Friday, March 16, 2012

Freedom of Religion - Level: Asian

CHAPTER III - FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS

Freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

10. Every person is entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including the freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice.


Most countries attempt to guarantee freedom of religion (and freedom from religion) by taking the secularist approach: clear separation of church and state and the government's non-interference in religious matters (and the church's non-interference in matters of governance). Sri Lanka, as always, has a different way of dealing with things: by giving all of the "recognized" religions a very powerful lobby in the government.

According to the "Ministries" page of the Sri Lankan government's official web portal, the following Ministries and Departments are concerned with religion:

Now, that's a shitload of public money being spent for the promotion and "protection" of religion. "Protection of religion" usually involves going batshit insane when a bunch of kids write a rock song that has some "religious material" in it. I wish these were the regular government departments that waste public money and blow some hot air once in a while, but hell no, they usually end up infringing on my right to live and enjoy life.

Census: Atheists aren't Sri Lankans too

Recently, the census forms were causing a commotion among Sri Lankan atheists, because you only had the choice of picking between the four (or five) major religions and another box titled "other", with no space left to write what those "other" beliefs were. This is not a big deal in itself, but it's a symptom of a much bigger issue: Sri Lanka is in denial about its growing population of atheists, agnostics and apostates; and it's refusing to give them equal recognition, protection under the law, and perhaps their own department. ;)

In Conclusion

There's nothing much to be said on this matter that isn't common sense. Government should be about managing our tax money in a responsible manner and providing the general public with basic services and security, not about telling us what to believe and when to riot over Akon or a rock song. Oh fuck, wait, I forgot I was talking about Sri Lanka there. My bad.

The government should not have any religious affiliations, and while having a Ministry of Culture is cool with me, I don't see why we need a Ministry of religious affairs and departments for each major religion. That money would be better spent on, I don't know, doing something useful like giving kids better Science education so that they can evaluate, and make an informed choice, regarding their world view and belief system.

Perhaps, in the future, the traditional picture of kids from the four religions representing the concept of Sri Lankan-ness can be modified thus:

I'm not really kidding