Letter: Evolution versus religion: even Darwin had his doubts

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The Independent Online
NICK COHEN suggests that it is sheer fanaticism to oppose Christianity in this country, where, he says, there are 'no real attempts by the churches to impose their beliefs on sexual or social life'. What he must mean is that the churches' very real social impositions go unchallenged and virtually unnoticed by the population at large. At the same time, the resulting inequity is creating a potentially explosive undercurrent in the fundamentalist Muslim community and other expanding religious communities.

Since 1944 religious teaching and worship have been compulsory in state schools - a legal requirement unknown in other Western countries - and recent education Acts demand the religion be 'predominantly Christian'.

Other statutory privileges extend to all religions, even the most harmful cults - but not to freethought organisations, which represent more than a quarter of the population. Buildings for religious worship are exempt from planning permission. Even the Queen has now agreed to pay taxes; but religions are still exempt. While the Lord's Day Observance Society has always campaigned on the sabbatarian issue out of untaxed income, the National Secular Society has campaigned on the opposite side of the same issue out of fully taxed income.

Chaplains to prisons, hospitals, and the armed forces are paid out of the public purse, while secular humanist counsellors not only receive no payment for an analogous service but are often refused access. Broadcasting time allotted to religion (especially on Radio 4) is not matched by time allowed to the alternative viewpoint, and media discussions on moral questions are heavily weighted in favour of a religious viewpoint. And all that is just the tip of the ecclesiastical iceberg.

Barbara Smoker

President, National Secular

Society, London N19