Israel Folau

Why I am sick and tired of this …

Frankly, I am sick and tired of freedom of religion and speech still being debased and misused in 2018 as an excuse, or explanation, for monumental ignorance, and just plain ugly public grandstanding.

Yes, of course Israel Folau and the Victorian branch of the Liberal Party can say whatever they want, because even though strictly speaking Australians do not have a constitutional right to freedom of speech (we only have an implied freedom of political communication), we do have a cultural and social tradition of speaking our minds freely.

However, free speech is not free from consequences. Just ask Yassmin Abdel-Magied

While Folau is ‘entitled’ to his opinion (or perhaps not?!) to express his extremist, fringe interpretation of his ‘faith’, we are also entitled to express our fatigue with tired old ignorant, medieval prejudices being selectively and hypocritically regurgitated time-and-time again on public forums designed to hurt and humiliate others in the name of a ‘loving god’ …

Arguably, it is our intellectual duty to respond, and highlight the nonsense in such illogical and unsubstantiated faith-based assertions.

Just replace ‘gays’ in his flippant response with people of colour, or people of the Jewish faith, and see what happens! And when it comes to people of colour, good Christians once considered them to be without soul, some still do today, and bound for hell as a consequence – much ugliness in our human history has been explained by the hypocritical and politically motivated interpretation of the bible and other religious texts.

We are also more than entitled to point out to our Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, that he shouldn’t confuse the malicious, bigoted, homophobic promotion and pushing of dangerous, pseudoscientific ‘conversion therapy’ for LGBTI people, especially vulnerable LGBTI youth, rejected by every reputable medical and psychological association around the world, with ‘freedom of speech’.

The WMA strongly asserts that homosexuality does not represent a disease, but rather a natural variation within the range of human sexuality.
WMA Statement on Natural Variations of Human Sexuality, World Medical Association

I can’t help but wonder what the good Minister would say or do if suddenly his party was trying to pass official motions declaring abortion being responsible for breast cancer, or vaccines being responsible for autism, despite all current medical, scientific evidence to the contrary.

Conversion therapy for LGBTI youth is child abuse. Full stop. And it is highly irresponsible for a health minister to try to obfuscate the subject matter.

I am old enough, smart enough, and confident enough in myself, to ignore these warriors of ‘Christian love’, but we can’t overlook the potential damage such comments could cause to vulnerable, at-risk LGBTI youth.

We recently learned the hard way, from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, how we failed to protect generations of our young from the hypocrisy of religious institutions – let’s not fail another generation out of misplaced, historical reverence for institutions and people whose attitudes and world-views belong to history’s dustbin …

As I noted in response to previous religious attacks on modern social norms, religion is faith.

But blind faith is ignorance with no room for reason.

And where there is no reason, there is no room for humanity.

I am gay and an atheist but, frankly, sometimes I do wish there was a ‘hell’ (even if there was such a place it wouldn’t scare me because I am a good person), because I suspect there would be a special place in it for people who spend their lives judging others, and using ‘religious freedom’ as a weapon to hurt others, rather than recognising it for what it is – a privilege granted by society, albeit, a merely historical, unearned, and truly undeserved privilege, which has now been well and truly spent through centuries of abuse, ignorance, and hate.

In a civil, democratic, liberal, secular society, especially at the dawn of the 21st century, rights that protect mere intellectual constructs, no matter how historically sacred, must bow to the dignity, and inalienable human and civil rights, of actual people.

And yes, I am also sick and tired of hearing conservative pundits banging on about ‘political correctness’ and ‘identity politics’.

Especially when the phrase ‘political correctness’ is now nothing more than a bigoted conservative war-cry for misogynists, sexists, racists, and homophobes, who throw it around smugly every time they are faced with a social norm that disapproves of misogyny, sexism, racism and homophobia, instead of simply admitting they can’t be bothered to be part of a polite and civilised society where we treat people equally, and with kindness, regardless of their gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, or disability, and long for a time when you could just beat up on anyone who was ‘different’.

Thanks to social evolution those days are over.

As for ‘identity politics’, from an intellectual perspective, purely ideological identities, such as religion and political leanings, while entitled to some protection in a civilised society for cohesion and security, are simply not entitled to, nor can expect, the same level of protection as non-ideological identities, such as gender, sexuality, disability, or one’s skin colour.

In a civil, democratic, liberal, secular society if and when the rights of ideological and non-ideological identities come into an irreconcilable conflict, humanity, dignity, common sense, and decency demand that the rights of non-ideological identities must triumph over the rights of ideological identities.

Consequently, religious beliefs and political ideology get a nice comfy backseat, and will be asked to behave, and not to make a nuisance of, themselves, when it comes to the actual human and civil rights and dignity of women, LGBTI people, people with disability, and people of colour, etc.

Actual people before beliefs/ideology. Always. Full stop. No apologies.

Having said all that, I can offer one compromise. But this is my best offer.

If your interpretation of your religious beliefs urges you to spread bigotry, discrimination, hate, division, and exclusion instead of acceptance, love, and unity, I will promise to keep my informed, reasoned, and witty atheism to myself, but only if you keep your uninformed bigotry to yourself.

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