Dear Prime Minister,
The Rationalist Society of Australia is very pleased to hear your refreshingly honest views about the role of religion in a modern democratic society.
As Rationalists, we are committed to democratic values of equality, liberty and reciprocity. We believe the State should be neutral with respect to citizens’ philosophical and religious beliefs, neither privileging them nor undermining them. In a truly secular State, believers should be free to continue to hold their religious beliefs about what constitutes morality, while non believers should be prepared to accept diverse philosophical stances as part of a truly pluralist society. In a modern democratic society, both believers and non believers must propose and defend their preferred social and political policies using democratic values, not expecting any privileged position on the basis of reference to some ‘higher’ authority.
Thus, for example, governments could fund faith-based organisations that provide a social service not on the basis that they exhibit some ‘higher’ moral values but on the basis that they should not be discriminated against compared with non religious organisations providing a similar service. Religious believers who object to emerging demands such as voluntary euthanasia must argue the case on democratic values (eg, the common good or minimising harm and suffering) and not simply refer to the dictates of their (religious) conscience.
We look forward to working with your Government on progressing towards a truly secular state for a modern and democratic twenty-first century Australia.
Rationalist Society of Australia