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AILP’s speech at the Congress of the french Free Thought

Tuesday 11 September 2018

Dear Friends, dear Comrades,

I bring you fraternal greetings from the International Association of Free Thought (IAFT). From this rostrum, as we do each year, the reading of the many international messages from different countries showed you both the international audience of the French Free Thought and of our International Association which grows regularly. We held last year, in September 2017 in Paris, our 7th World Congress. It was successful, both for quality and for quantity. I invite you to obtain from the Bookstore of this congress the Acts published in French. They are also electronically available in English and Spanish languages. These are the three so-called IAFT’s “official” languages. At this Congress, we have dealt with three main themes: the struggle for the separation of Churches and State, the defence of Sciences and the question of equal rights for women on all continents. Of course, we also discussed two other permanent campaigns of our international action: the public funding for religions, - what we call ’ the purple economy ’, this color will certainly remind you something -, and the campaign that is going on in international institutions against the crimes of the Churches, which are unfortunately and dramatically still actual. We have therefore written to the Minister of Justice (Garde des Sceaux), asking him the real reasons why the trial of Archbishop Barbarin, Primate of the Gaules, would be postponed for, I quote, - don’t laugh, please -, “difficulties of translations”. We’re still waiting for an answer.

It is not forbidden to promote his own history. Therefore, I advise you to buy Louis Couturier’s new book on the History of the Free Thought’s Internationals. It is a summa that had never been done before, comprising meaningful information for our daily action. For instance, there is an intervention by Belin Sarraga, a Member of the Cortès in Madrid, at the International Congress in Geneva (1902), where she advocated equal rights for women. I quote: Where tyranny is exercised, intelligence prepares its vengeance. We have every reason to fear a feminism which is growing thanks to women only, because it reverses the terms of the problem, turns one sex against another and when it triumphs, enjoys more by showing contempt than by raising the woman, than by socializing woman and man, these partners in life. From this arise those excesses in which, in certain exceptional cases, feminism manifests itself by seeking the superiority of the woman over the man and not sex equality, this expression of justice.”  

Any resemblance to some peremptory statements heard here or there in the past cannot be fortuitous, since emanating from a deliberate choice by us.
At our last AIFT’s International Council, we discussed the issue of violence and religions. Most of us agreed on several principles. You will find our resolution on this issue in the Acts I mentioned earlier. Free Thought is a method, not a doctrine and especially not a sectarianism with blinkers.

If we fight for the strict Separation of Churches and State, which includes a clear delimitation between the public spheres and the private spheres, we do not mean that secularism is limited to a set of prohibitions, outside the general interest, which is the management of the public sphere.

We are against the ostentatious and conspicuous presence of religious symbols in the public sphere. And at this point we must recall certain facts:

- In Greece, in 1967, the Colonels banned long hair and mini-skirts.
- In Chile, in 1973, General Pinochet banned women from wearing trousers.
- It is only since January 31, 2013 that is repealed the act prohibiting the wearing of trousers for women, act prepared by the Prefecture of Police of Paris in November 17, 1799, on the order of the Consul Bonaparte. It was apparently an emergency measure!

When tyranny interferes in everything, intelligence prepares its revenge. The general strike and the student movement of May-June 1968 were rightly celebrated this year. Against stifling tyranny and Gaullist oppression, 1968 opened the way for revolt. In 1972, two thousand students of Bethune in the Pas-de-Calais (dpt) revolted against the established order: the headmaster of the institution had banned long hair for boys and pants for girls.

If the rules of neutrality and the secularism are to apply in the public sphere, let us not give in to the sirens song of those who want to regulate everything, to regulate everything, to order everything so that everyone obeys orders. As the great Victor Hugo said: “These people want to put a gendarme wherever there is not a Jesuit.” Jesuits, in cassocks or in civilian clothes, are not missing nowadays, from the Vatican to the Elysee Palace (President’s residence)!

The will to control everything, to impose everything, led the Chinese government to decide, in 2007, the publishing of a circular issued by the State Administration for Religious Affairs which strictly stipulates “the procedures to be followed to reincarnate”. This decision has for real purpose to prevent the Dalai Lama from returning to Tibet to ensure his own reincarnation and so his own succession. It’s authentic : here is a temporal and authoritarian government which tells you how you can and must reincarnate yourself! Where is tyranny, where is intelligence?

Our International Council Resolution condemns all monotheistic religions. There is not one to redeem the other, they are all equal in terms of oppression and barbarism. In each of them, we find everything and its opposite. Islam is often portrayed as the most violent, the least compatible with democracy and secularism. In History, there has never been a religion that has given way to democracy and secularism. Anyone who claims to hold the Truth, HIS truth and wants to impose it on everyone, will refuse to respect the absolute freedom of conscience of others. But freedom of conscience begins with the freedom of conscience of the other and not with his own freedom of conscience. As Rosa Luxemburg said: “Freedom is always that of the one who thinks otherwise.”

On many occasions, we have shown that there are no criteria to characterize Islam as the worst religion. Anyone who claims otherwise implies that there are good religions or more acceptable religions; follow my eyes and look at the priest’s holy sprinkle. I quote from Surah 5/32 of the Koran: “… whoever kills a person, except as a punishment for murder or mischief in the land, it will be written in his book of deeds as if he had killed all the human beings on the surface of the Earth and whoever will save a life shall be regarded as if he gave life to all the human beings on the surface of the Earth.”. We find the same in other so-called “sacred” texts and the very opposite too, both in the Koran and in the Bible. The content of religious texts, therefore, proves nothing by itself. It is useless to interpolate or use palimpsests to “accommodate” the religion with a very special sauce. The question is social, the question is political : do we want a world free of war, exploitation, barbarism, oppression and obscurantism? Or do we want to sustain the present world? The answer determines which camp one belongs to. We are witnessing today a return to the Old Regime: there are those who pray, the others who make war and the immensity that produces and is exploited, according to the classification made by Archbishop Adalberon a little before the year thousand.
No rights are granted to those who are exploited, and if by any chance they have some, these rights are challenged to be destroyed.

Those who pray and those who make war live like parasites on the backs of those who produce. As Camille Desmoulins said: “The active citizens are the ones who stormed the Bastille. They are the ones who clear the fields, while the loafers of the Clergy and the Court, despite the immensity of their fields, are only vegetative plants.” 1789 always calls 1793.

The central question is emancipation. Therefore, Free Thought is secular [1], democratic and social, as the Motion Buisson of the International Congress of Rome in 1904 has said.

Since we founded the International Association of Free Thought on August 10, 2011 in Oslo, Norway, we held one congress per year. In a second phase, now that things are fixed and well built, we will certainly proceed to a triennial congress. The next big Congress should be held in southern Spain, a land of contrasts and encounters in 2020.

The central theme of this world congress will undoubtedly be “Teaching and Secular School” and we hope that this congress will elaborate important conceptions, as did the Congress of Rome in 1904 concerning the Separation of Churches and the State . Against the tyranny of obscurantism, we call on all intelligences.

Thank you.

Christian Eyschen, spokesman for the IAFT


[1For separation between Churches and State

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