Should religion have a role in British politics?


6:15 pm - June 28th 2009

by Mike Ion    


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Last week Michael Sandel delivered his second Reith Lecture and looked at the relationship between morality and politics, more specifically the interaction between religiously inspired morality and politics.

He argued, correctly in my view, that you cannot remove morality from political discourse and so it is far better to have it out in public.

In the UK we tend to discourage our politicians from talking about faith, we famously ‘don’t do God.’ Why?

I believe that it has long been the case that too many people – particularly those who take a left of centre approach to politics – make the mistake of failing to acknowledge the power of faith in people’s lives.

With debate raging about the rise of the far-right and the failure of the body politic I wonder if it isn’t time for those who espouse the “progressive” agenda to debate just how to reconcile faith with our modern, pluralistic democracy. Too often politicians try and avoid any discussion about religious values altogether – fearful of offending anyone and claiming that politics and religion should never mix.

In 2007, when addressing the 50th anniversary convention of his own denomination, the United Church of Christ, the then Senator Barack Obama, argued that the religious right had “hijacked” faith and divided his country by exploiting issues like abortion, same-sex marriage and school prayer.

More interestingly he then went onto praise the people of faith who were using their influence to try to unite Americans against problems like poverty, AIDS, the lack of universal health care, Darfur and the effects of climate change.

Yet surely the reality of all political engagement is that we have to meet people where they are – even if we do not agree with or even approve of where they are. If so called ‘progressive’ politicians are to communicate their hopes and values in a way that is relevant to the lives of others, then they cannot abandon the field of religious discourse.

In my view secularists are wrong when they ask – more often insist – that believers leave their religion at the door before entering into the arena of public debate. The majority of great reformers in British history – from Wilberforce to Keir Hardie – were not only motivated by faith, but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause.

I recognise that democratic engagement will and should make demands of religious believers. It will demand that those who are religiously motivated act to turn their concerns into universal, rather than faith-specific, values. Democratic engagement will also demand that the values espoused by people of faith be subject to argument and debate.

What is needed is a sense of proportion and a willingness – on the part of both believers and non-believers – to engage in public debate openly and fair-mindedly. Many people in Britain today are looking for a deeper, fuller conversation about religion and politics.

This then is the challenge for those who describe themselves as progressive politicians. They too must become more “fair minded” more willing to engage with people of faith so that they might recognise some overlapping values that both religious and secular people share when it comes to the moral and material direction of modern Britain.

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About the author
This is a guest post. Mike Ion was Labour PPC for Shrewsbury in 2005. He blogs at mike-ion.blogspot.com and for Comment is free.
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Reader comments


“He argued, correctly in my view, that you cannot remove morality from political discourse and so it is far better to have it out in public.”

What does religion have to do with morality?

Policy should be evidence-based. Faith, by definition, is belief in the absence of evidence. It is intolerable for somebody to argue that “we should do ‘x’ because that’s what the Bible/God/Thor tells us to do.” That’s the basic problem with allowing religion into politics.

“In the UK we tend to discourage our politicians from talking about faith, we famously ‘don’t do God.’ Why?”

Talk about the bleeding obvious.

Faith should be an individual thing. The last thing we need is politicians claiming to have God on their side.

3. Political_Animal

Got to agree with #2, religion doesn’t have a monopoly on morality. There is no link-up between having faith and being moraland like #3 it should indeed be an individual thing. I don’t understand the point that is trying to be made. Should we have a theocracy?

Despite being someone who finds the whole basis of religion and religious belief utterly preposterous, I am still happy to engage in debate on those who have their own beliefs, but I’m not going to be held to ransom on the premise that people with belief are moral and those without aren’t!

The term ‘Christian’ is often used as a way of describing someone who is moral, just or altruistic and yet some of those that claim to be of Christian faith, often lack these basics, whereas some of us who are without belief, uphold them as important. I don’t see why religion or belief should have any bearing on politics, or policy, or indeed, morality.

I think it’s the opposite of what you’re saying. Politicians pay too much respect to faith-bearers. Rationality and sober debate do not fit in with a religious mindset.

We should leave faith at the door when entering debate so as not to cloud our judgement. Statistics or research can be painted over or dismissed because it may be contrary to what religious belief requires.

