Religious Accommodation

by | April 6, 2016

An article posted on Charle Hebdo and an article posted on Friendly Atheist have forced me to reexamine my conviction that all accommodation of religion is bad.

The Charle Hebdo article begins

For a week now, experts of all kinds have been trying to understand the reasons for the attacks in Brussels.

and goes on to provide its own reasons:

In reality, the attacks are merely the visible part of a very large iceberg indeed. They are the last phase of a process of cowing and silencing long in motion and on the widest possible scale.

The Charle Hebdo article gives some very convincing examples of the visible parts of a very large iceberg; however, the example of “the bakery that forbids you to eat what you like” is not convincing:

Take the local baker, who has just bought the nearby bakery and replaced the old, recently-retired guy, he makes good croissants. He’s likeable and always has a ready smile for all his customers. He’s completely integrated into the neighbourhood already. Neither his long beard nor the little prayer-bruise on his forehead (indicative of his great piety) bother his clientele. They are too busy lapping up his lunchtime sandwiches. Those he sells are fabulous, though from now on there’s no more ham nor bacon. Which is no big deal because there are plenty of other options on offer – tuna, chicken and all the trimmings. So, it would be silly to grumble or kick up a fuss in that much-loved boulangerie. We’ll get used to it easily enough.

Is the local baker’s decision to remove ham and bacon sandwiches from the bakery’s menu something we should be “discussing, debating, contradicting or contesting”?

Maybe the Friendly Atheist post will help you answer the question. In the post, Hemant Mehta disagrees with the Swiss people who are furious that two Muslim boys won’t have to shake their female teachers’ hands because “their religion prevents them from touching women who aren’t in their family.” Mehta agrees with the school’s decision to accommodate the two students and compares the compromise “reached with the students involved, in that they also do not shake the hands of male teachers” to the

U.S. law that says students who don’t want to say the Pledge of Allegiance don’t have to. When atheists sit out, there are always critics who say they’re being disrespectful or unpatriotic. Neither of those are accurate.

and goes on to say,

The administrators did the right thing by making an exemption. I understand why people are upset, but I fail to see how forcing them to shake hands against their will (or kicking them out of school for not doing it) would make things any better.

What do you think? Are the absence of ham and bacon sandwiches in a French bakery and a Swiss school’s decision to allow two Muslim boys to break with the tradition of shaking hands with their teachers before and after class topics we should be discussing, debating, contradicting or contesting?

11 thoughts on “Religious Accommodation

  1. AtheistsMeow

    Not every restaurant serves ALL food, & what happened to the day where teachers & students didn’t touch at all, so why shake hands to start with?

    I never shook a teachers hand or touched one for any reason. Not necessary.

  2. Indi

    > Are the absence of ham and bacon sandwiches in a French bakery and a Swiss school’s decision to allow two Muslim boys to break with the tradition of shaking hands with their teachers before and after class topics we should be discussing, debating, contradicting or contesting?


    1. Tim Underwood

      Remember, we are advocating for no religion. These are two, out of a few dozen, silly religious things to be talked about. Where did this prohibition against ham come from? Why is this relevant today? What prior doctrines were plagiarized? When? By whom?

      We can’t expect these question to be brought up by the devout. Young Canadians have a right to know these things.

      1. Indi

        > Remember, we are advocating for no religion.

        We are?

        I’m not. I just want no one to be victimized by religion without their consent – whether by individuals, churches, or governments. But if someone freely chooses to be religious, that’s not my concern, and I won’t stop them. I’ll try to convince them to not be so stupid, of course, but so long as they’re not hurting anyone else, I won’t infringe on their right to be stupid if they want to be.

        I’m not advocating for “no religion”. I’m advocating for freedom from religion. There’s a huge difference.

        1. Randy

          Yes, we are.

          Nobody else should have to die for a fairy tale.

          1. Indi

            No, we are not.

            If you think you have the right to dictate to people what they can and can’t die for, you are definitely not on the same side as me. I’m already busy enough fighting people like you, who think they can tell people that they don’t have the right to end their lives the way they please, because the people like you think they know better.

            If someone chooses to die because they’re in too much pain, that’s their choice – it’s none of your damn business.

            If someone chooses to die because they lost their spouse and don’t want to go on living alone, that’s their choice – it’s none of your damn business

            If someone chooses to die because their favourite TV character was killed off, that’s their choice – it’s none of your damn business

            If someone chooses to die because they think it will make their god happy, that’s their choice – it’s none of your damn business

            Now *I* was talking about people who made their own choices, and whose choices don’t harm anyone else. If you ignored what I was talking about and instead substituted your opinions on some other topic, I’m not the one responsible for you looking like a clueless ass.

