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No chewing gum, no evangelism

20 August 2009
(via biphop)

(via biphop)

Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has spoken out against aggressive preaching and attempts by religious groups to “enter [the] civil space”.  He claims such religious public agendas threaten the city-state’s stability, as Singapore’s “most dangerous fault line” is race and religion.

The government is taking a strict line against actions that may stir up religious conflict (not surprising in a government that bans chewing gum because they don’t want a lot of old gum on the sidewalks); a Christian couple was jailed earlier this year for distributing religious pamphlets that were deemed offensive by those of different faiths.  That seems a bit extreme to me… as much as I dislike people killing trees to try and push their beliefs on me, I feel like they ought to have the right to do so.  Labeling pamphlet distribution as “seditious” seems a bit much.

However, I do applaud the prime minister’s condemnation of “those who try to convert ailing hospital patients ‘who don’t want to be converted.'” and I can’t disagree with his observation that “You push your religion on others, you cause nuisance and offense.”

The real money quote comes later though; after giving examples of how religious organizations have tried to hijack NGOs and stressing the need for Singapore’s government to remain secular, the prime minister has this to say:

“We have to keep religion separate from politics,” he said. “Religion in Singapore can’t be the same as religion in America or in an Islamic country.”

OUCH! I’ll be the first to admit that the Religious Right in this country are invading our politics trying to push their religious moral agenda (witness anti-gay marriage rhetoric, anti-abortion laws, pharmacists’ ability to deny birth control, the halting of embryonic stem-cell research, etc), and have deteriorating effect on the separation of church and state (Creationism doesn’t belong in public schools people), but honestly, comparing us to Islamic-run countries?  That’s a bit strong there fella.  Last time I checked women weren’t getting stoned for talking to men they aren’t related to, and despite a fight against gay marriage most gays aren’t being killed for their lifestyles.  But maybe the prime minister wasn’t actually equating the two, maybe he’s just saying that either example is undesirable.  I’m going to hope that’s what he meant.

Now excuse me while I enjoy some chewing gum.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. 21 August 2009 18:39

    Hello,

    Your examples for the religious right “invading our politics trying to push their moral agenda” are gay marriage, abortion, birth control, and stem-cell research. First of all, I don’t know what the problem with having beliefs that would influence your political agenda would be. Everyone does that, including you.

    Second of all, your examples are quite preposterous. Gay marriage is something that’s being pushed on America because of someone’s moral agenda. It’s relatively new, and it’s being pushed on us by those in favor of homosexual marriage. Christians aren’t pushing for anything new, but resisting change.

    The story is similar with abortion. Abortion was illegal for the first 200 years of this country’s history, and it was pushed on us by an out-of-control judiciary, and has never been put to a vote of the people.

    Christians are very much in favor of stem cell research–just not embryonic stem cell research. I don’t know what you’re referring to with birth control.

    I mourn the loss of freedom of speech of the people of Singapore. Everyone should have the right to speak, especially if what they have to say is offensive to some.

    Thanks,
    Bill

    • Ms. Doubt permalink*
      21 August 2009 22:00

      I think you misunderstand, when I say “gay marriage” I mean that the religous right is opposing it. I’m sorry if I was unclear. And I think it’s a shame that people wish to deny others basic civil rights because it is contrary to their own particular set of religious values. I believe it is wrong to try and force everyone to follow moral rules based on a particular religion, especially when a large number of people won’t agree with those rules or that religion. As to my comment about birth control, it is currently legal in this country for physicians to deny women birth control if they have a religious objection to it. In essence, they are allowed to NOT DO THEIR JOB without any repercussions because it’s against their religious morals. It’s akin to letting firefighters choose not to do their job when they don’t like a building that’s burning down… I’m sure you would agree that that is not acceptable.

      As to abortion being illegal for the first 200 years of our country’s existance, I was not aware laws regarding abortion even existed, and frankly, given the danger of the procedure before modern medicine it’s probably better that it was. However, this is no longer the case, and currently much of abortion debate is intimately entwined with religion. The question of when a fetus becomes a “person” is rarley considered in terms of science, but rather in terms of spirituality and religion – which is why there is always discussion of whether or not a fetus has a soul. This is also where the argument against embryonic stem-cell research comes in, because for the religious embryos have souls, so such research is “murder”.

      As to people having beliefs that influence your political agenda; yes, obviously everyone has beliefs that influence it. However, I think religious belief should be well out of it, since our government is supposed to be a secular entity. Especially when those religious beliefs stand counter to the basic civil rights of other people, or cause people to wilfully ignore reason, logic, and the scientific method.

      Hopefully this has clarified things for you.

  2. 22 August 2009 16:38

    Hi Ms. Doubt,

    I’m not sure how you did it, but the tone of your comment was very pleasant. You’re probably a better writer than me, but I hope I can get my disagreeable comment to come through an agreeable manner.

    Maybe I was unclear, because I knew that’s what you meant by gay marriage. I meant that those in favor of gay marriage are the ones pushing their agenda–pushing for change. Many of them are pushing for this because their religion says it’s good, or at least acceptable. Are you against them basing their beliefs on their religion as well?

    Do you really think a pharmacist or physician not filling a prescription is akin to a firefighter letting a building burn? Are you really in favor of taking away the civil rights of doctors and pharmacists?

    Regarding abortion, what species is the unborn baby? Why don’t you care about the right of the baby to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness? Are you really in favor of taking away the civil rights of the unborn?

    You’ve taken political stands, and you’ve based them on your worldview, and you make decisions based on that worldview. For you to be against other Americans making decisions based on their worldview is hypocritical.

    The question is whether your worldview is tenable, and it is not. When you say something is wrong, you’re suggesting that there is an authority for right and wrong that extends beyond yourself. That is a place that an atheist should not want to go if they want to remain an atheist. The only valid authority is the Creator. You’re basing your condemnation of the Christian worldview on the Christian worldview, and that isn’t living up to the logic you hope to espouse. At best, an atheist can be a moral relativist.

    Thanks,
    Bill

  3. Bad Smell permalink
    31 August 2009 15:52

    I disagree with the statement that creationism does not belong in public schools. Mr. Goldberg does a very good job of teaching it in philosophy. However, creationism has no place in the science classroom as it is contrary to the basic principles of science. It fits in well in history or philosophy or sometimes literature classes. I think you meant as much, but I know people like to attack that point.

    Also, I encourage you to check out education systems in other countries. In Kenya, for example the first day of freshman physics, the teacher explains how physics relates to the other subjects in the curriculum. Including a relationship with the class called Christian Religious Education. And this is in the government mandated syllabus and the government recommended textbooks.

    Nice blog.

  4. Travis permalink
    17 September 2009 18:33

    I don’t necessarily see a problem with creationism being taught at school, or at least mentioned. But I believe that there is a right and wrong way of teaching teaching it. I would expect it to be far to easy for it to become a lesson on Christianity disguised as a lesson about creationism. There is a distinct difference in saying “Creationism is the theory that a higher power of some sort created the world” and “Creationism states that God created the world and this is how the bible tells us that he did so and why”.

    I would suspect it is far too easy for a discussion on creationism to become preaching of Christianity, and that is where I suddenly would take issue as a parent.

    I personally loved this article about the Singapore PM’s comments and the responding blog. Thank you for opening up the discussion.

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