Some Christians are against adverts for contraceptives, particularly in America, yet all the evidence tells us that advertising about sexual health is what we should be doing.

You argue that democratic engagement will make the religious become more ‘universal’ with their values. But surely religious belief isn’t there to be compromised – so they can only broaden their values so far. Is it far enough?

5. Chris Baldwin

It’s fine for people to be inspired by religion in their politics, but church and state need to be separate. It’s also fine for people to mention their faith, but we do need to find ways to debate in ways we can all understand. If a Catholic argues that abortion is wrong because of God, what can I, as an atheist, say to that?

‘Many people in Britain today are looking for a deeper, fuller conversation about religion and politics.’

Um… how many exactly, apart from yourself, Mike? Religion has no place in modern politics – the fact it’s wormed its way back in in recent times is a cause of despair for many other people in Britain, and indeed the world. Finding out that George Bush and Tony Blair were on missions from God was enough to make many of us want to end it all right there.

I occasionally sit here in my little flat and fantasise about a world where we kept all believers in Jesus Christ, Allah, etc, out of all public discussion – particularly that which referenced abortion, contraception and Middle Eastern politics. Peace on all fronts would follow shortly.

Got to agree with #2 and 5.

A belief that is worth acting on in terms of legislature or policy must have justification other than faith. Hence any religious grounds for such a belief are irrelevant in terms of appraising its value. I don’t care if someone thinks killing is wrong because God says so. It’s wrong anyway.

Faith believers should be engaged in the democratic process in spite of their religion, not because of it. And anyway, the notion that religious believers and their representatives are not currently engaged in democracy is a load of rubbish. Do they not have a vote?

Thanks to Liberal Conspiracy for wasting all our time by publishing this illogical,irrational load of b****x.

8. the a&e charge nurse

[8] Peace on all fronts would follow shortly – dream on, Kate.

I anticipate it would be take about 2 nanoseconds for feuding groups to substitute one set of bogus rationalisations for another in pursuit of power and domination (by violent means if necessary).

After all, the most efficient mass murders of all time (Stalin & Hitler) were both secular leaders.

‘After all, the most efficient mass murders of all time (Stalin & Hitler) were both secular leaders.’

Well, that was because they had the technology. Imagine if Bloody Mary had had the A-bomb. There would have been bits of melted protestants everywhere. She was a bit restricted by the weaponry of the time.

10. Shatterface

‘I believe that it has long been the case that too many people – particularly those who take a left of centre approach to politics – make the mistake of failing to acknowledge the power of faith in people’s lives.’

Its precisely BECAUSE faith has such power over people’s lives that we have to keep it out of politics.

It’s hard enough trying to convince these people to grow up without giving their superstitions the endorsement of the State.

Britain’s one of the most Godless nations on Earth, and thankfully one of the few where you can go about your business without being regularly inconvenienced by priests, imams or witch doctors., This is a Good Thing, owing much to the reticent, let’s-not-make-a-fuss attitude of historical Britons, and the idea that we should chuck this out of the window because…

Well, sorry Mike, but your post is so full of generalised, unspecific wibble that it’s not clear what benefit we’d accrue from chucking out secularism. That just reinforces my impression that this would be a pointless concession with no apparent purpose.

No purpose beyond a warm, fluffy “inclusiveness” to make people who care about such things feel better about themselves, that is, and that’s before we even get to the well-established objections on left wing principles.

“Policy should be evidence-based. Faith, by definition, is belief in the absence of evidence. It is intolerable for somebody to argue that “we should do ‘x’ because that’s what the Bible/God/Thor tells us to do.” That’s the basic problem with allowing religion into politics.”

Exactly.

What evidence do religous people give?? How can you govern the world or society on your narrow preconceived ideas?? That YOU said..??

Religion is like a variable death….

NO progression OR ideas….

It’s like Jesus was a nice dude who cared etc and not we have to pray in a building!

: /

Of course Mike like all religous people can not discourse…..they hate discussing with knowledgable people

14. Shatterface

There was a post on Harry’s Place yesterday about an Orthodox Jewish couple suing their council because they thought the automated light switch on their communal landing meant that they were breaking their taboo about working on the Sabbath if they stepped out of their door and triggered it.

This utter, utter insanity has to stop.

