Thursday, August 29, 2013

Church of Atheism?

Here is an example of how unnecessary government interventions create unintended consequences.  According to this newspaper report, atheism is a creed that requires protections much the same as other religions do. So, atheism is equated to religion. In the actual paper copy, on the front page (see photo), the National Post makes light of this. I guess to pander to their social conservative patrons.

I'll skip over whether religions need protection, I don't think they do. I'd like to examine atheism as a creed.

According to "creed" is defined as:

1. any system, doctrine, or formula of religious belief, as of a denomination.
2. any system or codification of belief or of opinion.
3. an authoritative, formulated statement of the chief articles of Christian belief, as the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, or the Athanasian Creed.

As far as I know, to be an atheist one is not required to join a group that has an atheist code or formula. Atheists typically don't meet regularly to fulfil belief obligations. They don't construct massive buildings as places of worship, nor do they get tax breaks from local governments for doing so. Calling atheism a belief system is a huge stretch and distortion. If I don't believe in fairies, is that a belief system? Hardly!

The news story above, reports on a decision by the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO), a superfluous arm of government if ever there was (theoretically in Canada, Charter Rights are already protected). It seems a Mr. Choinard of Grimsby Ontario, wanted to match the Gideon's of bible distribution fame as a protest. He wanted to hand out an atheist text “Just Pretend: A Freethought Book for Children,” and of course was, as expected, refused. He made a case to the HRTO alleging that the District School Board of Niagara has “discriminated against them … because of creed.” Making such a protest is simple and costs nothing to the complainant, there is no barrier to frivolity, not that I think this is a frivolous complaint.

As a result, earlier in August, the HRTO ruled on the complaint saying that the school board's policy was biased.
“The policy was discriminatory because its definition of acceptable materials violated substantive equality by excluding the kinds of materials central to many creeds.”
The school board policy blocked atheist books and other “emerging or non-traditional creeds.”

In the end, according to the news article, the HRTO descision was:
“If [the school board] is prepared to distribute permission forms proposing the distribution of Christian texts to committed atheists, it must also be prepared to distribute permission forms proposing the distribution of atheist texts to religious Christians.”
The school board has six months to draw up a new policy “permitting distribution of creed and religious publications in its schools.” So atheism is a creed.

Throughout the process Mr. Choinard maintained his primary goal was to critique the board's policy and point out that government public schools should not be in the business of supporting a religious agenda. I absolutely agree, and that illustrates the real problem. If parents had the (affordable) option to send their children to their school of choice, religious or not, this entire case would not exist.

Ideally schools should be an extension of the home. The values that parents want to instil in their children should be a parental responsibility. Busy parents should be able to obtain a service, at an affordable price, that fulfils this need consistent with their values in addition to educating their children for the modern world. To have government public schools try to be all things to all people is impossible and undesirable; and to require an HRTO to enforce this is ridiculous. Here are two arms of the Ontario government that can easily be reduced or eliminated.      


  1. You are so right. It's absurd to allow tax paying Americans be represented as a religion and claim that tax sheltered status....Of course it's much more asinine to cater to a 2000 year old bunch of hooey and allow them to do the same, right? Seriously? If you say you believe in magic people, you get tax free treatment? Even Mormons (produced by a known scam artist and crook, Joe Smith) or Scientology, whose founder L. Ron Hubbard was quoted several times saying : "You don't get rich writing science fiction. If you want to get rich, you start a religion." ..As there are fewer atheists in this country than either crooks or mental defectives, I say let them be.

  2. I agree on all counts.

    Religion and/or spiritual beliefs [ or lack thereof] should be a personal matter between each individual and his/her conscience.

    The only reason that millions of people have died in religious causes is because the religious and/or spiritual beliefs of individuals were "collectivized" to became "power levers" for the 'power hungry' to use as political energy for their own nefarious purposes.