Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


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A call for action after Covid-19

Yes, in Aotearoa New Zealand, it is now after COVID-19, although I and the rest of our nation are under no illusion that the rest of world has some way to go (some nations much further than others).

As we recover from the pain and difficulties that COVID-19 wrought, we should take the opportunity to reevaluate what we are doing to harm the planet and our fellow human beings. Most people, especially those with privilege, simply accept the status quo and seldom think that it is we who are responsible for the harm we’re causing in communities, nations and the environment.

I firmly believe that this recovery period give us a unique chance, perhaps the only chance, for us to take action, individually and collectively that will bring about lasting changes that will enable us all to live in harmony with one another and with the planet.

As a community, Quakers of Aotearoa New Zealand have published a statement calling all Kiwis to action. As much of the call is applicable to people everywhere, I’m reproducing it here in its entirety:

To the Citizens of Aotearoa/New Zealand

At this critical time in the history of New Zealand, and the world, the Quaker Community wishes to convey to you and to the broader community, some principles and values that we feel are key to the decision making that will guide the nation to a better future.

We invite you to consider the enclosed Call for Action

A Call for Action after Covid-19

HOPE

We Quakers find hope in the communal response to the Covid-19 crisis across our nation. The collective action of New Zealanders has demonstrated how much we can achieve together in a short time. We see the current pandemic as a warning which creates an unprecedented opportunity for systemic change and as a call to remodel our nation guided by the principles of sustainability, non-violence, simplicity and equity. This is a transformation that will require redistributive and regenerative economic, government and social policies that ensure all members of society benefit in an equitable manner.

VISION
Our vision is of a society that is inclusive and respectful of all people. We affirm the special constitutional position of Māori and a Treaty-based, bi-lateral system of government. We seek government which leads with integrity, shares information based on evidence, and engages with communities prior to decision-making. We oppose violence at every level and look to practices that bring peaceful dialogue and non-violent management of conflict.

SANCTITY
Quakers have a strong sense of the sanctity of creation. We are committed to the development of systems and new societal norms to rebalance climate disruption, preserve biodiversity and water quality and enable New Zealanders to live simpler lives within sustainable natural boundaries. We support the use of national resources to provide housing, low-carbon transport, and regenerative food production to benefit future generations.

CONSUMPTION 

We see that society has been putting profit and consumption above other considerations despite clear evidence that earth’s natural limits have been exceeded. Consumer lifestyles have been destroying the natural ecosystems required by future generations. Decades of neoliberal economic and social policies have allowed a few people to set the agenda and benefit disproportionately. This has condemned many to low wages, poverty and insecurity whilst also degrading the environment.

OPPORTUNITY

Quakers consider that the current pandemic offers the people of Aotearoa New Zealand a chance to reassess the situation and to create a new sense of community and purpose. The Light of the Spirit has inspired Quakers through the generations into social and environmental action. We see this experience with Covid-19 as the impetus to find a way forward based firmly on the Quaker values of peace, simplicity, and equity

ACTION

Quakers call on every person in Aotearoa New Zealand to bring about whatever changes they can to enable us to live in harmony with one another and with the planet.


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Epistle – 2020

Kia ora!

This morning I participated in the a virtual Meeting for Worship held by Friends of the Palmerston North Worship Group. While I appreciate that sitting in front of a screen displaying the faces of twelve individuals in ten frames, all sitting in silence for around 45 minutes may, for some, feel similar to watching wet paint dry, I find the whole experience uplifting. Perhaps not quite as uplifting as sitting in silence for an hour in the Friends Meeting house, but nevertheless, very fulfilling.

One of the “benefits” of the current pandemic has been the noticeable reduction in greenhouse emissions worldwide, and during reflection at this morning’s Meeting for Worship, I was reminded that the current circumstances are in fact a “warning” (sorry Nan, but not so much from God, but rather to humanity) that we have been very poor guardians of this planet.

In this country the private motorcar is so ubiquitous that our public transport is underdeveloped, and will remain so unless it becomes more publicly funded and/or many of us consent to forego private transport. Giving up owning and using even a subcompact car is something I have been considering, but I confess that the convenience of having it on tap, so to speak, makes me reluctant to take that leap. In these times, I can’t help thinking that public transport and public health are not fully compatible.