Well, going by his CiF profile and posts, the poor bastard still hopes that Labour will win the next election. He’s probably right to think active intervention from Jesus H Christ himself will be necessary to pull that one off. We’d be on the same hymn sheet there.

16. Shatterface

Stalin attended a Georgian Orthodox Seminary and Hitler described himself as a Catholic and tapped into a tradition of anti-Semitism promoted for centuries by Christianity.

Without their religion they’d never have got into the position to become tyrants.

“In my view secularists are wrong when they ask – more often insist – that believers leave their religion at the door before entering into the arena of public debate. The majority of great reformers in British history – from Wilberforce to Keir Hardie – were not only motivated by faith but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause. “

Yes, great men were motivated by faith, but that doesn’t establish, to any extent, that faith is necessary in the formulation of policy. The arguments of abolitionists that are recognised today are secular ones.

In fact, when writing to oppose the secular society, Wilberforce isn’t a tremendous example to use. While an undoubtably brilliant man, he also attempted – through the endearingly titled Society for Suppression of Vice – to prosecute adulterers, enforce Sabbath strictures and ban “obscene” publications.

18. Shatterface

It’s also about time we got rid of the Anglican Church’s automatic ‘right’ to be represented in the House of Lords.

“The majority of great reformers in British history – from Wilberforce to Keir Hardie – were not only motivated by faith, but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause.”

Motivations mean bugger all, what matters is the reasons and evidence for the actual reform. Ultimately if great reform was founded off the back of some religious ideology then we should count ourselves as what we are…lucky to have moved in the right direction, and to not encourage that behaviour.

20. the a&e charge nurse

[18] yeah, but what about Mao Tse Tung & Co – surely the Chinese leaders epitomise a certain penchant for long standing secular violence.

There are others, I’ve got me list here somewhere
http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/warstat1.htm

Hitler and the Nazi’s is not a good example of one to use to make the case in favour of more religion being a good thing.

Just before he came to power, Germany was the most Christian country in Europe. (if you go by Church attendances) and yet in the space of a few years these so called god fearing people allowed a raging fascist to come to power promising to replace democracy with dictatorship.

As someone said, this country is one of the places in the world that you go about your life without having creepy religious freaks telling you what to do everyday.
Long may it continue.

Q:”Should religion have a role in British politics?”

A:No.

There. Wasn’t really so difficult, was it, Mr. Ion, and took up a lot less time and space than your illogical waffling.

Wow…insomnia really *does* make me more cranky… 🙂

Right, can we get on to something more intelligent and meaningful, please?

This is actually a really good article which the commenters have unfairly maligned. Let me state first off that I am an atheist. The point is that in a democratic system the interests AND the values of citizens are brought to bear upon politics. I as a socialist will bring my values to bear upon politics – and so might a christian. (This in fact undermines the dichotomy drawn by the author between religious and ‘universal’ values – the values i bring to bear on politics are not universal). Secularism can sometimes take the form aof askign those whose world views happen to be routed in religion to cast their values aside when engaging in politics – a demand that we not make of those with secular politics.

24. Shatterface

Actually, we do ask people with unpleasant secular views to put them aside when we deal with them: we don’t pander to secular racists, secular homophobes, etc.

It’s just that when we challenge their bigotry we don’t let them fall back on appeals to the almighty and just shrug our shoulders and say ‘well, I guess it’s all down to personal belief, isn’t it?’

Where Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, etc. values coincide with ours we don’t need to concern ourselves with their motivation, so there’s no need to bring religion into politics; where those values conflict there is a need to challenge the stupidity that lies behind them.

An excellent article. Yes religion should have a role. The illiberalism of those who call themselves ‘secular’ or ‘humanist’ is stifling in what is supposed to be a society with free speech. Why don’t these people come clean and call themselves what they really are: exclusive secularists and secular humanists. There’s nothing wrong with a society that is accomodatingly secular or with humanism which can be either religious or secular, but there seem today to be many out there doing precisely what they preach against: advancing an agenda based on limitations of free speech and action, whilst claiming that their world view is somehow the middle ground of debate.

“Why don’t these people come clean and call themselves what they really are: exclusive secularists and secular humanists”

People opposed to religion playing a role in politics do not call themselves ‘secularists’ or secular humanists’ partly because what we object to about religion is the way it sets people apart by defining them in terms of particular camps.

