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Should we keep God out of politics?

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William Crawley | 19:09 UK time, Friday, 1 October 2010

In the US, any candidate for the presidency who announced that he or she was an atheist would lose. Full stop. For all its talk of a constitutional wall of separation between religion and politics, the reality in the US is that a religious test is applied by the public and the media in respect of any major elected political office. Even those non-believers who get elected to congress do so by remaining quiet about matters of faith ("those are private matters") rather than proclaiming their views. In the UK, things are quite different. The Labour Party has been led by three self-avowed "public" atheists: Michael Foot, Neil Kinnock, and now Ed Miliband. The Lib Dems are currently led by an atheist, Nick Clegg. Even the Prime Minister, David Cameron, who says his Christian faith is important to him also adds that he doesn't attend church regularly.



Some think the election of Ed Miliband -- a "Jewish atheist" -- suggests that religion is now less important in British culture than it once was. An increasingly vocal secularist constituency is calling for God to be excluded completely from public life. Life would be better for everyone, they say, if we kept God out of politics: a society governed by equality and human rights legislation would be a fairer and more agreeable society than one governed by religious laws. So let's dis-establish the Church of England, remove those unelected bishops from the House of Lords, abolish the constitutional ban on non-Protestants ascending the Throne, and tell our politicians to keep their religion to themselves.

Others say this is still a Christian country and we should be proud of our religious heritage. Faith is not a private hobby, but a prophetic engagement with the world. If politics means a public debate about the moral and social values and the legislative decisions that will shape the future of our society, then God is all over those questions. The God revealed in the sacred texts of the world's great faiths is concerned about every aspect of his creation's life: from climate change to animal welfare, from human trafficking to children's education, from the availability of health care to income inequality. Read the Sermon on the Mount and you encounter a manifesto for the transformation of social life. Jesus cares about equality, the poor, the elderly, the vulnerable, the weak - about those too easily forgotten in a society dominated by greed. Thus, the followers of Jesus have both a right and a duty to stand up for those values, because they believe those values will create the best kind of society: a society that functions like a family, where citizens become like brothers and sisters, where strangers are treated like friends. If those followers happen to be politicians, they should feel free to share their faith-commitments with the public. In fact, doesn't the public have a right to know if their political leaders' decisions are partly shaped by their spiritual values?



On this week's Sunday Morning Live (BBC One, 10am), Susanna Reid and her guests will debate the relationship between faith and politics. It can be a heady mix, a dangerous brew; but it can also produce community leaders like Martin Luther King and Christian politicians like Barack Obama. So, should we keep God out of politics? You can join the debate live by web-cam, telephone, email or text message: for details, click here. Also on this week's Sunday Morning Live, you can have your say on whether we should only allow English-speaking immigrants and whether abortion is sometimes the right thing to do.

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    In the US, any candidate for the presidency who announced that he or she was an atheist would lose.

    Christian politicians like Barack Obama.

    So how many 'great' American presidents are christians by convienience?

    The sooner religion is taken out of politics, the better>

  • Comment number 2.

    As a Christian I don't think that God is dependent on any human political system. A completely secular system is not going to 'silence God', and those who think it would are merely deluding themselves. In my view, there is something seriously wrong with a church that thinks that it can only have relevance if it is in hoc to the political system. Look at the political arrangements in place during the ministry of Jesus!

    Whatever one may think about American Christianity (and it has very many flaws), the fact is that the separation between church and state has not turned the US into an atheistic society. And the paradox is that the Christian culture of the USA has influenced the way politicians market themselves, as has been pointed out. That may not be a good thing, but it shows that the official separation of church and state does not necessarily have much effect on the development of a powerful and influential culture of religious faith.

    Also, could it not be argued that an 'official' role for Christianity could actually undermine the fundamental message of the gospel, which is primarily concerned with changing people's hearts and not merely speaking into legislative arrangements? In fact, at times when the church has possessed too much political power, it has acted in ways which are a travesty of the gospel and which have done incalculable damage to its own message.

  • Comment number 3.

    "The Lib Dems are currently led by an atheist, Nick Clegg."

    Has Nick Clegg ever referred to himself as an atheist? From everything I have heard him say on the subject of faith in God, he sounds like an extremely open-minded and respectful agnostic.

    What about this:

    "I quite simply don't know whether God exists and I know it's obviously fashionable to say that one does, but I don't, you know. I'm not a man of faith - sometimes I very much wish I was, because I think having faith must be a great thing. You know, members of my family do, my wife does, my children are being brought up in her church, and I think it can be a wonderful, unifying thing … but I myself have not, have not experienced, if you like, clearly what other people of faith have. Maybe it'll happen one day."

    I acknowledge that I have taken out many hesitations and repetitive words from this transcript of Nick Clegg's Radio 4 interview with Eddie Mair, but this is actually the substance of what he said.

    Now this is clearly agnosticism, and a display of openness to faith in God. How he can be put in the same credal category as someone like, for example, Richard Dawkins, is beyond me. I really think the media ought to be a bit more careful in the use of the word 'atheist'. Some atheists are 'anti-theists', whereas others are highly respectful and open-minded agnostics. The two positions are miles apart.

  • Comment number 4.

