I understand why protecting indigenous groups would require "special rights" - is not protecting culture something that all groups should enjoy equally?

          Can you provide an example?

          Always make new mistakes - Esther Dyson

          by RandomActsOfReason on Wed Jul 14, 2010 at 01:59:43 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  But Native Americans are given status as a nation (3+ / 0-)

      not because of their religion. I don't see how their status would be affected by this.

      You're discussing issue that are based on groups which were a culture and were colonized by force. They aren't being given special legal options due to religious beliefs.

  •  USSR most secular -- not a big success (0+ / 0-)

    I think all these people should live and let live.

    So you do not like religion, ignore it.

    Mao and Stalin killed more in their short lives than all the religious wars in the history of the world.

    It seems that governments that try to suppress religions are among the least successful.

    There is zero proof that the best governments are the most secular. There is ample proof of the opposite.

    •  Actually, the data refutes your assertions (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      G2geek, Iranaqamuk, milkbone

      Global Peace Index
      http://www.visionofhumanity.org/...
      Scroll down and look at the rankings.

      The top ten most peaceful (and stable) nations in the world today are, with one exception, the most secular nations in the world.

      The bottom ten least peaceful are again with few exceptions, religious societies. The exceptions are engaged in conflicts with....religious groups.

      Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies - Journal of Religion & Society
      http://moses.creighton.edu/...

      The odd thing is that secular government ensures freedom of religion. Religious government virtually guarantees no such freedom will persist.

      I'm not sure what the root of your fear and hostility is, but the entire foundation of our Constitutional republic is based on the notion that the best of all possible governments is, in fact, one where religion has both no power in government, and the greatest freedom among its citizens.

      Always make new mistakes - Esther Dyson

      by RandomActsOfReason on Tue Jul 13, 2010 at 08:54:12 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Marxism rose to the level of a religion. (0+ / 0-)

      It became metaphysical and dogmatic, and developed a priesthood with state power.  

      The extreme case of that is North Korea, effectively a theocracy based on leader-worship, with some Marxist rhetoric thrown in for good measure.  

      On the other hand:

      France is so secular that they just passed a law banning burkas altogether, and they already passed a law banning the wearing of any religious symbolism by students in schools.  

      France also has climate-clean power for over 70% of their electricity, and has a degree of social democracy that is so far to the left of the Democrats USA, that if Obama tried it, the Secret Service would have to triple in size to deal with all the nutcases who would want to harm him as a result.  

      People in France have social benefits such as vacations and pensions and medical care, that we in the US can only dream of.  

      I don't see them doing down the Soviet spiral any time soon.   Nor any of the Northern European countries in which a majority of the population does not believe in any form of deity at all.  We should be so lucky as people in Northern Europe.  

    •  Mao and Stalin don't qualify as "societies" (0+ / 0-)

      They were tyrannical leaders, and the people they governed were not permitted to exercise the other freedoms in the declaration. But I wonder if you read the whole list, since part of your comment mirrors the sentiments expressed in the declaration.

  •  I am a religious Christian, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RandomActsOfReason, budr

    and I don't have any problem at all with any of the declarations.  

    What I fear more than any atheist or agnostic disputing my views is the "Christianist" minority deciding how I will worship and live my life.  I believe that laws should be about non-religious safety, security, and fairness.

    •  Thank you. You recognize the critical difference (0+ / 0-)

      between dissent and debate in a pluralist free society, and authoritarianism in a theocracy.

      Separation of church and state benefits not only government, but religion as well, as is seen by the US being the most religious of free societies despite having no state religion.

      Always make new mistakes - Esther Dyson

      by RandomActsOfReason on Wed Jul 14, 2010 at 11:13:37 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Wow! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RandomActsOfReason

    when are we having one meeting like this in S.C.?

  •  I sign my name under this declaration. n/t (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RandomActsOfReason

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