Some of our opponents describes us as nasty fundamentalist atheist secularists. In fact, there is nothing particularly nasty, fundamentalist or atheistic about secularism – you are probably a secularist yourself.
Secularists come from all faiths and none. Maybe you are Christian but have gay friends. You feel they should be afforded equal rights. You might say that they already do, but don’t you hear constant complaints from those who would have us remove same sex marriage?
Perhaps you think women should have access to abortion and worry that some want to change that. You abhor the fact that the right to die with dignity is forbidden by someone else’s beliefs and that employees refuse to carry out their jobs or can discriminate because they have a particular faith. Are you not also appalled that sexual health guidance for your children is influenced by unqualified celibate males? As a Jew, you worry that your children might be asked to pray to a god they don’t believe in. You worry that the increase of faith schools fosters Islamification of society just as we are told Sharia law has the potential to gain further acceptance. You think animals should not be killed inhumanely in the name of religion. Maybe, however, you are a Muslim and worry that anti-Islamic feeling will grow while Religious Education remains focused upon Christianity. Does it annoy you that a Catholic may not accede to the throne or that the default affirmation in courts of law is sworn on a religious text you don’t agree with? How does a Jew or Muslim feel? If you are a Catholic, you are probably horrified that your faith was used to gain access to children, and want to see abusers brought to justice, not sheltered or relocated by a hierarchy intent upon protecting its reputation.
Perhaps you are not a Catholic and it worries you that society can be manipulated in the media by a hypocritical cardinal who said one thing in public and did exactly the opposite in private. British law is in part determined by an upper chamber where 26 un-elected bishops of the Church of England sit. You may be annoyed on that principle alone or simply that your faith has no representation at all. As a Jew, Muslim or atheist you are also underrepresented on Local Authority Education Committees. Your Protestant and Catholic neighbours have double the representation you have. Wouldn’t it be better if faiths had no privileged access? Your First Minister “prefers people of faith”? You feel this isn’t right? Do we want an FM who thinks less of the atheist or agnostic than someone else?
If you have issues with any of these scenarios, then you probably are a secularist and you should join us. Recently we have campaigned effectively on the core issue of religion in schools. We think, for example, that parents should be asked before children are exposed to religious dogma and that the pseudo-scientific nonsense that is Creationism and Intelligent Design has no place in the classroom. The Scottish Government continues to deny there is a problem with the former issue and we will continue to challenge them on this. They do agree with us on the latter matter but there is a need to ensure there is no reversion to type.
Secularism is not about removing religion from society. It is about trying to find a reasonable balance between religious and personal freedoms. Freedom to practice faith, and freedom from faith. Ensuring our laws are made for the benefit of all, not to protect or benefit the few, and that our services meet the needs of everyone, regardless of faith. Join us on our Facebook discussion page www.facebook.com/ScottishSecularSociety
• Mark Gordon is a board member of The Scottish Secular Society