The crucifix post-Strasbourg

Carla Corsetti, the Secretary of Democrazia Atea –  Italy’s only explicitly atheist political party – has penned a response to the Strasbourg ruling that religious symbols in public schools are not in violation of human rights. Corsetti is a lawyer who has herself appealed to the Administrative Regional Court (TAR) of Lazio over the presence of the crucifix in her son’s schoolroom. Here is that link, in English.

Winners and Losers by Carla Corsetti

Culture wars have neither winners nor losers; either everyone wins or everyone loses. The difference is measured by who is aware of this and who isn’t. And we are among those who understand the universal value of certain conquests. The European Court has told us that the crucifix is a passive symbol, inert, and it has told us that decorating public schools with it isn’t in violation of human rights.

This interpretation – which we do not share – won’t stop us. We don’t feel culturally defeated and, on closer inspection, the Catholics themselves are the losers. After this ruling no Catholic will be able to calmly assert that the crucifix is a symbol which “unites”, or that is it shared peacefully. After this ruling the crucifix is trapped between those who wish to impose it through abuse of power and those who refuse to submit to it. By now the crucifix is unequivocally, definitively and irreversibly the symbol of a bullying religious confession at the expense of those who are not its members.

Catholics were unable to defend the crucifix as one defends the most precious things, which are to be cherished with discretion and in private. At the cost of imposing it they’ve deprived it of its religious significance, presented it as a cultural symbol and accepted its secularization. They weren’t even upset when someone justified its ostension as part of the furnishing of a public classroom, along with the chairs and the wastebaskets. They were the first to desecrate it.

We will accept the cultural and legal challenge while continuing to call attention to the fact that this is a symbol of death, a symbol which has accompanied genocide and war, massacre and rape, dirty business and paedophilia. It doesn’t belong to us, not even culturally, and from today onwards we have yet another reason to remove it from our children’s sight.

And here is a revamped crucifix reflecting the new reality.

It's our symbol, too, right?


Leaving the Flock

Paul Constant has an enraged plea for excommunication in The Stranger. Constant writes:

I demand to be excommunicated because I do not believe women are second-class citizens. I demand to be excommunicated because your missionaries are informing impoverished citizens of third-world countries that birth control is a sin when it is in fact the single most important thing they could do to gain some small amount of control over their economic situation and health. I demand to be excommunicated because your church has become a hate group as virulent as any this world has ever seen, one that is unnaturally obsessed with the sex lives of good men and women across the planet. I demand to be excommunicated because I do not condone child rape or the concealment of child rape.

I don’t think any sane bishop would excommunicate even the most heretical baptized Catholic these days, simply because they need the numbers. In fact, I wonder just who does get excommunicated these days. What do you have to do, deny the Holocaust? Rape deaf children? Masturbate in private?

There is an easier way, Paul. It’s called debaptism. In Italy they do it every year. There is also a UK version.

Raffaele Carcano of Italy’s UAAR, in an interview with the author of this blog, said:

So-called debaptism is nothing more than the legal translation of a basic human right: the right to change religion, or have none at all. Debaptism (in Italy) makes a break with the Catholic Church, and therefore the right not to be denigrated by the Church for one’s behavior.

Italian law has unfortunately recognized that, in questions of faith, the baptized are “subject” to the ecclesiastical hierarchies and must be “obedient” to them. Debaptism serves to avoid this. One can also debaptize … because one doesn’t share certain attitudes of the Church. […] Anyone can find the reason he or she prefers.

Take heart, Paul. I bet if you write the UAAR an email they will walk you through the process.

An Interview with Raffaele Carcano of the UAAR

Read the full interview here.

Anyone paying attention in the last decade or so – at least since Sept. 11, 2001 – must have noticed the rise of public atheism. Atheist blogs, websites, and associations such as the Out Campaign have sprung up seemingly out of nowhere, all emphasizing the need to speak about religion openly and without filters. In London and New York, atheist associations have even bought advertising space on city buses to promote slogans like, “There’s probably no god. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”  

The Italian Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics (UAAR) is the only association in Italy dedicated to the rights of the non-religious and the promotion of a secular worldview. The association was born in 1986, with the objective of defending the rights of non-believers and the secular nature of the State. Their campaigns include Debaptism Day (for baptized Catholics who wish to legally separate themselves from the Catholic Church) Darwin Day (a celebration of science and reason), and the removal of crucifixes from public classrooms.  In November 2009, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled that the presence of the crucifix violates the religious and educational freedom of children. The UAAR was behind this campaign, and helped win a decisive victory.  

 The rising number of non-believers going public inevitably invites a backlash from more traditionalist quarters. Politicians like Ignazio La Russa and Silvio Berlusconi have publicly declared their contempt for the separation of church and state. Pope Benedict XVI regularly admonishes non-beleivers with heavy-handed phrases like “loss of dignity,” calling those without God “alienated from themsleves.” Atheists are labelled “christophobic.” Cardinal Murphy O’Connor, in a defamatory video since removed from YouTube, asserted that “atheists are not fully human.” The tendency is toward defamation, to make the atheist look like an outsider, the humanist somewhat less than human.   It is in this climate that atheists, secularists and humanists have begun to speak up and defend their rights.   Raffaele Carcano is the Secretary of the UAAR and co-author (with Adele Orioli) of Uscire dal Gregge (Leaving the Flock), Luca Sossella Editore 2008.