Take the following example, a relatively minor case where Cherie Blair suspended a Muslim man’s criminal sentence for breaking someone’s jaw – saying “I am going to suspend this sentence for the period of two years based on the fact you are a religious person and have not been in trouble before.”
There are several problems with this statement.
The most glaringly obvious one is that it is a rather apparent endorsement for harsher criminal sentences for atheists, but also the basic assumption that religion does anything about violent crime. After all who flew planes into buildings, abused children across the world, tortured “witches” or murdered couples for marrying into the wrong caste?
I am not saying that atheists are better than the religious, we just aren’t any worse – religion doesn’t seem to make that much of a difference.
The UK’s secular organisations filed complaints and have pointed out these basic problems, which in turn lead to the usual UK suspects putting out articles defending the decision, or accusing atheists of being things like “annoying.”
In fact Andrew Brown actually smeared Terry Sanderson in order to build his case.
Sanderson’s argument, which you can read in full here, is nothing like that. His argument really does come down to “Should being an atheist mean harsher criminal sentences?”
Now are atheists being annoying or bigoted by demanding equality before the law? Is there actually anything wrong in what they are asking for? I don’t think so. I think there is something deeply wrong in defending inequality before the law – whether it is a matter of race, class, sexual orientation or creed.
And that is not an argument against religion, or even for atheism. That is an argument for fairness.