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List of things an atheist cannot do

Posted: Tue Feb 03, 2009 2:48 am
by cymorg
Can we create, or does a list already exist, of things an atheist is excluded from doing. For example I am excluded from being a member of the Board of Management of my childrens schools as I don't believe in the ethos of the school, likewise I cannot become a cub or scout leader. There must be many examples of discrimination like this and a full list may empower Irish atheists to speed up the rate of change in our society.

Re: List of things an atheist cannot do

Posted: Tue Feb 03, 2009 3:23 am
by lostexpectation
cymorg wrote:Can we create, or does a list already exist, of things an atheist is excluded from doing. For example I am excluded from being a member of the Board of Management of my childrens schools as I don't believe in the ethos of the school, likewise I cannot become a cub or scout leader. There must be many examples of discrimination like this and a full list may empower Irish atheists to speed up the rate of change in our society.
certainly ,first hands account of recent situations are most important,so if you could expand on the efforts to get on the board...

Re: List of things an atheist cannot do

Posted: Tue Feb 03, 2009 7:31 am
by UDS
I’m not sure that it’s helpful to analyse this in terms of “things an atheist cannot do” or “discrimination”.

So far as I know – though I’m happy to be corrected - there is no rule which says that an atheist cannot serve on the board of managements of a religious school.

What prevents the atheist from serving is the fact that he cannot, with integrity, fulfil the duties of the board members, which include supporting and advancing the ethos of the school and equally he cannot, with integrity, accept the responsibilities of being a board member if he has no intention of fulfilling them.

But if this is “discrimination” against the atheist, then by the same reasoning he is also discriminated against in not being able to become a priest or a rabbi, roles he could not discharge in good conscience. And a priest or a rabbi is discriminated against in not being able to serve on the committee of a group like Atheist Ireland. And, less fancifully, somebody who disapproves of secular education and advocates strict denominationalism is discriminated against by not being able to serve on the board of a secular school. This is not a useful concept of “discrimination”.

As I see it, the problem for the atheist is not that he cannot serve on the board of a religious school – why would he want to? – but that he is obliged, for want of a more acceptable alternative, to send his children to a religious school, which in any event I would see as a much more serious matter. That is discrimination, at least if the lack of availability of places in suitable schools is due to a bias against providing or funding them.

Re: List of things an atheist cannot do

Posted: Tue Feb 03, 2009 6:58 pm
by lostexpectation
i would suggest that the atheist could fill all reality based issues in relation to the ethos,, and that's all that matters

Re: List of things an atheist cannot do

Posted: Tue Feb 03, 2009 10:10 pm
by Colin
My favourite bit is what the world scouting movement has to say about atheism.
World Scouting Website wrote:Q - What should I do if I discover that one of the Rovers of my Group is atheist?

A - A Rover is a young person, maybe still an adolescent, and adolescence is the age where young people feel the need to question all the ideas and principles which they agreed with when they were a child.

This is a normal trend, because they now not only have to agree to the values that adult people propose to them but also to test them and develop a deeper and more personal adherence to these values.

So many adolescents say they are atheists. Most of the time, that means that they are challenging the image of God they have developed for themselves when they were a child.

That is the necessary way to build a more mature and more personal image of God (to build a large house you have first to destroy some walls).

Your role as Scout leader is not to reject a Rover because he says he is an atheist but to help him to clarify his ideas concerning God and spiritual development, and to ask him, at least, to start a process of research, reflection and experimentation.
But I don't have any issue being a scout and an atheist.

Re: List of things an atheist cannot do

Posted: Tue Feb 03, 2009 11:11 pm
by mkaobrih
I think that there’s something about judges not being atheists.

