Sectarian Family Values…

This is the second instalment in a blog series I’m doing on Sectarian influences on gender equality and human rights.

(Original post on: South African Secular Society – blog)

This week we’re looking at Sectarian views of Family life and how they circumvent the aims of Human Rights and Gender Equality, specifically around marriage.

According to every major religion and traditional belief system in South Africa, marriage is defined as a union between a man and a woman, with the family household headed by a man. This is based on “Normative Gender roles” and results in what many Christian groups publicise as the “Natural Family”. The use of natural family is to exclude legal marriages between same-sex couples and deem them as unnatural. The legalisation of same-sex marriages is touted by sectarian groups as an assault on traditional values (or religious morals) and a direct attempt at persecuting “religious followers”.

“The rise of feminism and the “gay rights” movement coincided with the death of the natural family.” Errol Naidoo, Family Policy Institute. 

Read more…

Sectarianism is not for Human Rights (Full Post)

(Originally posted on South African Secular Society’s blog)
The vision of any secular society, is to see reason and rationality as the cornerstone of human life, with the aim of uplifting and creating a positive environment for every person to thrive. Being secular means, keeping religious motives and explanations out of the general operations of human life. Secular nations require evidence based systems to validate and implement laws and social practice, rather than simply accept and rely on “divine inspiration”… or the interpretation of religious scriptures. This is the stark difference between sectarian institutions and organisations, and how secular nations aim to function.

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Sectarianism is not for Human Rights

I’ve started a blog series on our Secular Society’s site. It concerns how sectarianism negatively affects society from accomplishing worthy Herbert equality, and the practice of gender rights.

“Sectarian institutions promote themselves as “defenders of the faith”, often using cases involving religious followers, particularly Christians, to provocatively demonstrate how religious values and the rights of religious people are being overridden by the law, and force contrary “life styles” and “life choices” to be injected into religious practice. This misguidedly places secular as a juxtaposition to religion, and shifts the focus away from seeking workable solutions on implementing human rights as a benefit for all.

Read more… (redirects to the South African Secular Society website)

About the Atheist Me…

My brother approached me about blogging the other day, so I directed him to the blogs I have. He looked at them with some interest. This Sunday, we had some time to talk about what he wanted to do with his own blog, the conversation drifted quickly to the content of this blog.

I was surprised to find out he had not actually read this particular blog before. He went into some depth about it. Saying that, from the few posts he had read, he found them actually in contrast to my About page. Apparently, my general posts don’t really show how I’m living positively without religion. Instead they are quite anti-religion, or more specifically – anti-christian. For the past month or so, I have expressed more anti-theist perspectives. This is the result of working through the disquieting questions and conversations I’ve had with my mother, my brother, other family members and strangers via the internet or in person.

So, I could agree. Not fully. But I can understand his perspective. This has probably emerged because I’ve had a question weighing on my mind for the past few months:

How do you define atheism as a positive belief?

Atheism is a negative belief. I don’t mean that in the sense that it lessens you in anyway, rather, it means very little without the not. I could easily cop out of answering the question fully by saying, “I’m a humanist, I believe in people”. But alas, I’m not the type to take an easy route to an answer, even if that answer bares some truth.

I am a humanist, but in that I am also an atheist. To dig deeper into the question and the truth that hides inside it, you have to consider what that not is opposed to… That means going over my past experiences of religion, even those that are painful.

Christianity, and my parents failed indoctrination of me, is a massive part of that. So, I look into my life and the role religion has played in making me who I am. Much of it was damaging to me. Within Christianity I felt held back, self-rejecting of my natural talents and abilities, dismissing of my intelligence and worth… How can I not then see it as a negative experience?

Though the About page states :

“I often come across atheist blogs and sites that seem bent on “spreading the gospel of atheism” or denigrating  other people’s faith. I wanted a more positive experience, something more personal that might explore the idea of living positively without religion.”

