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Secular charter ‘must not undermine religious freedom’

By on Monday, 16 September 2013

The chamber of the French National Assembly (PA)

The chamber of the French National Assembly (PA)

A spokesman for France’s bishops urged the government to ensure a new “charter of secularism” does not impede religious freedom.

Mgr Bernard Podvin, spokesman for the French bishops’ conference, told the French Catholic daily La Croix that although church officials understood why the government sent the document to schools earlier this month, “secularism must not be hollow or limited to negating and hindering religions.”

Mgr Podvin said Catholic leaders understood that politicians feared people would use religion as an “identity emblem,” but added that religious faith formed part of the French values of “liberty, equality and fraternity.”

“If we don’t cultivate a true knowledge of religions, young people won’t be able to respect others in a just way. We’ll have sanctified the public sphere, but risked a resurgence of communitarianism in the process,” he added.

Antoine Renard, president of France’s Federation of Catholic Family Associations, warned against attempts to extend the charter to France’s 8,800 Catholic schools.

“We are accustomed to Catholics being treated as the enemy here, and we’ll resist pressure to apply this charter to our schools as a frontal attack on the church,” he told Catholic News Service.

“Secular principles must be respected, but not if this means you’re not even allowed to talk about religion,” he added.

The 17-point charter describes France as an “indivisible, secular, democratic and social republic,” assuring “equality before the law to all citizens” and “respect for all beliefs.”

It imposes a “duty of strict neutrality” on teachers, barring any display of “political or religious convictions,” and says students cannot “invoke a religious or political conviction” to avoid any topics.

Presenting the charter at a Paris school, Education Minister Vincent Peillon said the document was intended “not just to recall the rules,” but also to “help everyone understand, adapt to and respect their sense.”

In a commentary, La Croix said it was unclear whether the charter would bar kosher and halal food, or would prevent students from celebrating religious holidays or opting out of Christmas festivities.

Meanwhile, the president of France’s Council of Muslims, Dalil Boubakeur, told Agence France-Presse Sept. 9 the charter required students “to behave like robots” by ordering them to “leave their faith in the cloakroom.”

He added that most of France’s Muslim minority had “no problem with secularism,” but would feel particularly stigmatized by the charter.

Catholics traditionally make up two-thirds of France’s 60 million inhabitants, although fewer than one in 10 attends Sunday Mass and 40 percent of the population denies any faith.

In 2004, France passed a law banning “ostentatious religious symbols” from schools, while a new school course, “secular morality,” is to be introduced in 2015.

  • TreenonPoet

    For a start, all the arguments I have seen for the existence of the God of the Christian Bible are flawed. But, perhaps you are referring to only some of the arguments. Is it possible for you to present the best argument here?

  • TreenonPoet

    If you are really suggesting that someone could think at birth that at least one deity exists, I am interested in finding out how anyone could detect this.

  • $20596475

    As “debate” requires a willingness to objectively consider the other viewpoint, and not simply produce standard knee jerk reactions, it is fair to say that you don’t “debate” with anyone. You simply try to dominate them.

    It is noticeable that you avoid answering the points I made, by attacking me instead. One must presume this is only because you cannot and therefore have to revert to a standard JP tactic.

  • $20596475

    It says a lot more about it’s target though. Your question was answered. It is no it isn’t. JabbaPapa just jumped in with his usual mix of nonsense and insult, thus confirming my assertion.

  • whytheworldisending

    So are you a (New) Labour party activist or a Gay rights campaigner?

  • whytheworldisending

    Prove your first premise.

