Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Society's Hangover

It's not long now until Easter weekend will be upon this, and this means for me as a member of the workforce is a paid day of rest. For some the day still holds some certain religious sentiment, but by and large our culture has shifted away from such matters. Recently walking through the fish section of a supermarket I came to a sign saying "get ready for Lent" which let me to rhetorically ask if anyone actually follows lent anymore? Like eating fish on Fridays or obeying the sabbath the practice has fallen by the wayside among the masses. Traditions and rituals change as the society they reside in change.

This brings me to the point of this rant, it seems that Tabcorp have caught on that society has changed and want to operate their service on what used to be considered a holy day. The argument is that we are a secular society and as individuals we should be free to do what we want. Of course this has outraged anti-gambling and religious groups who insist that the day should not be perverted as such. And thus the problem of adapting a secularist society from a religious foundation becomes apparent.

Like Christianity being an awkward revision of tribal polytheism to universal monotheism, a secular society on a Christian foundation is inevitably going to run into problems of this nature. By virtue of declaring these days as public holidays, the government makes these holidays secular. But on the flip side, by having these events as holidays it allows religious influence on how the day is celebrated. Personally I couldn't care less about the ability to gamble, I don't do it any other day of the year so having that service isn't going to enrich my life in any way. But it's the principle of the matter I agree with.

It's not a major disgrace to have the occasional day where activities are outlawed, it's not a great inconvenience that it happens that way. But ultimately it's still pushing for one religion's standard on all other members of a society regardless of their own personal choices, and in a secular society doing this goes against the very principles that govern said society. Those who are arguing against keeping these laws in place are recognising the reality of the situation. It goes beyond the battle between religion and secularism - it's to the point of impracticality given the changing societal standards.

Standards change over time, society will shift as the population within shifts. New technologies, new fads, importing culture from other areas; all these contribute to the changing standards in our society. On most matters society sorts itself out, but the legal boundary in this case is preventing society from taking that leap on it's own. Rather, now it's up to the politicians to take the initiative to rid this society of it's post-Christian hangover and move towards a more secular state. It's not a matter of marginalising Christianity, rather recognising that Christian behavioural dictum should not impose on the freedoms of others. Just as I hope they would not deny the right to eat a steak on Fridays, or drink alcohol during Ramadan.

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