I think people misunderstand the term “God-given” right

For one thing, they seem to think there actually is such a thing as a “God-given” right, and for another thing, they tend to apply the concept to things that would never qualify even if there was. Take this story from Britain involving the garbage men and an impending strike in Birmingham and the title of the piece:

Binmen have ‘God-given right’ to wake residents at dawn

Ding the writer or the editor of the piece for a jarring inaccuracy. Sure, it gets readers interested in checking out the story, but here’s what was actually said.

The threatened walkout is over a plan by the city council to change working arrangements. Officials are drawing up contingency plans to deal with the strike should it materialise.

Mr Green said: “I’m sure they’re going to upset a large number of residents, but they need to come into the real world.

“I listened to their union representative the other day and he seems to think they have a God-given right to start early in the morning, wake half the city then finish at 11.30am and put their feet up for the rest of the day.

Not anyone actually believing there’s a god-given right to be at work that early, just one person’s assumption about the way another person thinks.

I don’t think it’s about rights so much as it is about “common” sense and sensory input. Trash smells worse once the heat of the sun’s been on it for a while so there’s logic in getting out early to get it off the street before the stench starts knocking people over. Surely those who’d like to have a lie-in would rather be disturbed by their garbage men first thing in the morning than be enveloped in the foul odour of black bags and greenhouse effect later in the day. Smell tends to linger whereas garbage guys like to get a move on. What would you rather deal with?

Here’s a different story, this one from Canada:

Vancouver man says smoking ‘Tree of Life’ is God-given right

A man named Chris Bennett from Vancouver is in Federal court in Ottawa these days and he’s arguing that weed is sacred to him and therefore must be smoked. He and his lawyer have been trying to claim this is a freedom of religion issue.

With Insite attendees allowed to inject illicit drugs, medical pot permitted, peyote and mescaline approved as sacraments, and the Brazilian syncretic religious group Santo Daime consuming the Amazonian hallucinogen ayahuasca, Chris Bennett says he is being discriminated against.

In a carefully argued brief submitted to the court, his lawyer Kirk Tousaw says that the middle-aged Bennett smokes seven grams of pot a day in the belief cannabis is the Biblical “tree of life.”

I’m not a user and his name means nothing to me, but maybe pot smokers have a greater appreciation for him. Apparently he’s written several books based on the history of pot in the ancient world. I get the feeling that the writer of the piece is sympathetic to his plight, too.

Bennett is a reverend with the Church of the Universe.

He was not contacted by Health Canada or asked to provide additional information about his religious beliefs or practices.

No significant research into the history of cannabis use in the context of religion appears to have been conducted: certainly, no one at Health Canada read his books.

No reason for the rejection was provided except the bald statement that it was not in the public interest.

Not a majority public, at any rate. I quote from an article that came out in 2008 about Adult pot smokers on rise in Canada

just 3.9 percent of Ontarians between 30 and 39 surveyed in 1977 said they had smoked marijuana in the previous year. In 2005, that number had jumped to 17 percent. Similarly, while 2.3 percent of Ontarians aged 40 to 49 had smoked pot in 1977, that number was 10.8 percent in 2005. Men were significantly more likely than women to have tried cannabis during the previous year.

Overall, the CAMH report found 14 percent of Ontarians aged 18 and older surveyed in 2005 had smoked marijuana in the previous year, a jump from 8 percent in 1977.

I doubt Bennett will win this one. It would set one hell of a precedent if he did, one I think the Court would like to avoid. I’ll quote his lawyer once more:

Tousaw said documents obtained via freedom-of-information requests indicated the government had treated the Santo Daime’s use of ayahuasca, which contains the banned substance DMT, much differently even though marijuana was far less potent a psychotropic.

He added that his client meets all the Supreme Court of Canada tests to establish his relationship with pot is religious and spiritual.

“In order to invoke the protections guaranteed by Section 2 of the charter, a religious claimant like Mr. Bennett need only demonstrate that he sincerely believes that a particular practice, such as the consumption of cannabis, fosters his ability to connect to the divine and/or is undertaken as part of his spiritual practice,” Tousaw explained.

“He need not demonstrate that his practice conforms to any dogma.”

I added the link to the Santo Daime information. I hadn’t heard of them before.

Although, from a pharmacological point of view, ayahuasca may be considered a very potent psychoactive agent, rich in DMT and other alkaloids, the ample use made of it by these religious organizations does not seem to lead to any apparent ill results, as attested by recent medical studies of long time users. This is probably due to the strict ritual control built around this practice and to the fact that the brew is rarely taken extraritually.

Prolonged pot-use has documented adverse effects and Bennett’s looking for the legal right to smoke it every day. Then again, people smoke cigarettes every day without needing to claim they get to chat with God while they do it. Where am I sitting on this issue? On the fence. It bugs me when people want to use religion as an excuse to get their own way, though. I have to say that for certain. Too bad this is the way he wants to argue his case, even if he does believe everything he says about getting a spiritual vibe off it.

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Canadian Atheist Basically ordinary Library employee Avid book lover Ditto for movies Wanna-be writer Procrastinator
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