Wednesday, March 02, 2005

It depends what you mean by freedom

No doubt Shabina Begum should be allowed to wear a bit of black cloth around her head at school for religious reasons. Congratulations.

As a non-baptised child I would have loved to have avoided Christian hymns and prayers every morning from the age of 6 to 18, but I couldn't. In the school I went to from the age of 12-18 the Jewish kids did not have to attend these services, but I did. Non-believers in The Book(s), freethinkers, agnostics, atheists, non-theists, humanists and all the other groups that think of religion as a benign (or sometimes virulent) belief still had to attend the State religion's indoctrination sessions (and hear how bad it seemed that 'Communists' put their children through such sessions).

Can I still go back and sue my school (s) for 12 years of restricting my rights and imposing their (improbable and distressing) beliefs on me? I doubt it.

One of the reasons I dropped out in the 60s was that distressing half hour every morning. Instead of fighting my way through 3 changes of bus to arrive in time for ineffective, hypocritical indoctrination I eventually took to arriving late, and then going to sit with the Jewish kids. One term I arrived late every day. After you arrived late for 4 days you got kept in for one hour's detention at the end of the day. I did that for a whole term, in protest. Nothing changed.

They measured me as smart (to even get to the school) and then completely ignored my feedback. Their thing being that if you want to get to be (say) Prime Minister you have to claim to be Christian even if you in fact have no faith at all - and my school thought 'getting on in life' the most important thing. I don't think they had previously met anyone who wanted to remain true to themselves, at any cost...

There must have been a few more after me, as the Sixties rolled on.

I still resent that 30 minutes a day (of every day of my school life) when I could have been doing something more constructive than staying dumb, singing out of tune, making up satirical words, or just feeling severely depressed and persecuted. I could even have avoided the rush-hour where adults pushed in front of me because they might lose their jobs if they were late, and I would only get detention.

Trivial? I think not.

So I praise Shabina for her persistence, even as I resent the fact that she can win because she is using the force of another nonsensical (to me!) BIG religion.

A BIG HELLO to all the kids out there who already know the world doesn't work because of some god (whether Christian, Jewish or Muslim). I know what you mean, people. That doesn't mean I think I know better how the Universe came to be, or how humans evolved. I accept the mystery. I just don't buy a creator god. Darwin, chaos theory, complex systems, emergence, etc will do fine as approaches to (maybe) one day knowing more about our situation...

In the States they do have a Freedom From Religion site - maybe we need to start one in the UK.


Chris Hughes said...

Humanists and Secularists put it quite succinctly: "Freedom of religion and freedom from religion."
You'd think that would make everyone happy, wouldn't you?

As for the moslem schoolgirl - this reeks of politics rather than religion: inded there is no religious requirement to wear the jilbab, or, come to that, the burka.

Chris Hughes said...

For "/* in the comment above read "of", and the second one is "from"... cockamamie editor - "you can use some HTML tags": Those are what I used!


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