During this morning’s Meeting for Worship, the Epistle of the Yearly Meeting of Aotearoa New Zealand was read. I reproduce it below with the parts that spoke most strongly to me personally being highlighted. It’s also accessible from the Quakers Aotearoa New Zealand Epistles Web page.

Epistle of the Yearly Meeting of Aotearoa New Zealand – Te Hāhi Tūhauwiri 2020

To Friends everywhere

Greetings in love and peace from Friends of the Yearly Meeting of Aotearoa New Zealand. Because of restrictions during the current pandemic we were, sadly, unable to gather face to face this year. Limited by COVID19 restrictions to our homes, we have met online in our Monthly Meetings to consider our business, and have sought to find unity in responses. We also met online for a time of worship on what would have been the opening evening of Yearly Meeting. In these extraordinary times we send you this epistle, to reflect how the Spirit has been moving among us over the last year and at this time.

For us, for our country, and for the world, it has been a time of change, fear and loss. We feel particularly for all those who mourn, and those who suffer from the direct effects of the pandemic and from the impact of the various measures taken to control it. Many of those who are worst affected, often losing their livelihood, are those who were already suffering from the inequality of political and economic systems, globally and nationally, and from the impact of climate change. This is true of Friends in many places. Can we learn from the disruption we have experienced, and take the opportunity for all of society to rethink how we care for others and the earth? How can we, as Friends, offer witness and service to build a better future?

Peace, in its widest sense, is a calling for all Friends. We know we can do more, but are grateful that our Quaker Peace and Service Aotearoa New Zealand Committee contributes to what is being done with Quaker involvement here and in many other countries. Monthly Meetings, Worship Groups and individual Friends engage in their own actions and donations. At a season when our nation remembers the death and suffering caused in war, we renew our stand against war’s cruelty and destructiveness.

Faithful continuity of worship is at the heart of our life. We are glad to see the development of newer Worship Groups, and some growth of numbers in others. National and local learning events sow seeds of spiritual growth, as do the various ways in which Friends prepare their own hearts and minds and enrich their spiritual life. Children’s Meetings have been growing in number, and we seek to develop them and enhance their life. A new Quaker website has been developed through skilled, perceptive and demanding work, to reach out to the public, and to connect us in unity. We give thanks for all forms of service, visible and invisible. “There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord” (I Corinthians 12.4).

The many faiths in this country are finding greater unity and understanding since the murderous shootings inflicted a year ago on worshippers in two mosques in Christchurch. Friends responded by reaching out to local Muslim communities, taking part in vigils, and offering other support. Locally we are linking with various ethnic and faith groups, and becoming involved in interfaith and cultural activities, hoping to explore and put aside our (often unconscious) prejudices.

Young people and children have inspired our country in their work and heartfelt advocacy for effective response to the climate emergency; many of our young ones are involved. Yearly Meeting, its committees and Meetings, are donating to some of this work. Our response as a body is imperfect; we are moving to vegetarian food at events, have reduced air travel, have taken action locally, and have made representations to Government and public bodies, including on how militarism damages the climate. The Quaker Settlement at Whanganui applies principles of sustainability and permaculture to its land and gardens. But, like the questioner of Jesus, we still ask, “What do I lack?” (Matthew 19.20). Profound consideration continues of what we are called to do. We are reminded that all action on this concern requires a positive regard for all, and a stand for truth and integrity.

Dear Friends, we pray that in these difficult times you may be protected and guided, and may live faithfully in mutual love. We recall the words sent by Philadelphia Friends in 1683 across the Atlantic to Britain: “And though the Lord has been pleased to remove us far away from you, as to the other end of the earth, yet are we present with you, your exercises are ours; our hearts are dissolved in the remembrance of you, dear brethren and sisters in this heavenly love.” (Christian Faith and Practice 677, London (now Britain) Yearly Meeting, 1959)

In love and peace,

Lesley Young
Clerk

What I have observed in recent times is that the current pandemic and the mosque shootings in Christchurch just over a year ago have brought communities of all faiths, and non-faiths closer together than ever, especially when it comes to cooperation.

Perhaps this has been demonstrated most clearly by opinion polls and Friday’s ousting of Simon Bridges, the leader of the opposition National Party and the largest party in the Parliament, for what was seen as opposition for opposition’s sake rather than constructive criticism. I intend to write more on this subject in another post (with an emphasis on intend – it’s not a promise).