  • whytheworldisending

    What follows from that is idolatry: Materialism…. Racism, Nazism, Consumerism, Football Hooliganism and just about every nastyism you can think of – plus many more without names. Rejection of God leads to dehumanisation of man and rampant materialism in which human beings are valued only as commodities – labour, or worse, raw materials. Worship of money, nation, status, power, pleasure leads to false pride, greed and hyper competitiveness manifesting in envy and hatred, racism, violent crime and war. The resulting obsession with profit and economic growth leads to the licencing of everything and anything in the name of wealth creation – a culture of depravity, corruption of the young, sexual exploitation, disease, alcoholism, drug abuse, drug induced mental illness caused by warping of brain development in children, obesity and inability to relate to people caused by parents duped by rich nerds into making their children spend their childhood staring into a computer screen shooting virtual enemies; random shootings by untreated psychotics, slaughter of children in the womb, teenage suicides, promiscuity, infidelity and family breakdown, and a health service so overburdened by the vast numbers of self-inflicted maladies – principally alcohol related illness, obesity, drug-induced mental health problems and sexually transmitted diseases including AIDS – that the elderly and vulnerable are dying. And the ultimate lie – the first commandment used by Stalin, Hitler and all the great atheists – Remember we are all in this together. No we’re not. These unnatural idols serve only the interests of wealth and becoming demons, enslave humankind. Lesser idols such as “Rationalism” all too easily fall into line serving the dictates of their demonic masters. Recall the pseudoscience of the Nazis, with their highly “rational” eugenics (now highly topical in Britain with Radio 4′s Today programme juxtaposing questions on population growth, aging, and assisted suicide to the unsuspecting 87 year old David Attenborough this morning. Quite offensive and well done David if you did hang up on the twerp.) The fermentations raised by atheism are fatal to happiness and innocence, but It is natural and normal for human beings to worship God. We are normal and we want our freedom.

  • Acleron

    Except that when this reasoning is examined it is found to be either intrinsically faulty or based on unprovable axioms. I see words such as evidence, fact and reason used often on the site and they are often capitalised or bolded but the definitions of those words here is at variance with their meanings in general discourse.

  • AnthonyPatrick

    Don’t know about the singing (Glastonbury probably covers that, though) or ‘go(ing) door to door’ (is that like mano a mano, or straight Jehovah’s Witness rules?), but the buildings and making sure nobody prays in state schools were secured way back before your bedtime.

  • AnthonyPatrick

    Telling it like it is, wtwie.

    And I agree with what you say about how David A’s well-known opinion concerning population control was hi-jacked to bolster the Today programme’s drip-feed promotion of old-time eugenics dressed up in a new frock: yesterday it was Stephen Hawking’s apparently altered opinion concerning assisted-suicide that was made to fit Auntie Beeb’s already considerable liberal-fascist girth.

    Power to your elbow.

  • TreenonPoet

    I was glad to see you praising Sir David Attenborough. He is one of the nation’s best-loved atheists, a good example to us all, and proof – as if it were needed – that ill is not a result of atheism. Atheism has none of the dogma that encourage unfair treatment of others. I am not a secularist, but I can see why many (including some athiests and some religious people) are attracted by secularism: it has an intrinsic fairness. Secularism certainly protects religious minorities. It is true that some religious people will only embrace secularism while their religion is in the minority, so I would not regard them as secularists, but there are many religious people who stand behind the principle of fairness, even in the face of the demonisation of secularists by some religious leaders (and by members of the British Government, such as Baroness Warsi). The argument that “this is a Christian country” (to justify some religious privilege or other) opposes secularism (and is untrue).

    But Sir David Attenborough is not loved by all. Some followers of Abrahamic religions (not mainstream Catholics though) reject evolution. Since Attenborough’s TV programmes focus on the diversity fauna and flora on this planet, evolution is integral to the knowledge that he tries to impart. He has received hate mail from some creationists. Now that he is being more outspoken about overpopulation, he is getting criticism from those who would rather greedily use up the Earth’s resources and not spare a thought for future generations. He is trying to convey the latest knowledge and enthusiasm about life on Earth for the benefit of others; how evil is that?

    There is some truth in parts of your post, but since you reject rationalism, there seems little point in my trying to explain why, for example, football hooliganism does not follow from atheism, since the explanation involves some simple principles of logic. However, I cannot resist commenting on a couple of your ‘demons’: I shall comment on one of these in a separate post because the Catholic Herald are likely to delete it. The other is economic growth. I just wanted to say that I am strongly in favour of a steady-state economy. Economic growth incompatible with a steady-state economy is favoured by some atheists (such as Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg) and by some religious (such as David Cameron), but I regard it as irrational. Not only does it not correlate with happiness; it is dangerous.