The whole point of politics is to have a reasoned debate about things. But religion is based upon being obedient to a set of pre-written instructions on how to behave.

The introduction of religious language into the ‘war on terror’ (I’m thinking, “axis of evil”, etc), for example, has distinctly muddied the waters of the underlying moral argument for and against war. Morality isn’t black and white, it’s about weighing up dilemmas.

The thought of religion playing a role in what’s taught in science lessons, who gets to be educated, in our abortion and marriage rights, in equality at work, how we view diseases like AIDS, in our criminal justice system, our foreign policy decisions … it’s a very messy one.

“Religion is based upon being obedient to a set of pre-written instructions on how to behave” – when was the last time people actually connected with middle of the road Christians who make up most of this country (according to their self-identification as such about 70% of the nation is Christian apparently) – be it Church of England or whatever. I think you’ll find that most religious people are not secretly trying to live their lives according to a set of ancient rules.

Are the issues listed in the last paragraph of the comment above going to be any less messy if religion is explicitly excluded ? Is it right to exclude peoples arguments based on religion just because others do not like arguments made on such grounds ? If so, then are we limiting free speech ? What makes a good argument – are we to predetermine what arguments are permissible to make in resolving disputes ?

Relax – religious arguments are not going to make or break real world decisions, but why exclude people from making their points on whatever terms or bases they like ?

I don’t understand what faith has to do with morality. You don’t have to be force-fed ‘wisdom’ from ‘angels’ to know that killing or stealing and so on are (in the main) wrong. But when you look at the received wisdom for morality, such as in one book, we see you should be killed if:

You work on the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8,9)
You do not believe in an Abrahamic God (Deut 17:2-7,IIChron 15:12,13 etc.etc.)
You blaspheme (Lev 24:16)
You are gay (Lev 20:13)
You are a dysfunctional teenager (Deut 21:19-21)

The list goes on and on. Morality changes as customs change causing ever increasing squirming from the faithful who claim these books are “allegorical”, or they’re “not literal” whilst continuing to insist we base our morals on these out-of-date screeds. What hypocrisy!

Quakers – Joseph Rowntree, Cadbury Trust and most of the attempts to improve the quality of life of the poor from the 18 C onwards was started by the Quakers. Many quakers were MPs e.g Cadbury .

29.Rubber Baron

The Ten Commandments are still a good basis for a civilised society.

Jesus passed on two commands
1. Love God with all your heart.
2. Love your Brother as yourself.

The teachings and actions of Jesus in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John provide a good basis for moral conduct.
“The greatest gifts are Faith , Hope and Charity and the greatest is Charity!

It was the command for brotherly love and charity which inspired the Quakers to undertake their good works.

There’s no need to go quoting bible verses or comparing Stalin to the Inquisition – it’s a sledgehammer to crack a nut that’s already been cracked. Secularism has been the norm in the UK for at least fifty years, and there are no compelling reasons whatsoever for changing that situation. Until there are, people making arguments in favour of more religion in politics should be nodded and smiled at, then politely shown to the door.

So religious groups don’t feel they have enough influence in society – well, that’s because they are regarded as irrelevant in the modern era by a majority of the population. If they want that situation to change, then it’s up to them to convince people that religion is relevant to their lives – the government isn’t under any obligation to give them a leg up.

Also note that, when the Johns of this world say things like The illiberalism of those who call themselves ’secular’ or ‘humanist’ is stifling in what is supposed to be a society with free speech, this translates into English as Some people on the internet were mean to me and that Dawkins is a bit of a dick.

The second part of that is correct, of course, but it’s a far cry from “illiberalism” or the “stifling” of free speech. Religious people are free to speak their minds – they just don’t have legal protection from hearing the opinions of those who disagree. This is, as I’ve said, a Good Thing, and it’s a situation that lots of unfortunate people throughout the world would wish for themselves.

Why do some secularists show such little respect for the beliefs of others?

As I see it, secularism has two ways of operating:

1. Assuming that there is no such thing as a ‘neutral’ position, and creating an environment where all beliefs and ideologies can have public space and using democracy to protect all people whilst fostering tolerance and respect.

2. Assuming that post-enlightenment rationalism has created the ‘end of history’ (apologies to Fukuyama) and is neutral. Therefore all ‘non-rational’ positions are to be excluded, ending in oppression and the state control of belief.