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What is prayer?

I was prompted to write this post after reading a post on Nan’s Notebook titled Prayer or Science? in which she quotes a few starting lines from an opinion piece in a local paper that urged its reader to pray for science. Nan finds the quoted lines dripping with irony.

It’s very clear that Nan’s experience is vastly different from mine. She states “As many of us know, the tendency to berate and discount science is prevalent among a large percentage of Christian believers” but that’s not my experience. Far from it.

I acknowledge there are some Christians may hold that view, but a large percentage? I’m not convinced. One explanation why we take different viewpoints might be our different personal experiences are very different. Another might be that the religious communities within our respective nations are very different. Or it might be because our understanding of what prayer is are very different.

I find the very idea that a God would allow harm or suffering to occur unless there’s sufficient pleas for him to do something about it quite appalling, and yet I do, on occasions, find myself in silent prayer. So what does prayer mean to me>

Perhaps I might have the skills to explain in less than a thousand words, but recent attempts at being succinct have been largely unsuccessful, so instead I will quote two testimonies from Quaker Faith & Practice that speak to my understanding.

2.28
There is little point in praying to be enabled to overcome some temptation, and then putting oneself in the very position in which the temptation can exert all its fascination. There is little point in praying that the sorrowing may be comforted and the lonely cheered, unless we ourselves set out to bring comfort and cheer to the sad and neglected in our own surroundings. There is little point in praying for our home and for our loved ones, and in going on being as selfish and inconsiderate as we have been. Prayer would be an evil rather than a blessing if it were only a way of getting God to do what we ourselves will not make the effort to do. God does not do things for us – he enables us to do them for ourselves.

Elisabeth Holmgaard, 1984

2.29
The sick and those caring for them have need of our prayers. But let us not imagine … that a few sentimental good wishes from a distance are all that is needed. Whenever we intercede in prayer we must be prepared for an answer which places a practical obligation upon us. A prayer is always a commitment.

Thomas F Green, 1952

Prayer is a call to action, not of God, but of ourselves.


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So, I’m an anti-Semite

Well, according to a recent declaration by the so called leader of the free world, I am. Trump’s recent announcement that Jewishness is a race and nationality, and that anti-antisemitism includes opposition to the political and foreign policy actions of Israel places me very firmly as being antisemitic. I am highly critical of some of the policies of Israel with regards to their treatment of Palestinians and the misappropriation of Palestinian land. That being so, then I am indeed officially guilty of antisemitism, just as much as I am anti-American and anti-Christian for opposing some political and foreign policy actions of America, anti-Islamic for opposing the philosophy and actions of Al-Qaeda, ISIS and Saudi Arabia, anti-Buddhist for opposing the Myanmar governments genocidal actions against the Rohingya, anti-Chinese for opposing the detention and “re-education” of ethnic Uighur Muslims, and anti-Australian for being critical of their inhumane treatment of the “boat people” refugees.

I also wonder what peril is placed upon Jews by such a declaration, particularly that Jewishness is a nationality. Could it be used against them at some time in the future? Such a declaration was made in Nazi Germany around seven years before I was born, and that didn’t end very well for the Jews, did it?

New Zealand’s neighbour to the west – Australia – bars citizens with dual nationality from holding some forms of public office on the grounds that such people have divided loyalties. Recently some members of the Australian Government found they were ineligible for the office they held as they unknowingly were also New Zealand nationals.

As “race” is not something you choose or can renounce, does that mean a Jew in America will always have dual nationality whether they like it or not? At sometime in the future, could it be determined that as Jewishness is a nationality, then Jews have divided loyalty and are therefore ineligible for some forms of public office or even all forms of public office? Could this not then be extended to exclude any position that is considered of national importance? It’s not beyond the realm of possibility.

As Padre Steve points out in his recent post Who is a True Jew, Christian or any other Faith? This is Not a Question Left to Secular Government, this sets a very dangerous precedent.


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Teaching religion

It’s been a while since I touched on topics of a religious nature, so here’s one that’s been on the back burner for a while.

I believe the teaching of religion is important. Not because it teaches what is right or wrong, good or bad, but because it teaches us a lot about the evolution of human thought and morality.

