As a Christian Agnostic I say, “Let’s hear it for religious symbols!”
The Quebec Charter of Values, as so often happens in La Belle Province, has hold of the correct stick but from the wrong end.
I was raised in a culture where there were two conversational taboos. You didn’t ask someone what their religion was nor did you ask how much money they made. It resulted in a seemingly civilized society even though, inwardly, you were often speculating.
Then a cultural conversational prohibition may have been okay but but now we have Quebec with its Charter of Values wanting to ban all religious symbolism from the wardrobes of public servants. Well I’m all for the State being secular but it so happens that human beings are mostly all sectarian, whether or not they are Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, Wican, Druid, Atheist, Agnostic, or whatever.
As for me, I don’t really give a hoot what religious persuasion motivates the public servant who issues my driver’s license but if I were a pregnant woman I’d be interested in whether my doctor were a Roman Catholic. As an octogenarian, if I were being ravaged by a terminal illness I’d like to know whether or not my physician was willing to abide by Hippocrates’ dictum and do no harm or was labouring under a religious imperative to unduly sanctify “life” — my life. Sometimes the “old folk’s friend”, pneumonia, is just that — a friend. If my medic were wearing a declarative symbol it might at least encourage me (or my family) to ask exceedingly relevant questions about Faith.
So back to the Quebec proposal, and the wrong end of the stick. Never mind banning religious symbols. To the contrary — in some cases they should be encouraged.
In my opinion — and, since we’re talking about religion, opinion is all we’ve got to go on — in my opinion aspiring politicians should be encouraged to show the symbols of their Faith. At one time it didn’t matter much but nowadays I’d really like to know whether a prospective Minister in Charge of Scientific Progress really does think that the world is only 6000 years old because that’s what s/he believes the Bible proves. If Prosperity Theology and an absolute faith that he’s following God’s Plan will give a potential political leader personal license to encourage the devastation of the environment, then voters should at least be alerted before they tick their ballot. (We put warning symbols on cigarette packages, explosives, and poisons.) I really would like to know whether the guy or gal hoping to be PM, or even in charge of Foreign Affairs, believes that a war in the Middle East would be a desirable trigger to bring on Armageddon and the subsequent Return of Christ and the elevation of the Saved to Heaven and the demotion of the Damned to Hell. In the old days this kind of motivation didn’t have much importance because there was not the awesome technical ability to initiate the Armageddonal wish — or, for that matter, to simply destroy the environment through unregulated greed. But times have changed. The tools within the grasp of Political Power have changed.
At the same time our system of democracy has degenerated to the point where once a leader achieves majority power there is precious little we can do about anything until the next election. We should, in all logic, learn much more about prospective leaders before we elect them. Their religious imperatives should not be ignored.
Just a few years ago (at my age the word “few” is relative) it would have been cultural heresy and very very politically incorrect to advocate that a candidate for a seat in parliament or the leadership of a party should be required to expound upon their religious beliefs, but with religious beliefs at the heart of so much of the world’s turmoil it is more and more imperative to learn what makes a would-be leader tick.
So I say, let’s hear it for the personal use of religious symbols, especially amongst would-be politicians, but let’s agree that any person who wears one is tacitly issuing an invitation to be sincerely questioned about his/her Faith.
Now I’ll have to figure out what the symbol is for a Christian Agnostic. Any suggestions?