    The thing is that how one understands God influences one's understanding of oneself - whether one is an atheist or a Christian or some other label that does not actually reflect who one is. How one understands oneself influences one's relationship with oneself and all others and that impacts politics - so God can never be kept out of politics or any sphere of life that contains people. It is impossible. Even if the country was completely run by atheists, how they would do that would be influenced by their understanding of themselves/others and would influence decisions accordingly. Their absence of belief re God would affect their relationships/politics ergo God is still affecting politics even when he's not consciously acknowledged to be present!

    The problem, in my view, is that there are so many misunderstandings re God, esp in religion as it stands today, that lead to bastardised decisions based on false beliefs and ideals - so God gets a bad rap. So perhaps religion as it is should be kept out of politics but God cannot be kept out even if one is an atheist as explained above. The true meaning of religion concerns relationship - with oneself/ God/ others - atheists still have relationships with themselves and others and that is influenced by their belief that God does not exist or their lack/absence of belief re God.

    It is the misunderstandings and considerable ignorance about God that should be kept out of politics and life in general. Unfortunately that will take some time I feel!!

  • Comment number 5.

    God has 1,000 faces (Joseph Campbell). Muslims see one face; Christians see another, Jews see a third and so on. These specific faces are the faces of religion, not of spirituality. Spiritualty is all-inclusive. God is everywhere and in everything. The Bible says this (though I can no longer remember the exact quote): turn a stone and I am there; look at the stars and I am there. God is everywhere, in everything. Therefore when we kill without purpose, that is sin. When we uproot without purpose, that is sin. When we destroy without purpose, that is sin. Sin means turning our backs on God.
    It is religion that should be removed from politics because the face of your God is very likely not the face of my God, and we are likely to quarrel about who is right. Having said that, it is spirituality that must be part of politics...and is sadly lacking in the present.
    It is sprituality that tells me that all things are one. What I do onto you, I do onto myself; there is only one Divine Principle with many names, faces, and traditions of worship.
    A Christian country, an Islamic country, a Jewish State - whose little piece of real estate has the correct God. How does that little piece of real estate know? Who has been so up close and personal as to know that God is definitely Chinese, black, Jewish, or whatever. And worse still, who is so egocentric as to know what God thinks.
    Therefore, Maya Angelou has spoken to the situation best when she said: We humans beings should muddle along doing the very best we can with what we know, and when we know better we will do better.

  • Comment number 6.

    Re whether abortion is * sometimes* the right thing to do - implies to me a pre-understanding or pre-supposition that the baseline view or norm view is that it is wrong? Is that a correct interpretation or am I mis-reading it? What if it said, abortion is often the right thing to do - does that change of one word alter the perspective under consideration? For me, it alters it considerably.

    The problem I have is that right and wrong are human judgments - they are not of divine origin. There is no judgment by God on anyone who has an abortion. There are consequences yes, as there are with any choice, but punishment/condemnation by God are not amongst them. The human spirit is eternal and does not die with abortion. It will incarnate again, sometimes with the same woman, sometimes not. Unfortunately a good deal of harm is done by the aeons of religious teachings that ladle the guilt onto women who have had an abortion - rather than accepting that it was a true decision (as opposed to right or wrong) for them, as for whatever reason, they were not ready to be a mother to that child. Many women suffer from guilt after abortion, not because they made the 'wrong' decision but because of societal judgments on them based on religious teachings - which presumably have also influenced the use of the word 'sometimes' in the sentence above.

    In a conversation with a young man one time for a project on spirituality I was doing the topic of abortion came up and he said to me words along the lines of - **…..I don’t have a particular stance whether abortion is right or wrong ...... that’s never going to be easy and I will never have to struggle with that myself – that alone should mean that I have humility and say I’ll never know what that is like – I’m going to listen to you and you do what you feel is right **

    The world could do with more people with that sort of humility - best not to make judgments (right and wrongs) especially if we haven't walked in the other person's shoes. So that might just rule a few people out on the W & testosterone blog..... :- )

  • Comment number 7.

    Re: Nick Clegg

    Asked directly in an interview on BBC Radio 5 Live, "Do you believe in God?", Mr Clegg replied simply: "No."

  • Comment number 8.

    Will

    "Life would be better for everyone, they say, if we kept God out of politics: a society governed by equality and human rights legislation would be a fairer and more agreeable society than one governed by religious laws. So let's dis-establish the Church of England, remove those unelected bishops from the House of Lords, abolish the constitutional ban on non-Protestants ascending the Throne, and tell our politicians to keep their religion to themselves."

    Actually, just dis-establish the Church of England and remove those unelected bishops from the House of Lords.

    That'd be fine.

    The constitutional ban on non-Protestants ascending the throne would be self-evidentially meaningless in those circumstances and, as far as I'm concerned, individual personal belief is individual personal belief.

    If someone wants to make something of that belief as part of their personal political make-up that's entirely up to them.

  • Comment number 9.

    Although Obama has made some confusing things about god and politics, in his Call to Renewal Keynote Address in 2006 he pretty much nailed it:

    Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God's will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all.

    Now this is going to be difficult for some who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, as many evangelicals do. But in a pluralistic democracy, we have no choice. Politics depends on our ability to persuade each other of common aims based on a common reality. It involves the compromise, the art of what's possible. At some fundamental level, religion does not allow for compromise. It's the art of the impossible. If God has spoken, then followers are expected to live up to God's edicts, regardless of the consequences. To base one's life on such uncompromising commitments may be sublime, but to base our policy making on such commitments would be a dangerous thing.