It can help us understand that good and evil, are concepts that change over time. It can help us understand why we value some ideas today that had little value in the past and why we have devalued some ideas that were regarded as sacred in earlier periods. Whether we like it or not, religion has played a significant role in how we have come to understand the world.

To a great many anti-theists and non-theists, bringing these two words, “teaching religion” is like a red rag to a bull. You can almost see their nostrils flare on hearing those words. But does it need to be that way?

For myself, religion is a means by which I can understand what I experience. It nourishes me in a way that other experiences of being human do not. I acknowledge that this is my experience, and what I experience is unique to me. If you wish to call it something else other than religion, that’s fine by me. 

The following video, and the transcript below describe what teaching religion means from a Quaker perspective. Whether or not you agree with the teaching of religion at all, it is not “indoctrinating people in the ‘correct’ way to think in terms of the cosmology or the meta-narratives of religious philosophy”.  Your feedback after watching the video or reading the transcription is very welcome.

Transcript

I am very clear in a public context that I never say, “I teach religion,” because I have learned in my life that that’s a conversation stopper. For most people that I encounter in the United States of America, they hear that as, “I participate in indoctrinating people in the correct way to think in terms of the cosmology or the metanarratives of religious philosophy.”

It couldn’t be further from the truth at a Friends school. That is not what we do. In fact, when I say to people, “I teach religions,” they say, “Oh wow, that sounds cool!” I’ve heard people say when I say I teach world religions, they say, “Oh that was my favorite subject in college, I loved that,” and it’s a conversation opener. And that’s what we’re doing at Friends schools, we’re opening the conversation, we’re not closing it.

For me as a teacher, my goal is to create an energized, safe space for students to get in touch with their own ideas but to encounter the ideas of other people in the room and other people from other times and other spaces, either through a text or through the internet or some other device that I share and I want them to be alive in the present with what’s real for them. 

Quaker Ethos

Quakerism is a wonderful container to have conversations around the edges. I often say that Quakerism is a great religion for people who are entering religion for the first time, or for people who are leaving religion. So we have a lot of people who are excited about Quakerism because they’ve thought of themselves as agnostics or atheists and then they encounter this tradition that permits that possibility but also invites exploration of the mysterious and doesn’t block out experiences of transformational or paranormal possibilities.

And then there are other people who have come from very doctrinal or creedal religions and they have felt oppressed or controlled by those traditions and Quakerism gives them freedom. Great, welcome!

So we have a tremendous mix within our community, and that’s a mix that we also have in our classrooms because at Friends schools, the majority of people in the room are not Quaker, and there is no expectation that they should be—and more often than not, the teacher is not Quaker either. So what we’re doing is we’re having a conversation that is possible because of the Quaker ethos of acceptance, tolerance, universality, and openness to the unknown.

Creating Safe Discursive Space

This is not a situation where there’s a catechism or a planned method of instruction so that you get the right answers or the right information. It’s quite opposite, actually. What we are doing at a Friends school is we are creating safe, discursive space for people to ask into the sublime, into the mystical, into the beautiful, into the mysterious. And it turns out that everyone has had that experience.

We’ve all had dreams. Are dreams real? Are dreams religious? Are some dreams religious? Are no dreams religious? In fact, what does it mean to be a person who is in touch with a dimension of reality that we can’t measure or see? It means to be fully alive, so let’s talk about that.

Exploring our Identities

And at the same time, I am very happy bringing in the language of scientific cosmology and what some people call atheism because that belongs in the room as well. So when I tell them that when I was young, I identified as both Quaker and atheist, I see their eyes get wide, like, “Oh that’s a thing? Like, I’m allowed to be that?” Sure! What are you, what’s your truth?

And then suddenly I hear a polyphony of different identities around the room and suddenly now we’re talking, because, “Well I’m Jewish and Christian?” Well, theologically speaking, how can you be both? Well it doesn’t matter, let’s not interrogate that question. Let’s honor that that’s your truth and let’s talk about what that means to you. Which stories speak to you? Which parts of those traditions have meaning for you personally, and why is it important that you honor both of those traditions when you were asked what religion are you? And let’s welcome all of that and stumble forward.

I want students to leave my class saying “That was fun!,” because it is fun actually. It’s fun to realize that you are having some dimension of reality that you know is true validated by somebody else and then you find out that there are rich traditions that offer different narratives, different names, different colors, different stories, different energies to exactly the stories that you personally have had. Wow, that’s cool!

