Saturday, 20 April 2013

Anything but a Kiwi Atheist

While discrimination against atheists has been highlighted in US media on occasion, Like the 2006 case of the school girl, Nichol, who refused to dishonour her netball team's pregame prayer circle by faking it, and instead, choosing to stand silently and respectfully outside of it, only to be bullied by students and teacher alike and accused of criminal behaviour(theft), to a family who became the local "zoo attraction" in their own home before being run out of town. It seems New Zealand is not immune, even though many like to say we just don't care about the personal views of others.

Christopher Scott Roy, a  teacher who appears to have been forced to resign his role at Auckland Tamaki College because he was neither a Christian or Mormon. Mr Roy has taken a case to the Employment Relations Authority.

The Authority has published a dicussion in which Mr Roy states that Tamaki College "saw Christian/Mormon faith as a core responsibility to which he was indifferent and reluctant to accept or practise as a condition of employment." Tamaki College disputes Mr Roy's claims.

It seems to me, that this is barking mad. The  behaviour of the school in this case, if accepted, would make group think an acceptable employment requirement. Think about it You could be fired being an aphilatelist (not a stamp collector), you could even be fired for not believe in the one true creator of the beer volcano - the Flying Spaghetti Monster. These examples seem ludicrous and over the top but what if you could get fired from your job because you voted for Labour or the Greens, or National, once. Or perhaps because they found out that you think that as a matter of public policy Mix Ownership / Partial privatization is not in the long term interests of  New Zealand.

In Manawatu, former Mayor Heather Tanguay and her husband Jerry have been practically run out of Palmerston. After vandals, including the head boy of a local school defaced political bill boards. The Tanguays were shocked to discover that the motivation for the vandalism was religious in nature and they were disgusted by the nature of the vandalism.

There is a narrative that is used to paint atheists as amoral nihilists. This is a caricature, that is laughable if not, offensive, to atheists. We are a significant segment of the New Zealand population, we are well educated, talented and law abiding on the whole. New Zealand Police stats tell us over all crime is going down, while the census tells us religious non belief is rising at about 1% per year. Societies with higher proportions of atheists in the population have fewer murders and teen pregnancies, more competitive economies than those with fewer atheists. We atheist don't have our morality handed to us in a book of iron aged fiction. We work for our moral ethical values using reason. We don't  murder or beat people up because we don't want to live in a world where murder and assault are acceptable, we can extend this to war too. We don't need this rule handed down by authority of an imagined grand Inquisitor. As for nihilism while there may be some nihilists among us, they are quite rare. Most atheists in the strictest sense, accept science as a way of knowing about the world we live in. There is a feeling we can get in those moments when we contemplate what science teaches us about the universe in its grand scale to it small detail and myriad complexity in between, the Japanese call it Yugen.

Those contemplative moments are often too few and too far apart, as we take care of more pressing concerns. Are the kids keeping up at school? Has the dog got his shots? Does the cat need a new flee collar, Are we keeping up at work? Will work still be here next month. How long till we need to rewarrant the car? When to change the smoke alarm battery? What's for dinner(and contrary to what you might infer from our own jokes about ourselves, and the comments of some crackpot theists - baby is strictly off the menu). In reality we are not any different except that we don't feel the need to dress up for a weekly fashion show to be reminded how not to be an asshole by an institution with a questionble history of discrimination, criminal offending and conspiracies to hide from legal authorities, suspicious financial practises,  and unhealthy attitudes some adult relationships.

See also the full ODT Story on Mr Roy's case
Manawatu Standard on the Tanguay case

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