I know which I would rather have.

There was a post on Harry’s Place yesterday…..This utter, utter insanity has to stop.

That’s better

33. Stuart White

Readers following this thread might be interested in my unapologetically liberal take on the issue at Next Left:

http://www.nextleft.org/2009/06/religion-and-vision-thing.html

How amusing to watch the writer of this article take it apart themselves before even the commentators get to it. Re-read this part of one of the final paragraphs – “Democratic engagement will also demand that the values espoused by people of faith be subject to argument and debate.”

So if the religiously sought viewpoints are required to produce facts and figures that the non-religiously inclined will accept* why should we care if it is derived from ‘faith’? The only reason I can see to declare that is to short-circuit the rational with the emotional the “You should vote for this because it’s part of the same religion as you”.

To put it another way I don’t care if the policies you’re espousing come from God or the tea-lady if you can back it up with evidence beyond ‘That which was written’ I’ll listen.

[*Debate occurs when all parties share the same axioms. We can debate about concessionary bus passes because there is objective evidence they exist. We can’t debate about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, because I don’t believe in angels… I will however concede the existence of pins.]

Charlie

Jesus also said (Luke 19:27): “But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.”

Not so much loving your brother there.

Using Jesus as a moralist is a mistake. The Jesus of the Gospels does not regard himself as a moralist and nor was he regarded as so for much of Christian history; his basic mission was to preach the coming of God’s kingdom; his major precept was that men must devote themselves totally to God. A predominate factor also was his narrow sectarianism, namely to save Jews and not the world.

Eg: (Matt 10:5,6) “Go nowhere amongst the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matt 15:24) “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel”

Quoting Jesus proves nothing about morality and British politics.

Ian

Respect for the beliefs of others is perfectly reasonable provided, of course, you allow Scientologists or Pastafarians to inculcate their views and bookish nonsense into the body politic. I know what I’d rather allow.

#36

My point that is really that a ‘neutral’ position on belief is a logical fallacy. Rationalism is a belief system, and one that makes absolute claims judging by comments you hear from people (e.g. “unless something can be rationally proven it cannot be true”). So there are really only two choices – either having a hegemony in which one belief system dominates (such as Islam, Christianity, rationalism, humanism etc) or a system that makes no judgement on validity of belief (whether it is the supremacy of science, anthroposophy, flying spaghetti monster or transubstantiation) but allows free expression in debate – including legislative debate. The safety would be an agreed set of values (such as the ECHR) and the ballot box. If you think your MP is spouting nonsense, don’t vote for him/her – if the majority of people like what he says then that’s democracy.

I don’t in any way think that “because God says so” should be used as an argument in politics but I think there is a wider point about branding of the left/liberal agenda. If the hostility to religion expressed in a number of posts here is widespread then it is likely to alienate the (somebody quoted the figure 70% – sorry I don’t have the evidence) large percentage of the public that identifies itself as “christian”. The way to convince the large mildly religious bit of the public to support a left/liberal agenda is not to call it a medieval halfwit for having faith in a deity.
Sorry this is a style rather than substance post!

“Why do some secularists show such little respect for the beliefs of others? ”

Nobody could be that stupid to write such drivel. So I will just laugh at the idocy of it
BBWWAAAAAAAA

Religion, of all flavours hates freedom. The only reason most religions can’t burn me on top of a bonfife is because it is against the law. Start allowing religion to get involved with making laws and watch freedom vanish.

@39 Now you see that’s exactly what I was getting at! ;o)

#39

Oh .. the irony

41. Shatterface

‘The Ten Commandments are still a good basis for a civilised society.’

The first three commandments are utter bum-drizzle.

And I’ve broken 6 of the others.

‘Jesus passed on two commands
1. Love God with all your heart.
2. Love your Brother as yourself.’

And note that he put god first, not your brother.

It’s inhuman law.

And no system of belief which promises reward in the next life but demands punishment should begin in this one is worth a gnat’s fart.

42. Shatterface

You can debate the arguements of a rational person but you can only question the a religious person’s interpretation of the holy texts; and if you don’t believe those holy texts are true then that reduces moral arguments to the level of literary criticism.

Why do you think Helen that religion puts in place blasphemy laws whenever it gets the chance?