Now turn to the person next to you and talk about your experience and listen to their experience and notice if there are similarities or differences. And now let’s come back to what we were talking about. Maybe we have a text from the Bhagavad Gita that says something really profound from a couple thousand years ago, and now let’s look at the Gospel of John, or the Gospel of Thomas even! Or maybe we’ll look at something from Deuteronomy and say, “How does this compare to your dream? What do you love?”

 


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Extinction Rebellion

I have mixed feelings about the Extinction Rebellion movement. Not because I disagree with their cause – I support it one hundred percent, including the urgency expressed – but because I’m concerned that some of their tactics might do more to alienate them from the general public than to bring them on board.

I have no objection if the movement crosses swords with authority – In fact I don’t think there’s any other option, but unless the public has more sympathy with the Extinction Rebellion cause than they do with authority, and the irritation they personally experience from the disruptions the movement is intent on implementing, then I’m afraid that nothing will change.

Politicians, are sensitive to what they perceive as being majority voices and significant minorities, but are unlikely to listen, let alone act, if they sense the public is not behind the movement. This is particularly true where politicians are elected through an FPP (First Past the Post) procedure.

That being said, what are the alternatives? To be honest, I haven’t reached a conclusion. What I do believe is that the longer the public delay in pressuring out leaders to legislate for a carbon neutral society, the more draconian the legislation and the more authoritarian the authorities will need to be when the do act.

Over on her blog, Clare has published a series on Extinction Rebellion, and in her most recent post – Extinction Rebellion III, she quotes from the UK Quaker Advices and Queries. Specifically:

  • Remember your responsibilities as a citizen for the conduct of local, national, and international affairs. Do not shrink from the time and effort your involvement may demand.
  • Respect the laws of the state but let your first loyalty be to God’s purposes. If you feel impelled by strong conviction to break the law, search your conscience deeply.
  • We do not own the world, and its riches are not ours to dispose of at will. Show a loving consideration for all creatures, and seek to maintain the beauty and variety of the world. Work to ensure that our increasing power over nature is used responsibly, with reverence for life.

The three points have inspired me to re-appraise, where I stand on the environment and I realise my contribution towards a carbon neutral regime is little more than tokenism, and I need to take a more affirmative stance.

Advices and Queries of Quakers of Aotearoa –  Te Hāhi Tūhauwiri contains similar advice:

E7: Are you careful that your use of financial resources is in accordance with our values of integrity, peace, equality, simplicity, and concern for other people and for the environment?

I have put most of my effort in relation to the environment into careful use, but I realise this is really not enough by itself. I need to do more.

E8: Do not be content to accept society as it is. Seek to discover the causes of social unrest, injustice, poverty and fear. Bear witness to the humanity of all people. Try to discern the new growing points in society.
Are you alert to practices here and throughout the world that discriminate against people on the basis of who or what they are or because of their beliefs? Do you work for a social, constitutional and economic order which will allow each person to develop fully and cooperation by all?

Young people of today have a genuine fear for their future, not unlike the fear that many of my generation in the 1960s and 1970s had with regards to nuclear proliferation. Except that whereas our fear was of those in power doing something (launching a nuclear war), that of the youth today is fear of those in power not doing something (preventing a climate change catastrophe).

E14: We need to respect, revere and cooperate with other life systems on our planet. The earth’s diverse riches are not ours to exploit. Seek reverence for life and a sense of wonder at God’s continuing presence in all of creation.
Do you work to conserve the earth’s beauty and resources, both now and in the future, for the many people who depend on this planet and the many other species that share it?

The more extreme effects of climate change are unlikely to affect me. I’ll be gone before they kick in. But it is during what’s left of my life that the the seeds to an irreversible climate runaway will be set. Surely I have a responsibility to help set in motion steps that will reverse the harm my generation and earlier generations have caused and are continuing to cause.

E10: Remember your responsibility as citizens of Aotearoa for the government of our country and for its relations with other countries, particularly our neighbours in the South Pacific.
How can we help our nation to promote international peace, justice and care for the earth?