    As for Clegg, LSV, back in 2007 he was asked a simple question, "Do you believe in God?" and he gave a simple answer, "No." I presume that meets your requirements for acceptance into the atheist club. Later wriggling may have more to do do with not alienating the core tory voters who may well be his only constituency when the cuts start to bite.

  • Comment number 10.

    Natman beat me to it.

  • Comment number 11.

    I think it would be much better if politicians kept their religious beliefs to themselves and that religious groups stopped lobbying politicians from a perspective based on harmful religious dogma. The 26 bishops who comprise the Lords Spiritual should be removed and religion should not be privileged in public life.

    Why should taxpayers be paying for these Anglican bishops to have a privileged position in the making of our laws?

  • Comment number 12.

    What constitutional wall of separation between religion and politics? I don't think you'll find that in the US constitution. What you will find is "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof".

    Most people seem to forget the second clause and are keen to prevent politicians exercising their own religion.

    Every politician brings their beliefs to the political table. You don't turn up with no opinions. You believe in something, it may be a commitment to equality and human rights or anti-racism or the environment. Or belief in God and his place in the world.

    Or like Obama, a belief in partial-birth abortion.

  • Comment number 13.

    Grokesx: your comments re God are in my view based on a misunderstanding of who/what God is. God does not demand or administer edicts.
    I suspect like many people the God that Nick Clegg does not believe in is the God that does not exist other than in man-made religions. Would he say he does not 'believe in' love I wonder? Would any of the atheists on here say they do not 'believe in' love or the power of love, do not experience love, do not have love in their lives, do not love themselves or others??? To live a Godless life is to live a loveless life in my view. Of course its not that simple either - because there is love and there is love. So any religious belief that does not include love for all of humanity irrespective of religion, colour, sexuality etc is false in my view - and more indicative of man's prejudices than anything to do with God. That does not mean that that which is not love gets a free reign.

  • Comment number 14.

    MCC,

    "You believe in something, it may be a commitment to equality and human rights or anti-racism or the environment. Or belief in God and his place in the world."

    That last 'Or' is well placed, and for once I agree with you.

    I think that a persons own beliefs shape who they are and if they are elected (their beliefs are part of the elected package) then that will shape how they vote in parliament (depending on the whip of course).

    What I object to is religions having a 'union' style block vote and an arrogance which means that they are assumed to be right and everyone else is a heathen for wanting something they have proscribed.

    We would not have any equality or human rights or anti-racism if it was left up to religion - these things (or freedom) are not required when the book is already written.

  • Comment number 15.

    The Bible says: "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people." (Proverbs 14v34)

    Seems to me we could do with some national leaders who were both God-fearing and godly. Our nation would certainly reap the benefit.

  • Comment number 16.

    Pastorphilip,

    Would we all reap the benefit or would it just be the people that your particular god likes who reap the benefit?

  • Comment number 17.

    PastorPhillip,

    Indeed, and who's to determine which god is right and which is wrong? What would happen to those whose god is deemed 'wrong'?

    I want my politicians to decide on their actions based on what is best for the country and the people who live in it. I want their actions and opinions to alter as the world does, and change with the needs at the time. I don't want their decisions to be determined by an unchanging and unforgiving dogma proscribed by priests and clergy whose main focus isn't on what is best for others but what is best for their so-called gods.

    I'd like to see politics out of politics too, but that's asking a bit much methinks ;)

  • Comment number 18.

    grokesx (@ 9) -

    "As for Clegg, LSV, back in 2007 he was asked a simple question, "Do you believe in God?" and he gave a simple answer, "No." I presume that meets your requirements for acceptance into the atheist club. Later wriggling may have more to do do with not alienating the core tory voters who may well be his only constituency when the cuts start to bite."

    Apparently if Adolf Hitler said publicly that he was a Christian we are supposed to believe it, for fear of committing the 'no true Scotsman' fallacy (as you pointed out on the other thread).

    But if Nick Clegg says publicly that he is an agnostic, who would actually like to believe in God, and that, far from having rejected religion, he just simply has not yet been convinced about it, then we are to believe that this is mere political wriggling to please a certain constituency of people!

    Now I have been accused of being inconsistent, but I think this takes the biscuit! (In fact, it doesn't just take the biscuit, it takes something else of a liquid nature not so pleasant, in my opinion).

    If, grokesx, you are going to start appealing to (so-called) logical fallacies, at least have the decency to apply them to yourself as well!

    I suppose you could conceivably wriggle out of this embarrassment by saying that 'atheism' includes all levels of agnosticism. If that is the case, then I hope you apply this consistently in everything you do and say. In other words, you would have to accept that not only would atheists put a poster on a bus with the words "There is probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life" (which ironically is actually quite agnostic), but also: "There may or may not be a God and, if so, we really would like to know him or her (and certainly religion is a good thing which we must not reject)." How many professing atheists would be prepared to accept and endorse the latter poster, which is consistent with what Nick Clegg has said?

    And how many atheists would be prepared to acknowledge that the existence of an intelligent creator is a perfectly legitimate and valid explanation of reality, even though they may not be sure if it is true? Certainly not the self-confessed, bigoted, fundamentalist (inverted religious) atheists that I have had anything to do with.

    So no, on the basis of the evidence, and consistent logic, Nick Clegg is most certainly not an atheist in the sense that it is understood on this blog, on the internet, in the media and in our society generally (bearing in mind that the definitions of words in everyday language are dependent on common usage and application).