  • TreenonPoet

    The other ‘demon’ that I wanted to mention was Nazism because this was not atheistic, but neither does it correspond to any mainstream religions. Hitler believed that races were created unequal by God such that the Aryan race was superior to all others. (I would suggest that such a zany view would not have been reached had he not been influenced by equally zany ideas in his childhood.)

    EDIT: Corrected two typos.

  • Kate Ann

    Sir David is not Mr Well Beloved, I personally think he is a conceited old goat, banging on about the dangers of people having large families yet thinking he is quite entitled to live to an old age, consuming more world resources than a host of poor families. This is the problem with Green atheists, they never want to be first in the queue when it comes to depopulating the world.

  • TreenonPoet

    Your opinion of Attenborough or Green atheists does not alter the fact that the world is overpopulated, and the more overpopulated that it becomes, the greater will be the number of poor families. What do you think would be the most effective thing that Attenborough could do to minimise poverty – continue campaigning in the way that he does (potentially with a significant outcome), or commit suicide?

  • Hennergogs

    Sorry but I do know what these words mean thank you.

  • Hennergogs

    Those are your words not mine but if you are really suggesting that someone could think at birth that no deity exists I would be interested to find out how you know this.

    Some people have tried to find out

    There’s plenty more.

  • Hennergogs

    So if I understand you correctly you are accepting that there are no tricks and the arguments for the existence of a God are rational but now want to move on specifically to the Bible?

  • Hennergogs

    I see so you now think you are empowered to make these sort of judgements even though what I said was reasonable?
    Interesting though that you cannot accept that I asked a question because what is concerning is not that someone doesn’t understand or think that there is a God but that they then believe all sorts of strange things.

  • TreenonPoet

    No. That is not what I wrote. When you refer to ‘God’ (with a capital G) the default meaning on this site is either the Catholic ‘God’, the ‘God’ of the Christian Bible, or the Abrahamic deity that is sometimes referred to by that name. (The meaning of the word is sometimes temporarily changed, perhaps to equate to ‘nature’ for the purposes of appearing to refer to reality and not the ‘supernatural’.) I was not only trying to ensure that the focus remained on the ‘God’ under discussion, but also stating that all the attempts I have come across to try to demonstrate the existence of that God are flawed (because your post seemed to claim that no attempts are flawed – using ‘the arguments’ instead of ‘some arguments’).

    This attempt to maintain focus was to avoid time-wasting on the discussion of other concepts labelled ‘God’. For example, an argument that tries to demonstrate that there was a first cause, then names this first cause ‘God’ is overloading the word ‘God’, not proving that the first cause equates to the ‘God’ of the Christian Bible. (That is one of the tricks that I was referring to.) I would argue logically against a first cause, but need not because even if there was a first cause, it does not prove that the cause was the God of the Christian Bible.

    I appreciate your responding; I hope that it is not just stalling. So, in your opinion, what is the best argument for the existence of God?

  • TreenonPoet

    The report you linked to is not about what is believed at birth, but about propensity to believe certain things. If three-year-olds think that God knows what is inside a closed box, it is because they have been primed to believe that. (Otherwise, how would they know what the word ‘God’ meant?) The so-called ‘instinct’ to believe in life after death is the naive extrapolation of the apparent ongoing self.

    If that is the sort of study that you referred to, then those studies do not indicate that children are born believing in the existence of a deity.

  • $20596475

    I hold opinions, but only make a judgement after lots and lots of evidence has been revealed.

    I don’t see any evidence that anyone here, who doesn’t believe in “God” believes in any “strange things”. .

  • $20596475

    There is not a word which is incoherent with my view, other than in your warped view of it. TreeonPoet’s use of “belief” obviously is in the sense of being convinced, and not in the way you want to twist it.

