If freedom of religion is the question, secularism is the answer

Waaaay back in late 2007,  Australian members from Atheist Nexus’ Aussie, Kiwi and South Pacific Atheists formed a working group to compile a report on Freedom of Religion and Belief in the 21st Century for the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC).  I was the main researcher and writer for the report which you can read here. (Warning – it’s long!)

This issue was of such public interest that the AHRC received nearly 2000 submissions.  A group of academics was commissioned to produce a meta-analysis and this was due out at the end of 2008.  In fact, it has only just been released. You can read it here. (Warning – it’s long!)

My critique of the AHRC report on Freedom of Religion and Belief in the 21st Century has been published on Online Opinion today.  You can read it here. (Please feel free to make a comment and, if you enjoy the article, click ‘like’!)

Here is a short extract:

Initially scheduled for release at the end of 2008, a meta-analysis of the submissions and nationwide public consultation process has only just been published. Given the wealth and diversity of input, the involvement of some of Australia’s leading academics, and the length of time taken to produce the report, I expected something really ‘meaty’ with some decisive recommendations for action. Instead, by trying to please everyone, the result is a disappointingly shallow and, at times, biased, analysis concluding in a number of rather vague and half-hearted recommendations.

I certainly appreciate the difficulty of providing a satisfying synthesis of so many diverse opinions over a very broad range of subjects, but the report prepared by Professor Gary Bouma, Professor Desmond Cahill, Dr Hass Dellal and Athalia Zwartz just seems … well … wishy-washy. After reading nearly 2000 submissions and three years of careful consideration the main conclusions drawn from the research are – ta-dah! – that ‘there is a need to develop appropriate responses to the unique and varied Australian religious contexts and settings’ and that better education about Australia’s diverse religions will help to reduce ignorance and fear. Really? That’s it? …..

Chrys Stevenson

 

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