  • Comment number 19.

    Pasrorphilip returns with another quote from some ancient scribbling. What mystifies me, is why the myths of a tribe, so lacking in knowledge that they thought the Earth flat, should be the choice for some folk in the modern world to understand and explain things.
    Now, just imagine if Clegg or Milliband revealed that they had been perusing the Norse Sagas and they were now believers in Odin, how we would laugh.

  • Comment number 20.

    'God to be excluded completely from public life. Life would be better for everyone, they say, if we kept God out of politics: a society governed by equality and human rights legislation would be a fairer and more agreeable society than one governed by religious laws.'

    The above is patently demonstrable, by simply looking around the world today. Where ever there is religious law or religious interference in politics, there is more suffering, more social strife, less freedom and more prejudice. The secular world is what, as a society, we have evolved towards, throwing off the oppressive religious shackles, that chain us to the past. Why go back to the dark ages...
    If you need to believe in fairytales to get you through the day, go for it, but politics should never entertain superstition, we've been there done that, I want to live in a sane world, a world of light and progress.

  • Comment number 21.

    HOLD ON WHILE I GIVE GOD A CALL AND ASK HIM IF POLITICS IS HIS BAG!
    Really, who, or what has decided God is actually interested in Politics? Religious cults, leaders, groups, parties and churches may choose to stick their neck into the world of international politics from time to time or frequently in some regions, so whats the problem? That is how life evolves.Sometimes good, sometimes bad depending where you stand. No one can say God( himself, herself or itself) is in Politics. It is all the views of a group of people at the end of the day. You love it or hate it. Some religious groups have more people and influence than others and thats life, want to challange it , well get a bigger group I suppose. Why oh why do we have to care? thats the question we all should be asking. The media and the newspapers decide what we "wish" to discuss anyway in a lovely sneaky fashion, it's fun, isnt it. If it wasnt top news I can imagine we would be talking about the subject on every street corner and phone anyway, NOT!

  • Comment number 22.

    I suppose you could conceivably wriggle out of this embarrassment by saying that 'atheism' includes all levels of agnosticism.

    No, I'll just say look at a dictionary. The most common definitions are: disbelief in the existence of a deity and absence of a belief in a deity. Both of which are pretty much covered by "Do you believe in God?" "No." You may notice I was careful to use the word "may" in the follow up, to indicate it was an opinion and not part of philosophical dissertation. Keep up.

    As for the fallacies - my original point was that for someone (ie you) who likes to point out logical errors in others' posts with tiresome regularity, whose handle is logica blah blah and who claims higher education in philosophy, you don't half commit some basic errors.

    And I could add, for someone who rabbits on about respect, you throw about the insults with reckless abandon, too.

  • Comment number 23.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 24.

    LSV,

    If someone is asked a question, with a yes or a no option, 'no' does not mean 'yes, kind of, but I'm not sure'.

    Nick Clegg has stated, quite clearly, he doesn't believe in god. If it helps calm your persecution complex that later on he mitigated this with words to appease the religious fanatics (probably on the advice on his spin doctors) then that doesn't disqualify his earlier stance.

    Politicians are well known for altering their opinions based on the person asking the question, but someone who does believe in god usually says so up front.

  • Comment number 25.

    secularJen (@ 20) -

    "Where ever there is religious law or religious interference in politics, there is more suffering, more social strife, less freedom and more prejudice. The secular world is what, as a society, we have evolved towards, throwing off the oppressive religious shackles, that chain us to the past...I want to live in a sane world, a world of light and progress."

    When are you planning to emigrate to North Korea then?

    And I suppose you long for the sanity and beauty of the good old USSR?

    I suppose secularism does have its good points - that's assuming, of course, that we ignore the plight of the most innocent members of our society (the unborn), who the "oh so compassionate" secularists decide aren't really worthy of the status of 'human' until the brain and nervous system are fully developed. So a healthy and normal person who is just in a process of growing should not be protected? Pathetic.

    As for superstition: the old medieval notion that life can arise from non-living matter is not something I think we should entertain in the modern world. It's a bit primitive, if you ask me.

    I am a great believer in sanity, light and progress and a rejection of superstition. That's why I'm not an atheist. You need too much faith for that.

  • Comment number 26.

    Natman (@ 24) -

    "Nick Clegg has stated, quite clearly, he doesn't believe in god. If it helps calm your persecution complex that later on he mitigated this with words to appease the religious fanatics (probably on the advice on his spin doctors) then that doesn't disqualify his earlier stance."

    And your evidence for this is?

    You're always harping on about evidence, so can you please provide the evidence to prove that Nick Clegg was being honest about his atheism on the one hand, but dishonest about his agnosticism and respect for religious belief, on the other (not to mention his personal interest in religious belief).

    I have been criticised for not taking a politician's words at face value (even though the politician in question was a known liar and mass murderer), and yet when a leading politician in the UK makes a statement that ruffles your atheistic feathers, you are happy to explain it away with reference to the advice of 'spin doctors'. How utterly ridiculous.

    You want to claim Nick Clegg as your own. Why don't you just respect his own position, and leave it at that? Nick Clegg clearly has the maturity and intelligence to understand that these issues of faith are not as cut-and-dried as those who are philosophically and logically challenged seem to think.

    grokesx (@ 22) -

    "And I could add, for someone who rabbits on about respect, you throw about the insults with reckless abandon, too."