        2. Tim Underwood

          “I’ll try to convince them to not be so stupid, of course…”

          So you are advocating for no religion, at least as much as I am.

          1. Indi

            No, I am not, and the distinction is not small.

            I think cowboy hats are stupid. I would never wear one, and if anyone asked my opinion, I would cheerfully tell them how stupid-looking I think cowboy hats are. But if someone like you started advocating for no cowboy hats, I would defend the people wearing them. Because so long as cowboy hats don’t infringe on anyone else’s rights, I will not stop people from being stupid and wearing them. If cowboy hats go extinct on their own, I won’t miss them… but that is *not* my goal.

            I don’t “want” a world with no religion. If that happens – if somehow we end up with a world with no religion – that’s fine. But that is not my goal, and I will not lift a finger toward that end. My goal is simply to end the *power* of religion – to completely end religion’s ability to infringe on the rights and freedoms of others. Once I achieve that, I’m satisfied… I don’t need religion to go extinct completely. If we end up with a world that *has* religion, but all religion that exists does not infringe on anyone else’s rights or freedoms, then I’m fine with that. I don’t need “no religion”.

            That position seems to frequently put me at odds with other atheist activists, whose goal is not only “no religion”, it is to force everyone else to comply with their atheist beliefs. Our movement has gone *way* too far down the path of extremism – it is at the point now where atheists are seriously arguing that our goal is to force Muslims to make us ham sandwiches.* It’s like we’ve degenerated into self-parody. It’s become an embarrassment.

            So I’m drawing a line, and taking a stand against extremist language and rhetoric. No, I do *NOT* want “no religion”. I want freedom from religion. And at the same time, I want religious people to be free from tyrannical atheism. I can live in a world where some people disagree with me, where some people believe or do things I think are wrong or stupid, and even where some people utterly hate me… and yes, where religion exists. But I will not accept a world where not everyone can live without any unreasonable and unnecessary violation of their rights and freedoms, and it doesn’t matter whether the ones denying people their rights and freedoms are religious people, or atheists.

            (* I’ve never read a regular Charlie Hebdo editorial before, and this is only a translation, but I can’t help but suspect that editorial is satire. If it is, it’s brilliant satire – the best satire looks so much like the target of the satire that it’s hard to distinguish, and this piece is *perfectly* echoing the ridiculously ominous slippery slope arguments of Europe’s fascist, neo-Nazi, far right. If it’s not satire, the best I could hope is that they were trying to condemn Europe’s regressive left… but if that’s what they were trying to do, this is a terribly shitty piece.)

          2. Tim Underwood

            Cowboy hats are not stupid. Nobody has ever come up with a better compromise for outdoor life on the Great Plains. Stetsons both shed water and provide shade. The turban is not stupid, when used in the desert, either. When drenched with water turbans provides evaporative cooling. When dried out, they provide warmth for the cold nights.

            Both of these headgears are stupid for urban life.

            Religion doesn’t usually have a stupid appearance but it is stupid and people should be encouraged to stop practicing it; even within the confines of their our homes. The societal benefits would be better mental health and less ignorant prejudice against rational folks.

  3. billybob

    Women are yukky?

    If the two boys shake the hand of the male teachers then it
    is bigotry. Kick em out.

  4. Randy

    Hemant strives too hard (sometimes) to live up to his “Friendly Atheist” title. Having lived in a “friendly” place, I can tell you that friendliness is entirely overrated. What matters is making sense, and acting with true compassion, rather than false friendliness.

    Religious “accommodation” is nothing more than religious supremacy, and is essentially an insult to the rest of the population. None of the rest of us could claim these “accommodations”. They cut right at the heart of our society.

    When the baker ceases selling ham, it’s because his religion is telling YOU to stop eating ham. You’re a filthy kafir, and the shopkeeper won’t dirty his hands with your food. So let’s be honest about that, at least. Where’s the compassion for the community? Nobody can be made to sell ham, but an insult like that ought to draw protests. (Note how this differs from vegetarianism, which is based on a concern about the animal becoming the food, rather than the person preparing or eating the food.)

    It’s similar with the kids. They’ve been told they’re superior to the filth running the school system, because of the slutty women. Further, they’ve been told what their religion is, instead of being given the freedom to think for themselves. They probably don’t even know anything about more than 1 or 2 of the world’s religions. The family ought to be called in and educated on the values THEY chose to live within, and the kids should be adopted out if they continue with this behaviour. I think the shaking hands thing is weird, but if that’s what they do there, then they can ALL do it.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.