One of the outcomes of the Copenhagen gathering of atheists was the formulation of a set of principles. It has now been posted on the web, so it’s time for everyone to discuss, comment, and criticize…have at it!
The recent Gods and Politics conference in Copenhagen adopted the following Declaration on Religion in Public Life. The conference was the first European event of Atheist Alliance International, and was co-hosted by AAI and the Danish Atheist Society.
We, at the World Atheist Conference: “Gods and Politics”, held in Copenhagen from 18 to 20 June 2010, hereby declare as follows:
- We recognize the unlimited right to freedom of conscience, religion and belief, and that freedom to practice one’s religion should be limited only by the need to respect the rights of others.
- We submit that public policy should be informed by evidence and reason, not by dogma.
- We assert the need for a society based on democracy, human rights and the rule of law. History has shown that the most successful societies are the most secular.
- We assert that the only equitable system of government in a democratic society is based on secularism: state neutrality in matters of religion or belief, favoring none and discriminating against none.
- We assert that private conduct, which respects the rights of others should not be the subject of legal sanction or government concern.
- We affirm the right of believers and non-believers alike to participate in public life and their right to equality of treatment in the democratic process.
- We affirm the right to freedom of expression for all, subject to limitations only as prescribed in international law – laws which all governments should respect and enforce. We reject all blasphemy laws and restrictions on the right to criticize religion or nonreligious life stances.
- We assert the principle of one law for all, with no special treatment for minority communities, and no jurisdiction for religious courts for the settlement of civil matters or family disputes.
- We reject all discrimination in employment (other than for religious leaders) and the provision of social services on the grounds of race, religion or belief, gender, class, caste or sexual orientation.
- We reject any special consideration for religion in politics and public life, and oppose charitable, tax-free status and state grants for the promotion of any religion as inimical to the interests of non-believers and those of other faiths. We oppose state funding for faith schools.
- We support the right to secular education, and assert the need for education in critical thinking and the distinction between faith and reason as a guide to knowledge, and in the diversity of religious beliefs. We support the spirit of free inquiry and the teaching of science free from religious interference, and are opposed to indoctrination, religious or otherwise.
Adopted by the conference, Copenhagen, 20 June 2010.
Please circulate this as widely as you can among people and groups who advocate a secular society.
I would also add — use it. It’s the result of a formal consensus by a large group of atheists, so even if you disagree with bits and pieces, it’s at least a clear statement of principles that you can use in discussions with public officials. Ask your local politicians if they agree with it, and if not, why. Try to get it read into the public record, too.