    And to think you once accused me of being too sensitive!

    I think you just make up the rules as you go along. That's presumably the secular way!

  • Comment number 27.

    LSV,

    North Korea has one of the highest rates of literacy, health care provision, no taxes, a fast growing economy and is one of worlds leading producers of fruit, iron and other raw materials.

    Its human rights record is abysmal, yes, but it's on a par with Afganistan, Iran and other theocratic states. Besides, one isolated example does not a rule make. There are far, far more examples of good secular states and very poor theocracies.

    It's almost a given - the more secular a state is, the more detached its politics are from religion, the more enlightened it is, with the highest standards of living. Scandanavia, Austria, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, the UK. All states highly secular, and all considered some of the best places in the world to live. Show me your highly religious states that can claim the same.

  • Comment number 28.

    Following on from my post 25 -

    "So a healthy and normal person who is just in a process of growing should not be protected? Pathetic."

    I'll just qualify this statement by saying that the phrase 'healthy and normal' is not meant to imply that I believe that foetuses with a disability should be aborted. Far from it.

  • Comment number 29.

    Natman (@ 27) -

    Well, I cannot fail to be impressed by your attempt to defend North Korea. Words fail me, given the mass starvation and poverty of that brutal land.

    As for Scandinavia, Austria, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and the UK - all these regions and countries, except Japan, have a strong Christian history. Who is to say that the freedoms we enjoy are not the outworking of Christianity? And Japan generally copied the West after the devastation it suffered after WW2.

    Are the freedoms we enjoy the direct result of atheism? The only countries which have tried to apply atheism philosophically are Marxist states, since Marxism is based on dialectical materialism. There is a world of difference between that and Christianised secularism. In fact, the freedoms within the UK are rooted in developments going back hundreds of years, from the Magna Carta onwards (probably earlier). And in fact for hundreds of years it was the church which provided health and education, and securalism has built on that work. It wasn't all witchhunts and burnings at the stake.

    Finally, I don't know why you expect me to defend the record of Islamic countries. I know you atheists tend to lump all non-atheistic beliefs into one homogeneous category, and all 'religious' people are guilty by association (as if I, a Christian, am somehow guilty of 9/11 and the stoning of women in Iran, because I am not an atheist!). It's poor thinking, frankly, and totally unfair.

  • Comment number 30.

    rochcarlie (#19)

    Of course, this particular 'ancient scribbling' has a habit of proving to be both true and astonishingly up-to-date. It certainly never said that the earth was flat (check out eg Isaiah 40v22) - and has very pertinent things to say about many contemporary issues.

    On the subject of national leaders, 2 Samuel 23v3 seems to hit the spot, doesn't it?

  • Comment number 31.

    As for Scandinavia, Austria, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and the UK - all these regions and countries, except Japan, have a strong Christian history. Who is to say that the freedoms we enjoy are not the outworking of Christianity? And Japan generally copied the West after the devastation it suffered after WW2.

    Scandanavia has a strong Viking history, Austria a strong Roman/Pagan history, Austriala and NZ have been 'Christian' (marginally), for around 200 years, perhaps less. The fact that they have Christian history is all well and good, but it's hardly their only history.

    You're clutching at straws to deny the fact that most of the highly developed countries in the world are secular, and you don't like it.

  • Comment number 32.

    PastorPhillip,

    Book of Natman, chapter 2 verse 5;

    Don't quote me passages from alleged holy books with little or no basis in reality, for those of us who don't believe in it think you're being silly.

    Chapter 4 verse 1;

    Leaders with strong religious leanings nearly always get their heads cut off

  • Comment number 33.

    Natman (@ 31) -

    "You're clutching at straws to deny the fact that most of the highly developed countries in the world are secular, and you don't like it."

    If you can provide me with a coherent and irrefutable explanation of how a rejection of belief in God is a necessary condition for the provision of social justice (and economic development), then your views may have some credibility. I'm afraid I don't see the causal connection between atheism and social justice, in which the former is a necessary condition of the latter. In fact, it cannot be a necessary condition, considering, as I explained, the fact that the health and education systems of the UK were developed by the church. The so-called 'secular' government is simply carrying on with what the church started.

    Furthermore, the countries you listed are 'secular', but not atheistic. The two are not the same thing. 'Secular' means a willingness to embrace a plurality of views.

    If you want to look at atheistic societies, then look no further in history than the USSR or Albania under Hoxha. Social and economic failures.

    Perhaps you dismiss these examples, because you don't like to face the truth.

  • Comment number 34.

    LSV,

    The so called 'atheist' governments you quote there are authoritarian first, atheist second (possibily even third after communist). Their atheistic stance was an attempt to remove any rival authority to their own and the church had (and still does) a lot of sway over people, especially the working class upon whose loyalty a communistic government relies on for support.

    From Websters Dictionary

    Secular:
    1a: of or relating to the worldly or temporal concerns
    1b: not overtly or specifically religious
    1c: not ecclesiastical or clerical

    Sounds fairly atheistic to me.

  • Comment number 35.

    Natman (@ 34) -

    "The so called 'atheist' governments you quote there are authoritarian first, atheist second (possibily even third after communist). Their atheistic stance was an attempt to remove any rival authority to their own and the church had (and still does) a lot of sway over people, especially the working class upon whose loyalty a communistic government relies on for support."