Our country already has in place legislation requiring a move to carbon neutrality, but there is little incentive for government and industry to reach the targets in an orderly and progressive manner. It’s also apparent that the targets are set too far in the future in light of recent evidence of accelerating climate change. This is an area where I can do more in joining with others to raise the awareness of the urgency of acting now. Which brings me to:

E4: Obey the laws of the state, except when they conflict with your inner conviction. Work to amend laws that you consider unjust. If you feel called to civil disobedience, seek the guidance and support of your Meeting. Be prepared to accept the consequences cheerfully.

Is it time for me to get off the fence regarding the Extinction Rebellion movement and join their ranks, or encourage the use of their tactics? What can I do proactively to promote the concerns expressed by the movement?

For me, blogging is about the comfortable limit to social interaction. Talking to strangers joining crowds, being noticed, is way outside my comfort zone. When I joined in the vigil outside the local mosque on the Friday after the Christchurch shootings, it was a silent and solemn affair. Solidarity with the Muslim community was expressed simply by being there. In a crowd of several thousand I spoke with no-one, and made eye contact with no-one. That made it bearable. How can I be an effective voice when it comes to expressing urgency over climate change when I’m so non-social? Perhaps I should simply be mindful of the words of George fox who stated in 1656:

Be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations, wherever you come, that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in every one.

But is that enough? No doubt this concern (about climate change) is going to haunt me until I have determined what role I can play.


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Statistics and religion in Aotearoa

In Aotearoa New Zealand, a census is taken every five years. Finally, we’re seeing results from the 2018 census. This has taken much longer than in previous surveys due to some glitches related to going from a paper based system to being fully online. This resulted in a low participation rate. It’s taken Stats NZ Tatauranga Aotearoa (New Zealand’s official data agency) longer than usual to compile reliable data sets.

The statistics on religion have been released, and it makes interesting reading and shows that trends that became evident at the beginning of the century are continuing.

One problem with the statistics is that they report affiliation and not actual beliefs. It’s known that within many affiliations in this country, religious belief ranges from extremely conservative to extremely liberal, especially within the mainline Christian churches, where belief in the traditional concept of God as a deity is waning.

Also within New Zealand, religious thought is not very high. If I could receive a dollar for every time someone on census day shouted “Hey Honey, What’s our religion?” or phoned with “Hello Dad. I’m just filling out the census and don’t know what to put down for our religion. Can you ask Mum please?” I’d be rather wealthy.

With that in mind, here’s some interesting facts that will either be pleasing or alarming or neither, depending on one’s perspective.

The number of Christians continue to decline. They now make up approximately 36% of the population. Keep in mind that non-theism is common within many Christian denominations, and within a few the most prevalent viewpoint. For example within Quakers, I doubt if there are any “true” theists left.

The number who claim no religious affiliation continues to climb. I admit that I’m somewhat surprised that it’s not as high as I expected, which was a little over 50%. The figure published is 48%, but there are two points to keep in mind. Of the 162 affiliations listed, some are not religious in the traditional sense, although they may well fall within Sir Lloyd Geering’s definition of “a total mode of the interpreting and living of life”. I’ll touch on some of these affiliations a little tater in this post. Those who claim any affiliation, are not included in the no affiliation category.

The second point is that according to several opinion surveys, somewhere between a quarter and a third of those with no religious affiliation do hold some idea of “something greater than themselves”, be it a force, energy, spirit, or “something” that is manifest within humanity, nature or the universe. So to assume all those who have no religious affiliation have no religious belief would be incorrect.

The Object to answering group is the next largest grouping after the Christian and no affiliation groups. They make up almost 7% of the population. It’s difficult to know what this group is composed of, and why they chose this option. But given that it is one of the listed options, I suppose some will take advantage of it. What is significant is that their percentage does not markedly change from census to census.

No doubt, fundamentalist Christians and their ilk will rejoice that only 0.15% affiliate with atheism and 0.14% with agnosticism, ignoring the fact that the majority of atheists and agnostics will have identified as having no affiliation.

