Monday, June 2, 2008

Christians demand "special rights" as Canadians lose faith in God

Can you imagine the uproar from folks like Orville Nichols and other Christians like him if a Muslim man working as a public servant in Canada refused to provide services to women who were not veiled?

Yet Nichols and many other Christians in this country continue to lament their inability to break the law because of their faith.

"I broke the law because of my religious beliefs," said Nichols, a Regina marriage commissioner for 25 years who refused to marry a same-sex couple recently, which led to a human rights complaint.

The arrogance of people like Nichols seems somewhat contagious of late. Witness the uproar over possibly removing the Lord's Prayer from the daily opening of the Ontario legislature.

I have heard the argument that our public institutions shouldn't have to do away with Christian symbols like the Crucifix or Christmas trees. I do agree that Christianity has played a major role in the history of our country and such symbols are important reminders of that history.

I think the solution to issues like this is to make our public institutions more inclusive, to be willing to put symbols of various faiths in public places and to learn to respect each other better. Reading a Christian-only prayer at the start of each legislative day is not the way to do that. I don't agree the solution must be to 'secularize' all public institutions, to remove any sign of religion altogether.

But I'm not sure for many Christians the issue is about respect for faith in general; for many of them, I suspect it's about respect for their faith only. Most are fighting to only keep the Lord's Prayer in the Ontario legislature and not use a more inclusive prayer. For them, it's an issue of loss of power. They want the right to continue to dominate Canadian society. Anything less than the status quo is unacceptable.

Hence, how somebody like Nichols could believe he's entitled to discriminate against same-sex couples despite the fact he's a public servant on the public payroll.

These issues come at a time when a new poll shows belief in God among Canadians at a new low. Now almost one in four Canadians say they don't believe in God. I do find this a bit surprising.

I still believe in some kind of greater power in the universe, which I'm happy to call 'God'. My personal spiritual beliefs continue to evolve, while I choose to label myself officially an 'agnostic.' I do believe that knowing the truth about God and the universe remains impossible for humanity while we are alive. I accept that truth. I also see much evidence of the beauty of God or the universe in much of what we see and experience in life.

If belief in God is waning in Canada, I suspect it's because more and more Canadians see religion promoting images like this in the world:

...rather than promoting love and appreciation for things like this:

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