    Of course, you wouldn't apply the same logic to so-called religious societies, in which religious belief is exploited for political ends, would you? I have noticed that there often seems to be a different rule for atheists than for non-atheists. Whenever atheism causes evil, it is always because of 'some other cause'. But whenever religion causes evil, it can never be because of some other cause. In the latter case, it's always because of belief in God, never mind how perverted that belief has become in the minds of those exploiting it. Talk about double standards!

    Marxism is fundamentally philosophically atheistic. It has to be, because its interpretation of history is materialistic.

    Marx wrote (in the Introduction to the Critique of the Hegelian philosophy of public law):

    "Religious misery is at once the expression of real misery and a protest against it. Religion is the groan of the oppressed, the sentiment of a heartless world, and at the same time the spirit of a condition deprived of spirituality. It is the opium of the people. The suppression of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the premise of its real happiness. It is first and foremost the task of philosophy, operating in the service of history, to unmask self-alienation in its profane forms, after the sacred form of human self alienation has been discovered. Thus criticism of heaven is transformed into criticism of the earth, criticism of religion into criticism of law, criticism of theology into criticism of politics."

    Let me repeat the highlighted phrase: "The suppression of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the premise of its real happiness."

    In other words, for Marx, the philosopher has to first expose the 'evil' of religion as a precondition for righting the wrongs of society. If that is not putting the rejection of God at the very heart of his thinking - which is the basis of the communism of the Soviet bloc - then I don't know how one can interpret his words. Thus atheism is not peripheral to communism, but is fundamental to it.

    The philosophy of materialism (in other words, atheism) has been applied socially and politically, and has proven to be a disaster. Those are the facts, and anyone with intellectual integrity should be prepared to face up to this.

    As for the meaning of the word 'secular' - fair point concerning the dictionary definition. But I was using the term in its accepted application in the countries which you listed. These countries do not define the word 'secular' as 'atheistic', but as denoting a tolerance towards a plurality of views. Are you disputing that reality and the policies these countries pursue?

  • Comment number 36.

    And to think you once accused me of being too sensitive!

    I think you just make up the rules as you go along. That's presumably the secular way!


    Yeah well, I just assumed there was some middle ground between complaining that someone is trying to silence you when they disagree with you and calling them fundamentalist bigots.

  • Comment number 37.

    A disaster? Which history are you reading?

    From what I can see, humanity has never had it so good; there are more people than ever, and more of them enjoy a relatively good standard of living, especially those in 'secular' countries.

    If you're referring to 'atheistic' countries like those you've given examples of, they didn't fail due to their supposed atheism, but from failures in other aspects of their idiology and from the base greed and materialism of their leaders.

    You're refusing to accept that the most prosperous and 'happy' countries (measured in a variety of things) are the most secular.

    Also, atheism is not a cause, it's an absence of religious belief. Religion is a cause, and people use it as one, therefore I can point and say 'they're doing that because they're religous'. You'd be hard pressed to point at people and say 'they're doing that because they're atheists'.

  • Comment number 38.

    @ logica_sine_vanitate

    "I am a great believer in sanity, light and progress and a rejection of superstition. That's why I'm not an atheist. You need too much faith for that."

    The above made about as much sense as the rest of your disingenuous, religious propaganda.
    Underneath all that vacuousness is the sad, simple fact that, you believe in a personal, invisible sky fairy, seemingly full of hate and vengence for anyone who doesn't fit the dogma. Whose earthly PR teams spread this righteous hate, and pretend to know what he wants... but then seem more interested in social manipulation and powermongering than anything you could call spirituality. And there are so many of them, all wanting their religion to be the dominant one.

    You might like an invisible sky fairy dictating your life, but many don't,thats why we need a secular state, not a theocratic nightmare.

  • Comment number 39.

    yes we should keep religion out of politics also the easter bunny, santa clause and the loch ness monster should be kept out as well

  • Comment number 40.

    Natman (#32)

    I'm sorry my comments seem to irritate you (!), but I really can't apologise for defending and teaching the truth of te Bible - it is, sort of, my job! (Besides, if annoying people was forbidden on this blog, it would be as quiet as a dentist's waiting room!)

    Let me just say that the credentials of the Bible, as the foundation of the Christian faith,are very sound and its positive effects are well documented for those who care to check it out.

    Well worth doing.....though you might find the facts at odds with your initial assumption - and you just might be annoyed!!

  • Comment number 41.

    Religion of any kind should, in my opinion, be kept out of all aspects of public life, not just politics. It has no place in schools, for instance. Children should not be exposed to what is often hypocritical dogma until they are at least 18 and then should be given a choice whether or not to attend religious services. It is my firm belief that this course of action would end religion as a problem in politics within two generations. If a politician were to tell me that they were an athiest, my respect for them would rise from zero to possibly 1%.

  • Comment number 42.

    Natman:

    And to think that I've been accused of dodging questions!

    Hilarious.

    I'll assume I've won on this thread, given that my points have not been answered...

    These are:

    1) the necessity of philosophical materialism in Marxism
    2) logical inconsistency re Nick Clegg's views
    3) the role of the church in the development of health and education
    4) the non-atheistic understanding of secularism in the countries you listed
    5) the explanation of the causal connection between atheism and social justice
    6) the justification for blaming Christians for the evils of Islamic nations

    What a truly sumptuous smorgasbord of ideas I've been so good as to lay out before you, and you won't even touch them! That's gratitude for you.

