How secular is a government that legislates religion? Now, how ironic is that? Get my take on it in this week’s edition of “Isn’t That Ironic
The Province of Quebec has passed a law that bans wearing any religious symbols in public—at least for government employees (for now). Of course, the obvious irony is that a secular government would make any laws respecting religion. That would make it cease to be secular. Or perhaps “secularism” has become the official state religion of Quebec. A second irony is that humans are innately “symbol-creating” creatures. So you can’t really outlaw symbols. Such a law is really only symbolic.
But what exactly is a religious symbol? What is religion? What’s a symbol? (Hint: There are no easy answers.) Any strongly held belief could be religious. If we look carefully at our own world views, we will find most of what we think is true, is really belief based on evidence, but it’s not fact. It might be wrong.
The more we try to define either word, the more we realize it’s impossible. The more narrowly we define either word, the more the anti-religious nature of this law becomes obvious.
If I wear a T-shirt that says, “Jesus Loves You”, is that a religious symbol? I’d say, “yes”. It’s certainly a statement of religious belief. Wearing it is certainly symbolic. Similarly, someone wearing a T-shirt that advertises their favorite rock band, their favorite alcoholic beverage, their favorite brand of marijuana, are all displaying symbols of their religious beliefs—even though most people don’t see them as such.
We don’t all agree on what are religious symbols, emblems, and statements. Let me give you an example. Many years ago, Molson’s had a promotional campaign for their “Canadian” brand of beer. They had advertisements on TV, radio, and posters that said: “I Am. Canadian”. I used to drink Molson's Canadian beer but I stopped when this campaign came out. To associate the name of God with a brand of beer was so blasphemous to my thinking that I changed beers. I presume no one at Molson’s understood or agreed. I saw things differently. “I Am” is the great name that God gave himself when He spoke to Moses from the burning bush. It is a sacred name—at least to me.
Who will be the arbiter of what is a religious symbol and what is not? Can you wear a marijuana bong on a chain around your neck but not a cross or a talisman? Is not the former also a symbol of your “religion”? Any religion, whether it’s Christianity, Buddhism, Secularism, Atheism, or even Apocalyptic Global Warmingism, is basically an idea. Maybe a set of ideas. Our former prime minister, Pierre Trudeau, when he refused to outlaw the Communist Party reportedly said, “Communism is an idea and you cannot outlaw ideas”.
Trying to outlaw symbols is like trying to outlaw ideas. It is futile. Our cherished freedom of expression demands that we allow others to express themselves in words, symbols, and actions, whether we agree with them or not. In the end, our own freedom of thought demands that we tolerate the delusions of everyone else. It’s kind of ironic, really.
God Bless You.