My brother’s perspective of this blog may not be far off the mark. The Atheist Me blog content is bent towards showing how Christianity created obstacles in my life, and how difficult I had to struggle to overcome them. The About page simply states exactly that:

“In truth, I really wanted to delve deeper into the internal conversation I so often have when questioned about my atheism, and share the ideas that come from the conversation…”

And that’s what I’m doing… If the results make other people think I have a negative perception of religion… It would be damn accurate!

But, if I had to list or mention how my life has become more positive since abandoning religion, it would go something like this:

Without religion in my life, I have become more connected to myself, to the world around me and the universe which I am a part of. I accept my body, explore my sexuality and sentuality, embrace my intelligence, enjoy the complex and intricate person I am and express my humanity without reservation.

I find grace in my frailty. Once this body I inhabit dies, I will cease to exist. This makes my life that much more precious, and encourages me to work harder on my goals, be more focused and open to possibility, and endure through struggle with honour and respect.

I love fully in every moment. Even if I am surrounded by people I may not find affinity with, I have joy.

I know that I am powerful. My strength can be shared by listening to another person’s woes with my empathy untainted and fully engaged. I have the capacity to uplift someone else with faithless hope, instead of encouraging a vain pray.

I use my compassion to empower others. Reminding them that they are powerful and beautiful, filled with potential to become greater than they were a moment ago, without needing to subdue others, or themselves.

This is the positivity I have found without religion. This is the life that Christianity tried to rob me of with promises of what is to come without evidence, while crushing the spirit of my existence in the now.

I am free.

Free of that which suffocated me. Free of the burden to conform without regard to the cost on myself and others. Free of coercion into being less…

I can and will continue to dig through my past to find other pieces of myself, buried beneath the darkness of Christian indoctrination… It’s revealed so much light and truth so far… Why stop now?

Secular Schooling in South Africa…

Originally posted on : South African Secular Society

primary school kids

South Africa is a declared secular state, meaning that there is a legal separation of “church” and state, made up of law, policy and legislative practices enforcing that no governmental institution (including schools) are either affiliated, or influenced by any religion. Even so, the current level of religious involvement in South African Public schools is at an epidemic level. In a predominantly Christian society, the number of schools proclaiming a Christian “ethos” and practising various ‘flavours’ of their religion as part of normal school operation is alarming; despite this being expressively illegal and unconstitutional.

The Organisasie vir Godsdienste-Onderrig en Demokrasie (OGOD) has undertaken legal action against six public schools in South Africa, with the aim of removing religion from their official school practices, policy and documentation. OGOD promotes factual education about religious and democratic values – They advocate for secularity in schools and aim to ensure public schools are not used to advance sectarian or the religious interests of particular groups. With their legal action against these six schools, OGOD doesn’t aim to create new law, but rather enforce what is already ascribed in the National Education policy and Constitution of South Africa. But, as this is a contentious issue, the response has been less than reasoned. Christians and various Christian organisations have come out in public framing this as an attack on their beliefs and freedom of religion.

The reality is, though Christianity is seen as a religion as a whole, it is divided into thousands of disparate denominations with many varied practices; some distinctly opposed to each other. As many schools proclaim their religious “ethos”, the question of which denomination, is more important than the specific religion. Would Seven Day Adventist parents really feel comfortable with their children attending a public school practising according to the Roman Catholic church? If that meant in every way adhering to Catholic dogma? Or as a Muslim parent having your children excluded from certain classes or activities?

This is not an issue for only the non-religious in South Africa, this affects all citizens and every child’s right to not be discriminated against for anything. When exclusionary practices are phrased as if they respect someone’s rights, like – “You don’t have to participate, you can leave the classroom while we do bible study”, it reminds us all too well of the days of apartheid and segregation.

Secularism isn’t about attacking religion, it’s aim is to see that everyone can enjoy their rights without creating exclusionary practices where the no group can impose their views.

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