    I'll have to keep a note of this thread, so next time I'm accused of running away, I'll dig it out of the file.

    secularJen

    Bought your ticket for Pyongyang yet?

    (I'm not going to bother dealing with your childish caricature, as I've already well and truly refuted this desperate approach. No use reinventing the wheel, is it? Happy reading!)

  • Comment number 43.

    Just to dip my toe into what I've been skinning over up there...any kind of system wherein personal thought/judgment/common sense is deferred to a higher power has proven extremely morally bankrupt. Religious thought has always provoked this...the Crusades, the Salem Witch Trials, the Inquisition etc. Stalinism is also guilty of this, but it's not at all because of its Atheism that Stalinism deserves to be remembered badly; it's the morbid authoritarianism that offends the sensibilities. The higher power was Stalin; Stalin was God. Far from being completely un-religious, as you'd expect from a nominally Atheist system, Stalinism coopted the power of religious thought patterns to form its own cult-like power structure, with Stalin at the top being worshipped. North Korea's generally considered Stalinist in its style of government.

    In Stalinism's case, it was the necessity of war that created the necessity for authority. In religion's case, it is the belief in God (or an imaginary authority) that makes it so easy for the religious to form structures of authority, and therefore their abuse. Every religion eventually forms a power structure, and that power structure, like ever other, is sugject to abuse.

    I'm all for religion being left out of politics. There's nobody to vote for in Northern Ireland; as an Atheist, no politician is interested in my vote, and besides, the religious sheep-people continue to vote in line with their religious bloc as they always have. It's in no politician's interest to break up this cosy arrangement. The cost of bringing forward any policy proposals which see cross-community support is the risk of breaking up an extremely dependable power base, along with costing the individual any chance of being elected if he DOES try, because the jingoists on either side will drown him out.

    Thus, religion has deinied me the usefulness of my vote. In Northern Ireland, secularism is a myth. If Unionists wanted to be part of the UK so bad, they should think about running the country a bit more like the rest of the UK. If the nationalists want to be part of the Republic so badly, they should think about making the case on economic and cultural terms, because the "discrimination based on religion" argument has disappeared.

    Religion has proven extremely damaging, even in America, where heroes such as Benjamin Franklin had the foresight to seperate Church and State when drafting the constitution of their new country. They did this because, given the plurality of religious thought within their borders, and given the fact that religions, by their absolute philosophies, cannot help but attempt to place themselves above other religions in value and validity, to offer any one strand of religious thought a place at the table of government immediately disenfranchised everyone who didn't belong to that school of thought.

    Despite this, religion has proven detrimental. For example, can anyone argue with the assertion that George W Bush, had he been questioned more thoroughly on his policy choices rather than allowed to pander to his religious beliefs, would never have been elected? His expressions of religious conviction gave him hegemony in some states without one word of policy having to be discussed. Few presidents have been remembered with as little kindness.

    On the other hand, President Kennedy was extremely close to losing the election he won because of an anti-Catholic bloc vote. If that had succeeded, Nixon would've been in government from 1960 onwards. Would we really have wanted that guy on the Presidential hot seat when he was younger, and had more energy and ideas with which to run amok?

    I've got no problems with religious people running for office, but they shouldn't be given a free ride. People deserve their politicians to be scrutinised thoroughly on policy choices, and public expression of religion by politicians allows them to something to hide behind. This is both out of peoples' natural deference to religion (which appalls me, and which I challenge at every opportunity), and because people naturally assume that policies will follow on naturally from religious conviction (it rarely, if ever does).

  • Comment number 44.

    As any "West Wing" fan can tell you, keeping God out of government is one thing.

    Keeping God out of politics is impossible.

    Even Stalin couldn't manage to keep God out of his politics! He needed the support of Russian Orthodoxy (a) to appease Roosevelt (b) to fuel support of Mother Russia.


    Deckard

  • Comment number 45.

    @ logica_sine_vanitate

    I guess blind arrogance goes with your blind faith. It always makes me laugh when I see someone who believes in fairytales calling other people childish. When you cut through all the pseudo intellectual tripe that is theology, you're left with the pathetic caricature of life which is - theistic religion and your imaginary dictator.

    Why would I want a ticket to Pyongyang? I don't follow the Juche idea, I'm not a communist- certainly not a stalinist, I despise the Cult of personality and any other form of dictatorship. And to give some weight to your ridiculous statement - Why don't you get your ticket to...oh yeah...that's right, the rate at which Christianity is dying out...better just save your cash.

  • Comment number 46.

    Very good LSV,
    Enough with the smoke and mirrors. Lets move beyond the extended straw man arguments of what atheists are and return to what atheism is, i.e. The rejection of belief in the existence of deities. Now that wide church might include Marxists, Stalinists, abortionists, materialists, and even politicians, big deal. So are you going to give us evidence for your supernaturalism or is it more fun to continue to play Pigeon Chess?

  • Comment number 47.

    Pastorphilip,

    "Of course, this particular 'ancient scribbling' has a habit of proving to be both true and astonishingly up-to-date. It certainly never said that the earth was flat"

    No of course you're right there, it never did. Just that (depending on which language you read it in, and which of the multitude of translations within one language) it has 4 corners. But never let such inconvenient bits get in the way of telling a nice kids story.

  • Comment number 48.

    LSV,

    Sincere advice from me to you here.