  • Julian Lord

    Human rationality only requires a state of consciousness which is available to reason. It does not require a belief system

    Not only do you not understand the basic (psycholinguistic and structural) nature of human cognition, but you also do not understand the basics of Western Philosophy as established by such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.

    You are, in other words, expressing opinions based on ignorance, and trying to engage in “discussion” of what you do not comprehend.

  • Julian Lord

    It is clearly necessary for individuals to have a belief system, on
    which other things are based. It is less obvious that they need to have a religious belief system, or active beliefs about religion

    I’m not the one making sweeping general statements and failing to use the appropriate qualifying adjectives.

  • Julian Lord

    In other words, you’re simply trying to fit God into a handy little box.

    This is not God, the transcendental is not subjected to the categories of the immanent.

    Furthermore, God’s existence is not the product of any argument — God simply exists.

  • Julian Lord

    What “way” I “want to twist it” ???

    You’re just playing with words, and inventing things out of thin air again.

  • Julian Lord

    Then that’s a VERY bad definition, as it appears to have been ideologically motivated, rather than seeking to properly define the category in a satisfactory manner — by that definition, every agnostic and every member of any religion not involving belief in God or gods would need to be described as an “atheist”, which is patently ludicrous.

  • Julian Lord

    Sir David Attenborough is a Freemason.

  • TreenonPoet

    I think there is a lack of words for the various associated meanings. If one tries not to be verbose and uses the word ‘atheist’ or ‘belief’ without qualification (hoping that the reader will mentally add the intended qualifier), one risks being misunderstood. If one qualifies the words every time they are used, the text becomes stilted and unnatural.

    I don’t agree that the Oxford definition implies that all agnostics are atheists. One can be an agnostic theist, believing (in the sense of being convinced) that a deity exists while acknowledging that one could be wrong. But I would agree that the Oxford definition allows for your interpretation (because the Oxford definition of ‘belief’ gives alternative meanings, one of which is ”a religious conviction”).

    I would rather describe the definition of ‘atheist’ as unfortunate.

  • $20596475

    The context implied that “belief” simply meant understood, or “my opinion”. That is really obvious, but you seek to equate it with those who have a compilcated set of pre-determined rules to which they adhere, and which they also call a “belief”. That is how you twist things.

  • $20596475

    Not at all. I am expressing common sense in every day language.

    You just try to divert the debate and then retreat into JP tactic number 3:-

    Confuse and Conquer: (Pseudo science or philosophy word-salad, similar to a gish-gallop in a debate)

    To repeat. There is no system involved in atheism. Atheists are individuals whose single common link is a non belief.

  • whytheworldisending

    Just for the record, I didn’t actually praise David Attenborough – I was expressing sympathy for him on account of the way he was treated and said “Well done” IF he hung up on the jumped up BBC schoolboy interviewing him. It makes no difference to me whether he is an atheist or not. For all I know the BBC might have cut the line themselves when they realised that the line of questioning was skirting a little too close to suggesting that everybody over the age of 80 should be gassed. Of course “well done” to them if THAT’S what happened, but they should however sit down with their Human Resources Department and weed out the ageists and neo-nazis from their number. I just don’t think that the BBC should use licence payers’ money to make a national sport out of mocking the elderly.
    Also I didn’t reject the rational – only the worship of human reasoning, or the elevation of it above its station. Pure Secularism obviously has its benefits, and the form of “Atheism” which professes belief in nothing at all. if it could exist, would obviously be beyond reproach, for it would be value free and devoid of content, so there would be nothing to criticize. In the real world however the labels secularism and atheism are used merely as cloaks to hide attitudes and values bearing little relation to fairness, justice or reason.
    Unfortunately religious labels are used in the same way, largely by politicians, celebrities and other wealthy demagogues. I wouldn’t regard Cameron as Christian for example; Clegg who you think an atheist (He married his wife in a Catholic wedding ceremony), and Milliband, (who is jewish) are at best confused.

  • whytheworldisending

    Wrong – see my post above on idolatry. You cannot equate belief in idols with belief in an invisible transcendent God.