Re: List of things an atheist cannot do

Posted: Wed Feb 04, 2009 12:49 am
by SunWorshipper
mkaobrih wrote:I think that there’s something about judges not being atheists.
Really? That would surprise me somewhat as it would seem to me to fly in the face of the constitution.
I remember a discussion on TV several years ago - can't remember a lot about it, but it was something to do with the court system and how it works. What I distinctly remember was that one of the panel, a woman judge, explained how witnesses could take an oath or make a declaration. She said that judges had more confidence in those who made declarations, implying, I thought, a suspicion of those who took oaths as being less honest and more parrot-like. Her view, which surprised me greatly, sticks in my mind because I felt that she had got it bang on.
Personally, and I don't know if this is because I am an atheist or if it is because I am me, I would make the declaration and, having done so, I would tell the truth.
As for the bible, there is no way I would swear on it simply because I think it's a load of bollocks.

Re: List of things an atheist cannot do

Posted: Wed Feb 04, 2009 1:01 am
by UDS
lostexpectation wrote:i would suggest that the atheist could fill all reality based issues in relation to the ethos,, and that's all that matters
On that view, there is no barrier to an atheist becoming a member of the Board of Management of a school with a religious ethos, is there?

Re: List of things an atheist cannot do

Posted: Wed Feb 04, 2009 1:07 am
by UDS
mkaobrih wrote:I think that there’s something about judges not being atheists.
There’s no direct exclusion, but judges (and the President, and the members of the Council of State) are required to make a declaration which contains theistic references. (“In the presence of almighty God, I do solemnly and sincerely promise and declare . . .”). There is no bible involved. The “meat” of the declaration (basically, to execute the duties of the office and/or to uphold the Constitution) is not problematic, but the gratuitous theism that prefaces it is, obviously, is likely to be offensive to an atheist or an agnostic.

On the other hand, the Constitution was drafted by de Valera, who had himself, just a few years before, taken a (theistic) oath of allegiance to the British crown, in order to take his seat in Dáil Éireann. He had no problem with the theism, but he obviously did with allegiance; he squared his conscience by choosing to regard the oath as an “empty formula”. He would have been very aware of this – and so wouild everyone else – when the Constitution was drafted, debated and voted upon.

The only constitutional requirement is that a candidate for office should be prepared to make the declaration, not that he should subscribe to its gratuitous theism. Anyone who makes the declaration, in the spirit of de Valera, can take office, even if he simultaneously declares that he is an atheist. While the rights of atheists were probably not much of a live issue in 1930s Ireland, had anyone raised the issue I don’t think that the theistic declaration would have been seen as something which would exclude atheists from office.

Re: List of things an atheist cannot do

Posted: Wed Feb 04, 2009 8:47 pm
by Colin
In relation to the courts, I think a greater issue is the assumption that jurors are members of the roman catholic faith. There is no mention of the affirmation when jurors are being called to the jury box. I'd prefer that the registrar says that when they are called upon, they should enter the jury box and state whether they wish to affirm or take the oath on the bible or Koran. Right now unless you specifically request the affirmation (or the Koran for that matter) they assume that you swear by all mighty god on the New Testament. Indeed I've seen the Koran stored under a computer screen before.

In fairness to the registrars, they do know the affirmation (and I can't say the same for the Islamic oath) and once one juror takes the affirmation, in my experience a second juror will often do the same. In one high court case, we had three jurors take the affirmation instead of the oath. Ultimately the case was not run, but it is a good sign nonetheless.

The problem with the oath a judge takes is that it is contained in the constitution and therefore needs a referendum to be changed. I think it is part of a bigger problem in relation to the inherent religiousness of the constitution - some of which cannot be changed by way of referendum to amend the constitution.
5.1° Every person appointed a judge under this Constitution shall make and subscribe the following declaration:

"In the presence of Almighty God I, [ ], do solemnly and sincerely promise and declare that I will duly and faithfully and to the best of my knowledge and power execute the office of Chief Justice (or as the case may be) without fear or favour, affection or ill-will towards any man, and that I will uphold the Constitution and the laws. May God direct and sustain me."
May Zeus direct and sustain me.