Scott Morrison and the ancient scourge

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(Cartoon by Mark David / @mdavidcartoons)

Australia has an unelected Prime Minister who believes the religious faith he professes is good enough for everybody else.

His faith is modelled on Christianity, but some people are having difficulty rationalising the teaching of Christ with Scott Morrison’s demonstrated vilification of the children of asylum seekers held in offshore concentration camps.

The PM and his cahoots have suddenly determined that secular Australia does not need to provide adequate funding for teachers and classrooms and toilets and playgrounds for Australia’s state run schools. Instead, they decided that selected faith based schools will receive a disproportionate funding windfall to give privileged children an even greater start to life.

The joyful recipients of this largesse don’t seem to appreciate that this sets a precedent for other groups to hijack government revenue for their own ends.

Australia is a multicultural nation and a great model for the world. We have migrants from many countries and we benefit from what their cultures bring to us. Existing first-come-best-dressed religious enterprises have legislated holy days on which to rally together and celebrate, and it would seem reasonable for subsequent migrant communities to expect the same entitlement to observation of holy days, the same generous tax concessions and now the same "special: funding for their schools of religious conviction. However the drain on Federal revenue would be unsustainable. Employers would have difficulty scheduling resources and operations across the diverse absences of their staff. Productivity losses would be consequential and our nation would struggle to compete commercially in global markets. It is time for Australia to revisit the nature of this social division.

From when our earliest ancestors first stood erect and looked up to the heavens, and realised that the different lights moved in cycles, they began to wonder what it might mean.

A few among them offered reasons for these patterns in the night sky and saw that by claiming to know the unknown they could have power over those who stood in awe. These were the first priests and they quickly learned to consolidate this power by creating an almighty being in their own likeness. Sometimes, the motives of the clerics were pure and they sincerely thought to give comfort to those who were afraid of the dark. But often they were driven by the desire to control their followers and implied themselves as conduits to connect with that higher being. The power they found brought them wealth and status, and these are commodities that once tasted are seldom relinquished without a fight. Anything in the natural world which could not be explained to a ten-year-old in a few simple words was attributed to that "universal being".

Underpinning the will to power within institutionalised religion is the use of language (philology, etymology, semantics). God means good and devil means evil. Heaven and hell become reward or punishment after death, despite being actual mental states of the living. The "Universal Being" known variously as Yahweh, God, Allah and so on is deemed omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent. "Universal" ticks the "omni" boxes, but "Being" need not mean a noun depicting a divine figure in man’s image. The word "being" is the present participle of the verb "to be" and hence the Universal Being is, and will always be, the real time manifestation of the entire universe (including the bits we haven’t noticed yet).

Religion has been the basis of much death and suffering since Moses was a baby. Religion legitimises hypocrisy. Religions promote a morality, including the admonition not to take another’s life — yet religious zealots willingly kill and maim in the name of their god. Many well-dressed professed persons of faith systematically cheat, steal and abuse. Religion directs its followers to protect children, help the needy and respect elders, yet any daily news bulletin will highlight where such faith-based indoctrination has failed.

Religions have ceased to be about saving souls, they are in the business of making money and, like other trillion dollar capital enterprises, they should be treated as such.

All religious organisations operating in Australia must be subject to taxes on every fiscal transaction, along with appropriate rates and levies on real estate holdings. This will ensure a fairer revenue base for the State to provide health, education, infrastructure and defence for the greater benefit of the nation. There can still be a tax exemption category for humanitarian NGOs and charities that are operated by religious groups, but to satisfy that they are purely for altruistic purposes and are not engaged in selling religion they must operate under a charter subject to periodic audits.

Australia’s Constitution states that we are a secular nation, and this implies there will be no sectarian prayers or promotion of faith in any political or public arena; no religious holidays (those wanting to make religious observances can still do so on their own time); no discrimination towards any person for their religious preferences; and no imposing of religious standards by one group upon anyone else under any circumstance. As a secular state, all Australians can coexist with one democratic standard, instead of divisiveness and degrees of entitlement.

This is not to suggest that freedom of religion is to be restricted. People will always be free to observe their religious practices in the respectful company of like-minded adults.

Institutionalised religion is past its use-by date. Science has answered most of the technical questions of those who gaze in wonder at the cosmos. The philosophical question of why we are here is a matter for each individual to decide for themselves, with or without a religious framework.

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