Religions and denominations with more than 1% of the population are:

  • Anglican: 6.7%
  • Christian (not further defined): 6.55%
  • Roman Catholic: 6.29%
  • Presbyterian: 4.71%
  • Catholicism (not further defined): 3.68%
  • Hinduism (not further defined): 2.59%
  • Islam (not further defined): 1.22%
  • Latter-day Saints: 1.15%
  • Methodist (not further defined): 1.12%

Some other irrelevant but interesting information:

  • There are 348 more Jedi affiliates than there are Jehovah’s Witnesses. Each make up 0.43% of the population. Jedi has seen a sharp decline since the 2011 census when 1.5% of the population claimed affiliation.
  • There are 306 more (Christian?) Evangelicals (0.10%) than there are Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster affiliates (0.09%).
  • Our spaghetti loving friends outnumber Lutherans (0.08%)
  • My own faith tradition, Quakerism makes up 0.02% of the population and is outnumbered by Zoroastrian (0.02%), Taoism (0.02%), Satanism (0.02%) and Wiccan (0.03%). A few Quakers are also Wiccan (or should it be “a few Wiccans are also Quakers”?), but I’m not sure how Stats NZ has handles multiple affiliations.
  • The smallest religious affiliations are Libertarianism and Rationalism (with 9 members each, Cao Dai and Maoism (with 6 members each), and Commonwealth Covenant Church (with 3 members).

When I look at some of the religious affiliations listed, I think Stats NZ has taken Lloyd Geering’s definition to heart. How else could the following be otherwise identified as a religion (in increasing affiliation order):

  • Maoism
  • Rationalism
  • Libertarianism
  • Marxism
  • Socialism
  • Yoga
  • Humanism
  • Agnosticism
  • Atheism

While I hold Sir Lloyd’s concept of religion as “a total mode of the interpreting and living of life” as being accurate, I’m struggling when it comes to atheism, which as I understand it, is a lack of belief in a deity. I could understand anti-theism being a cause that could qualify as a religion, as could a belief in the need to weaken the influence of supernatural beliefs. Many atheists do hold such beliefs, but such beliefs are not what atheism is about. Can a lack of belief in a deity be any more a religion than my lack of belief in pink flying elephants or little green men in flying saucers? If they do qualify as religion, then absolutely everyone on this planet has a religion, as everyone on the planet will lack a belief in something. I don’t believe that is what Sir Lloyd had in mind.


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There’s nothing more I need add:

The United Nations’ (UN) International Day of Peace has been celebrated on September 21 each year (since 1981)to recognize the efforts of those who have worked hard to end conflict and promote peace. This year many people’s and nations marked the day with nationwide appeals to governments to see climate change as a major existential […]

via Quaker Contributions to building a Culture of Peace in an Unpeaceful world — Kevin’s Peace Musings


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Secular education

Following on from yesterday’s snippet on Pastafarian rights, I note the US state department comment on religion in NZ schools:

The law provides that “teaching in every state [public] primary school must, while the school is open, be entirely of a secular character.”  A public primary school may close, including during normal school hours, for up to one hour per week, up to a total of 20 hours per year, to devote to religious instruction or religious observance, to be conducted in a manner approved by the school’s board of trustees.  If a public primary school provides religious instruction or observes religious customs, it must allow students to opt out.  Religious instruction or observance, if provided, usually takes place outside normal school hours.

This has been the rule since the 1870s. It’s a pity that a few boards of trustees seem not to understand what closed means in this regards.


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Pastafarian rights

That’s not a spelling mistake. I really do mean Pastafarian. For want of something better to do (my concentration has been off recently), I was wandering about on the internet and stumbled upon the U.S. State Department web site, and out of curiosity, looked up what that esteemed department had to say about Aotearoa New Zealand.

Most was kind of boring but some snippets did stand out. This one into their 2018 report on religious freedom in NZ made me smile:

In March an Auckland secondary school student stated that his school did not allow him to wear a spaghetti colander for his school identity photograph, contrary to his religious beliefs.  The student is a member of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, otherwise known as Pastafarianism, which is a legally recognized religion in the country.  The student stated that he contacted the HRC over the incident but had accepted the school’s decision for the time being.

HRC is an abbreviation for Human Rights Commission, an independent authority that reports to Parliament, not the government. So all you Flying Spaghetti Monster worshipers, if you are looking for somewhere where your religion is recognised (one school excepted) then this is possibly an ideal spot.

By the way, did you realise that in 2001, approximately 1.5% of the New Zealand population claimed their religion as Jedi? That’s the highest per capita population of Jedi in the world. It’s been falling steadily ever since. Which is a shame. I much prefer “May the force be with you” than “God bless”. It has a more dramatic ring to it, don’t you think?