"Religion is a hypothesis about the world: the hypothesis that things are the way they are, at least in part, because of supernatural entities or forces acting on the natural world. And there's no good reason to treat it any differently from any other hypothesis. Which includes pointing out its flaws and inconsistencies, asking its adherents to back it up with solid evidence, making jokes about it when it's just being silly, offering arguments and evidence for our own competing hypotheses...and trying to persuade people out of it if we think it's mistaken. It's persuasion. It's the marketplace of ideas. Why should religion get a free ride"

Greta Christina

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Mail peeved prisons pander to pagans

Ross Clark of the Daily Mail has got his knickers in a twist over pagan prison inmates getting a day off work detail for the winter solstice.. He is also annoyed that the prison service is expected to provide facilities and chaplains for Wiccans, Rastafarians, Seventh Day Adventists, Christian Scientists and a whole host of minority religions. In typical Daily Mail fashion this is all the fault of the Human Rights Act…
You may not be surprised to discover that all this madness is a result of the Human Rights Act, which guarantees ‘the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion’.
He then goes on to whine that Christians on the outside don’t get their religious rights protected.
The great irony, of course, is that law-abiding citizens who are not in prison seem to be offered scant protection from this law when it comes to respecting their own rights. For example, there was the case of a Christian couple who were successfully sued after refusing to allow a gay couple to share a bed at their B&B establishment, or the case of another Christian couple, from Derby, who were forbidden from fostering children because they refused to drop their belief that homosexual acts are wrong.
Oh dear! He obviously doesn’t get the point that one person’s human rights end where someone else’s begins. You don’t get to discriminate on gender (or racial) grounds just because you are a bigot for Jesus. Anyway, what’s the problem with religious diversity in prison? Sure it will cost money to provide services for a multi-faith population, but if you are going to cater for the popular delusions of Christianity and Islam, you have to cater for all the others as well. I’m also tempted to ask what days off atheist prisoners are entitled to, maybe they get to celebrate Richard Dawkins’ birthday with spaghetti and meatballs? The best solution would be for prisons not to pander to religion at all except in a minimal way. This does not mean that individuals would lose the right to believe whatever supernatural bollocks they like, or even have the odd festival day to themselves, but the provision of chaplains and ritual paraphernalia at the tax payer’s expense would be better substituted for secular counselling and education. After all, the mainstream religions have their own network of priests, imams, vicars and pastors. If they want their respective flocks to be tended while in prison the churches should foot the bill. The fringe religions rarely have hierarchical structures anyway; modern pagans don’t need priests to lead them. Somehow though I don’t think Ross Clark is advocating for removing services from Christians, just from the rest, as though the crazy beliefs of a minority are somehow less important than the equally crazy beliefs of the majority.

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