POLICY SHOULD BE BASED ON EVIDENCE, NOT FAITH

In the last twenty years, political debate in Australia has slowly diverged from community expectations, resulting in the faith of some guiding the policies that affect us all. It's time to bring back rationality to the political process, writes Tracy Burgess.

Ask anyone on the street what government is "for" and you're likely to get a variety of answers. "To make laws for all Australians", some might say. "To protect the people and their rights," others might venture. "To create order," it might be suggested.

These all point to one thing: the role of government is to provide the conditions that supply public value. To that end, reason and rationality are an absolute requirement for effective and appropriate public policy.

The public is a critical element in the ‘authorising environment’ and holds a major stake in ‘expressing preferences’ for determining and delivering public value. But there have been many issues-based policies posed by recent governments at state and federal level that have not reflected general public sentiment.

The most obvious example of this situation is the same sex marriage debate. Numerous polls have shown significant public support for the extension of the Marriage Act. However, we have had decisions made at the government level based upon concepts of ‘sin’ and a definition of marriage being forced upon the community by the religious right.

The political debate in Australia has slowly verged away from community expectations over the last twenty years, with a gradual increase in religiosity of politicians. There also seems to be an element of pandering to the religious right. Australians generally are not fundamental in their religious beliefs.

Atheism and secularism are on the rise and even those who are religious, generally are not overt. Yet we have politicians failing to represent the general community in this respect. Bizarrely, we even had the first openly atheist prime minister increasing funding exponentially for the religious indoctrination of children in public schools and voting against the extension of the Marriage Act in what was clearly political pandering.

It is also important to note that there is selective use of the Christian bible as a source of authority in politics. The bible as a reference point for moral decisions is questionable on many topics; slavery, genocide, gender equality etc. Leviticus may be used by some to argue against same sex marriage but it is never used to block Sunday retail trading or the tattoo industry.

The important difference between religious doctrine and the scientific method is the changeability. Religious doctrine is fixed. It was documented anywhere up to thousands of years ago. Its relevance in 2013 is questionable at best. The scientific method of questioning, testing, adapting and being open to improvement, clearly provides a more effective framework for the development of public policy.

We live in a world that is constantly changing. Technology drives us further and further forward. To be making public policy decisions on the writings of semi nomadic people that believed the earth was flat does nothing to provide a framework for dealing with life in the twenty first century.

The Atheist Foundation of Australia (AFA) recognises rationality and reason. When public policy is based upon superstition, prejudice and irrational ideas, the result is diminished public value. The AFA encourages all elected representatives to actually represent the public. The reliance on reason and rationality, rather than fringes on the religious right, when developing public policy will ensure that public value is accurately defined and appropriately delivered.

We advocate that religious belief has no place in government or in the development of public policy. To take Australia into the future there is a genuine need to frame public policy debates on reason, logic and with the intention of determining evidence based solutions to modern world problems. Government cannot be run on ‘faith’. Without evidence, there is no foundation.

Courtesy : The Australian Atheist

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