To shut down any debate or criticism of what they are selling.

Off topic now, but why hasn’t Mike come back and responded to any of this?

sally

You are creating a false dichotomy of ‘religion in charge’/’someone else in charge’. You are not reading what people are writing here – a society that allows all beliefs to exist and inform within the public square, not having a religion in charge.

When any one belief dominates it tends to oppress – such is the way of human nature it seems. A truly secular society will prevent that happening – which also should include allowing all religious or philosophical beliefs to be debated, mocked and challenged; but also allowing all people to express their beliefs and to allow them to inform debate.

“It’s also about time we got rid of the Anglican Church’s automatic ‘right’ to be represented in the House of Lords.”

Too true, it’s a national embarrassment. Luckily the modern (I think I mean contemporary) House o’ Lords is on its way out.

The Bishops can start their own party. The Christians got 1.6% of the vote last month, they can have that much influence.

The Ten Commandments are still a good basis for a civilised society.

Really?

1. You shall have no other Gods but me.
Rubbish, only if you want our society to be a theocracy worse than Iran. They tolerate most faiths and the Zoroastrians, Jews, and Christians are protected by law.

2. You shall not make for yourself any idol, nor bow down to it or worship it.
Again, restating the same point. A rubbish way to run a society.

3. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.
Why not, what a petty god, why do we need to base a society on what language people can use?

4. You shall remember and keep the Sabbath day holy.
Sounds like a fun idea, getting a day off. But we have unions and the labour movement to thank for weekends, not the bible.

5. Respect your father and mother.
Good, but that’s pretty much hard wired into our DNA. “Do as you would normally do”

6. You must not kill.
Again, a good one, but not all that original.

7. You must not commit adultery.
Quite a good idea. However, if only the bible wasn’t full of people offering their daughters as rape fodder in place of angels I’d take Moses’ protestations on sexual morality more seriously.

8. You must not steal.
Again, not original.

9. You must not give false evidence against your neighbour.
Again, not original.

10. You must not be envious of your neighbour’s goods. You shall not be envious of his house nor his wife, nor anything that belongs to your neighbour.
Probably good for a healthy life, jealously can breed disappointment and depression.

(e.g. “unless something can be rationally proven it cannot be true”)

On a technical note, that’s not a great definition of rationality. Godel proved that even in maths there’s no complete and consistent set of axioms for everything.

48. Shatterface

I love Godel’s work but he starved himself to death. Hilbert and Cantor were pretty nutty too.

“When any one belief dominates it tends to oppress”

Well, yes, that’s what domination is, Ian!

such is the way of human nature it seems

What a load of rubbish! Domination entails oppression, because they are pretty much synonyms. It’s got nothing to do with human nature at all!

Clarice if I were in charge and ordered you to watch a film starring Colin Firth while eating ice cream as I gave you a foot-rub that would still be domination; only if you didn’t like Colin Firth, ice-cream, or foot-rubs would it be oppression.

51. Shatterface

Domination is a private matter between a man and whoever advertises her services on the Internet. It should be kept out of politics.

52. casaubonian

Clarice

Sorry – but that is my point. When any one belief has a majority influence (for a better phrase than ‘dominate’) if oppresses – whether that belief is religious or rationalistic. A truly secular state will create the forum for all beliefs. Anything else (including the sort of oppressive secularism seen here) is no better than a system of religious oppression – it is still saying “we are right – you are wrong/dangerous/stupid so your voice does not deserve to be heard”.

53. Father Pat O'Flagherty

‘The whole point of politics is to have a reasoned debate about things. But religion is based upon being obedient to a set of pre-written instructions on how to behave. …

‘The thought of religion playing a role in what’s taught in science lessons, who gets to be educated, in our abortion and marriage rights, in equality at work, how we view diseases like AIDS, in our criminal justice system, our foreign policy decisions … it’s a very messy one.”

What the fuck!? Do you think people that only religious people hold rigid pre-conceived ideas? People can hold their opinions for whatever reasons they like. If you think it’s a messy idea, that’s because we’re a democracy you fascist sh–t!

54. Passing Libertarian

‘Why do you think Helen that religion puts in place blasphemy laws whenever it gets the chance?’
To shut down any debate or criticism of what they are selling.”

