The Secular Party is unlikely to be a major player in upcoming elections, representing the monocular obsession of a cranky minority fixated on erasing the influence of religion in public life. Small it may be, but also useful as a reminder of the need to be very careful when making a wish
Into my hands last week came a press release from the Secular Party of Australia. I hadn’t heard of them before, but that is by the way. The release was prompted by publication of 2016 census data showing a decline in religiosity. Grist for the Secular Party’s mill, indeed it was. For the moment, I want to leave aside the misconceived triumphalism evident in the release. I will come back to it. When I do, the old adage, ‘be careful what you wish for’ underscores my cautionary pointer to the Secular Party.
We are told that the “party intends to build support over the coming years to be ready at the next elections in 2018/19 as a viable alternative to the major parties.” According party president John Perkins, the Secular Party stands for the separation of church from state. He goes on:
Because the Liberal and Labor parties are restricted by their fear of religious voter backlash they are both hamstrung in dealing with straightforward solutions wanted by the majority of ordinary Australians…We can make marriage equality real. We can introduce assisted suicide under conditions which have proved successful in enlightened counties. We can eliminate funding to all religious schools. As champions of human rights, we want women, minorities and the LGBTI community to be free of discrimination and the dictates of archaic superstition.
I am secular. Christ was secular. Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s. I believe in a separation of church from state; that parliament has the sole role in making laws. Yet I doubt I would find a happy home as a conservative Christian in the Secular Party. Clearly, the Party has a progressive social agenda. Its membership, I would guess, is comprised mainly or wholly of atheists, as distinct from secularists. That’s fine, but why not call themselves something like the Socially Progressive Atheist Party? That way no one would be misled.
I looked at four of their policies: on Economics, Immigration, Education, and the Environment. They are a mixture of barely okay to bad. But that is my view. You’d have to read them. I will give you just a flavour.
On economics, they attribute our history of increasing prosperity to the “humanist phenomenon” of technical progress and commercial innovation, which they want to support. That’s fine as far as it goes but they rule out exploitative capitalism, monopoly power or religion as having played any role. In fact, however, economic progress is built on an exploitative pursuit of monopoly profits. Why else would people put their capital at risk?
Moreover, for capitalism to flourish in the first place a supportive culture is required which protects property rights, which rewards merit, which disdains nepotism and cronyism, which engenders trust, and which values individual worth. That is why capitalism flourished in Christian nations and floundered elsewhere.
Culture is almost everything. Humanism? Give me a break. The Party believes that the key to eliminating world poverty is international cooperation and goodwill which would be helped by promoting secular values. Venezuela and Cuba have secular values. The only way bring nations out of poverty is to encourage them to adopt values throughout their societies which, at their core, are Christian values.
It is no surprise that the Party’s agenda more or less mirrors Tim Flannery’s when it comes to the environment. Global warming is recognised as a “dire threat to global civilisation.” So they advocate an international coal export tax and the use of all forms of low-carbon energy. Mind you, they include nuclear to deal themselves partially into the rational world, as against the Greens. How Australia manages to stay competitive in this brave new energy world is not addressed, so far as I can see.
On immigration, it is noted that “migrants to Australia must agree to respect certain values, including the equality of men and women [and that refugees] should be discouraged from attempting to enter Australia via boats.” Good stuff to a point, though ‘discouraged’ is such a weasel word in the circumstances. Isn’t it? But it is consistent with the admonition that “the current detention arrangements are inhumane and another solution is needed.”
What solution exactly? Well the Party keeps shtum about that effective yet more benign solution. Peter Dutton, I’m sure, would like to know what it is.
On education, defunding religious schools is the principal goal, as you would expect. Gonsky-style socialism also gets a look-in. Private schools will have their government funding cut if they spend too much on their students. So, if those who pay most taxes want to spend generously from their after-tax incomes on their children’s education they will, correspondingly, be denied taxpayer funds. Sounds fair to a socialist.
It is par for the course that parties with a particular axe to grind feel obliged to develop a whole suite of policies. At the very best, a curate’s egg emerges. The Secular Party doesn’t like people intruding their religious beliefs into worldly affairs. Maybe they should just stick to that line, which is at least worth debating, and forget the rest. But to come back to an earlier point they should take care.
There is all the difference in the world between Jesus and Mohammed; God and Allah. Muslims on the whole are not on a secular path. There is no separation of church and state in Islam. Let me put it starkly. Islam will bury humanism. And the more Christianity fades in national life, the more inevitable that outcome becomes.
Where do Western humanists think that they get their worldview from. Do they think they were born believing in equality of people regardless of their sex, ethnicity or station in life? Do they think that embracing democracy, the rule of law, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and association, and a free press, is innate? Do they think that tolerance for those practicing a different religion is a naturally occurring outcome of human existence? Hindus, Confucians, Muslims, tribal indigenes, nomads, communists and fascists, don’t have all of these same cultural precepts informing their thinking and behaviour.
We are products of our evolved Judeo-Christian culture. To me, it is clear that humanism cannot carry the torch of freedom and tolerance without its inspiring foundation. Humanism readily morphs into a species of socialism. The same deficient economic ideas are common to both.
Take this: “The major economic challenges that lie ahead derive from international inequity and environmental problems associated with oil resource depletion and global warming.” Ignore the arrant nonsense about oil depletion (and GW if you are so inclined). Look at the word ‘inequity’ – meaning a lack of fairness or justice. It is not a lack of fairness that keeps (e.g.) most Islamic countries poor, it is their culture.
Take this: “To provide global funds for poverty reduction programs, the Secular Party supports the implementation of a tax on international currency transactions.” Comes close enough to the proposal of a global wealth tax by French socialist economist Thomas Piketty.
Take this: “The Secular Party bases its economic policies on judgments concerning the long term public interest and the interests of global humanity.” This could and probably was said by Lenin at some point.
Economic policies should be set to encourage capitalists to invest in pursuit of outrageously high profits. All else that is good falls out of this process. Immiseration falls out of humanistic, socialistic, communistic (take your pick) attempts to impose economic equality and equity.
Ominously Islamists are a growing force throughout the world and are on course to forming alliances with socialists as a bridge to eventual dominance. Only waning Christianity stands in the way. It is ironic that those working to rid our institutions of Christianity are, by so doing, helping to smooth the way for the imposition of religious fundamentalism.