Letter to the Editor

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A sign on the road into town

A sign on the road into town

There’s a lot of reading around at present on the marriage equality issue. Two items struck me this week. One was the article in The Conversation and a Letter to the Editor from Mr Tyson Young, in the Bellingen Shire Courier-Sun, giving his perspective as someone who is now openly gay and who grew up in the valley. I re-read both items this week. They had an impact on me.

I have had much exposure to religion. My junior and senior high schooling were in the Catholic system and two excellent institutions, with great priests, nuns and lay people, they were too. These days, however, I am an ardent atheist. That said, my children go to a faith-based high school. I think it is good for them to be exposed to wide perspectives and they can then make their own choices. The article in the The Conversation, and the comments by Mr Tyson Young go to the heart of my dislike of religion and religion in politics. I have no issue with faith as a private and inward focused pursuit. If it works for you, then good luck to you. But please think of your fellow man and woman and their rights and not just your rights.

If you are of faith, practising or lapsed, please be honest enough to recognise that these days you are in the minority. And there’s no shame in that. Your church or brand of religion no longer speaks for the majority, as it once did. Religion is on the wane as it has become less relevant in a more informed, educated, honest and transparent society.

In this article, we have an example of the consequences of the maintaining the status quo (that is, voting ‘no’). The experts say Australia could maintain “high rates of suicide among young people in Australia”. Are we happy with that? Hell no! The most Christian thing a person of faith could do for their fellow man and woman is vote yes.

I also get that some have a deep dislike for LGBTI people and everything that goes with it. While I am in vehemently opposed to their views, I respect their right to have them. All I ask is that they consider supporting something that will have a tremendous beneficial impact on the lives of many and zero impact on their on personal life.

This issue is like the devastating impact of poverty and disease in many developing  nations. Much of it would be avoided if churches and their right-wing government accomplices (like Trump and the Republicans in the US and Abbott/Turnbull and the Liberal National Coalition in Australia) sanctioned birth control, family planning and abortion. But no, let’s have people suffering pain, mental illness, disease, malnutrition, starvation and an early miserable death because of some ‘belief’. Sitting there with food on the table, a shiny car in the driveway, a house three times as big as it need be, clean water and fresh clothes, numerous pets, listening to a seven speaker surround sound system, watching an 80 inch television set while counting your money and credit card debt is a great place to impose one’s views from.

To me, voting no defies belief in a modern and civil society. There are many people of faith with the good sense to vote yes and I urge them to talk to their friends, family and strangers about this – and explain why. The world has changed. Religion and churches will become even more irrelevant should they remain insular in their thinking. A yes vote is an opportunity for us as a society, including faith based organisations, to grow.

The basis of a civil society is protecting and enhancing human rights. Voting yes is a vote for human rights and an even more civil society.

It is time to vote yes and love thy neighbour.

Andrew Woodward

Bellingen