In ultra-secular Sweden Pastor Ake Green was prosecuted for stating what is the orthodox position of all Christian churches, and for quoting from The Bible. He was charged under a 2002 law which makes it illegal to say rude things about any of the usual privileged groups – (i.e. women, non-whites, non-Christians, homosexuals etc.)

Had the far-left establishment got their way he would have gone to prison. This is what happens when the ideology of secularism dominates – it oppresses. “Hate speech” laws are just a mirror image of blasphemy laws. In Sweden, freedom of speech ends when you offence to the ultra -eft Establishment or its clients. The same is happening here in Britian where there have been a mass of laws that criminalise speech that was legal even a few years ago.

55. Just Visiting

Phew, it’s clear there’s a number of secularists here getting hot under the collar at the drop of a hat. (I guess they all would claim to be acting 100% rationally, but it’s clear as an observer that there’s an iceberg of emotion: the visible bit hiding a load of irrationality).

On this evidence – secularists really are angry about religion.

And yet a few threads ago, people were seeing no problem with British politicians meeting elected Hamas member.

Can you guys just accept the reality – some people’s views on morality and all sorts do come from religious foundations, and whilst you can legitimately ignore the loony-fringe (though Hamas kind of fit there too), it can only make society more ‘representative of the people’ if non-fringe religious folks are not patronised and kept out of the debate.

PS -36 Rubber Baron -that quote of Jesus is taken right out of context – I can’t be bothered to argue it here but if you google back you’ll see it’s come up before here on LC and been shot down. It’s another example of the irrationality of the ‘rational’ secularists, that they seem so willing to misquote religious sources.

56. Shatterface

Passing Libertarian (and is that a euphemism for dropping a log’ or ‘pinching one off’?): In ultra-secular Sweden Pastor Ake Green was prosecuted for stating what is the orthodox position of all Christian churches, and for quoting from The Bible. He was charged under a 2002 law which makes it illegal to say rude things about any of the usual privileged groups – (i.e. women, non-whites, non-Christians, homosexuals etc.)’

I’m not justifying censorship (though at least secularists aren’t burning people for what they say) but are you claiming that he wouldn’t have been prosecuted if he’d been an atheist bigot, or that talking to fairies should give him special dispensation?

And in what world do women, homosexuals, non-whites, etc. constitute a ‘privillaged group?’

@Passing Libertarian (55): I don’t think anyone’s saying that religion has a monopoly on oppression, it’s just that non-religious laws at least attempt to pay lip-service to rationality and therefore can be argued against in that context.

If against all contrary evidence someone still advocates certain laws then what is the difference between them and someone doing so because that’s what God wants? You might as well class such people as non-specifically religious – they believe in that law.

58. Passing Libertarian

“I’m not justifying censorship (though at least secularists aren’t burning people for what they say) but are you claiming that he wouldn’t have been prosecuted if he’d been an atheist bigot, or that talking to fairies should give him special dispensation?”

Er no, you ARE justifying censorship and I don’t think he should need any ‘special dispensation’ because he believes in faries. I think he should be able to think and say whatever he likes without landing himself in a fucking police station.There is no place in free society for protection against being offended. So long as it doesnt infringe the equal rights of others to life and property people have the right to say anything at all about any subject. It is no business of the State to tell people what they can and cannot think. Our bodies are our own. Our minds are our own. What we do with them is our fucking business. Its disgusting that people can be prosecuted for their opinions. In the 80s I was an advocate at school of abolishing all the laws against homosexual activity. As I understood it, ‘freedom’ for homosexuals never meant legal privilege against the hatred and contempt that others (however unjustfully) may feel for them.

And YES homosexuals are now a priveleged minority. Just to take two examples at random from thousands of similar cases – There was Lynette Burrows who was investigated by police when said she disagreed that gays should be allowed to adopt during a radio interview. Then there was Joe and Helen Roberts (two Christians) who complained about public money being spent on a new project to promote gay rights. The couple asked for Christian literature to be displayed alongside the gay rights literature. Not only did the Council refuse they were visited by the police who questioned them in their own home for 2 hours about their opinions, even though no crime was committed. To me, this is as sickening an abuse of the right to free expression as can be imagined and it completely proves my point – There is no freedom speech in this country, only privilege for groups that are members or clients of the Establishment eg. women, non-whites, non-Christians, homosexuals etc.


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