    "I'll assume I've won on this thread"

    It's much better if others (best if it's opponents in a debate, rather than those agreeing with you already anyway) hand you victory than claiming it for yourself. The latter would add a sort of Graham of the gaps side to your status.

  • Comment number 49.

    @LSV 43

    Hmm, Messrs Dunning and Kruger may have a bearing on your claim, but if it makes you happy here's your prize.

    A few observations, though. Your argument in the Cleggy case can be reduced in a similar way to your argument about the mouschtachio'd psychopath: Cleggy says he doesn't believe in god, which implies atheism, Cleggy also says he is open to faith, which implies agnosticism. To you, atheism is nasty and agnosticism is nice. To you, Cleggy is nice, therefore he is not an atheist. Ok, simplisitic, but I can't find anything in your posts that contradict the interpretation.

    Not that I care whether he is an atheist, Westboro Baptist or a Hare Krishna. I won't be gulled into voting for his brand of power for power's sake politics again and that's a fact.

    Hennyway, there are a few problems with claiming that social justice is a product of Christianity and all that is white cat strokingly evil is not. Firstly, as Natman pointed out, the history of Western civilisation didn't begin with Christianity. I'm sure I don't need to remind someone as steeped in philosophy as you of its origins in Ancient Greece. Ditto democracy. Again, as Natman says, Scandinavian culture was heavily influenced by its pre Christian past, as was ours.

    Also, if you want to claim schools and hospitals and such social justice we enjoy today as the outworking of Christianity, don't you have to accept the global social inequalities as well? The shape of the world with a minority controlling the wealth and the power and the rest feeding on scraps from our table is in large measure the result of the history of Christian European Civilisation and it's subjugation of large parts of the rest of the world. Of course, the Russian Revolution is also part of that history. So, I'm sorry, you have to accept that one for Jeebus, too.

    Or, you might consider that, entertaining as it is to argue about religion and atheism, the truth is a tad more complicated than it was god/not god wot done it. You can construct just as convincing an argument that Western civilisation got where it did because during the Enlightenment philosophy and science threw off the shackles of religious dogma. It's a highly un-nuanced view, but no dafter than yours.

  • Comment number 50.

    1) the necessity of philosophical materialism in Marxism

    Strawman, completely irrelevant to the question of politics and religion given there have been no true Marxist states, nor will there ever be.

    2) logical inconsistency re Nick Clegg's views

    He's a politician. He said he was an atheist, then tempered that to appease the religious right.

    3) the role of the church in the development of health and education

    Strawman, non-christian organisations have been just as important in developing both of them and this isn't about their development, but the inclusion of religion in politics today.

    4) the non-atheistic understanding of secularism in the countries you listed

    Strawman. Secular means atheist. Just because you want to adapt the meaning to fit your own worldview is irrelevant.

    5) the explanation of the causal connection between atheism and social justice

    I refer you to the list of countries I've already mentioned, all of whom are secular, all of whom have high levels of social justice. I'll add South Korea to that list. Where are your religious states with equal claims to social justice LSV?

    6) the justification for blaming Christians for the evils of Islamic nations

    Er... what? I don't ever recall doing that. Are you so reduced to banging home your point you're making accusations up?

    Looks like you havn't won afterall....

  • Comment number 51.

    secularJen -

    Oh, I've given you a laugh, have I? How nice. I am pleased for you.

    Scanning your posts (and I use the word 'scan' rather than 'read', because I can see clearly that there's nothing of depth there) the word 'bitter' comes to mind. Not to mention the word 'ignorant'.

    As for North Korea.... ermm, it's an atheistic state. Yes, there's worship of man, which kinda fits nicely with atheism, don't ya think? There's certainly no time for this 'nasty' thing called 'religion'.

    They may call their flavour of atheism 'juche', but if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck etc... (Should we apply Natman's and grokesx's Nick Clegg rule here, I wonder? "Mr Kim Jong-Il, do you and your country believe in God?" Answer: "No". Therefore atheism. Simple.)

    Christianity dying out? Sorry, but we've been there before. That's what they said in the USSR (not to mention the Roman Empire), and they even tried to help the 'death' along. Seems like they failed. I wonder why? (Another word springs to mind: truth).

    Like I wrote before, it takes a lot of faith to be an atheist. I can't quite make the great leap of faith across the philosophical Grand Canyon to believe that the complexity of life can magically self-assemble. I'm not into superstition, so little 'unbelieving and sceptical' me will just have to settle for the more rational explanation (i.e. intelligent cause).

    Go on, have another little giggle, if that makes you happy...

  • Comment number 52.

    @logica_sine_vanitate

    thanks - HAHAHAHAHA ... though it was more a belly laugh than a 'giggle'
    The ignorance is all your own.

  • Comment number 53.

    Christianity dying out? Sorry, but we've been there before. That's what they said in the USSR (not to mention the Roman Empire), and they even tried to help the 'death' along. Seems like they failed. I wonder why? (Another word springs to mind: truth).

    Are you saying that there is a relationship between the number of people who hold a belief and the truth of that belief? Are you saying that as there are about 2 billion christians, 1.5 billion muslims and 1 billion hindus, then Islam is three quarters as true as Christianity while Hinduism is half as true?

    I know you can't be saying that - with you being so spot on logically, you wouldn't dream of going all argumentum ad populum on us.

  • Comment number 54.

    LSV @51
    it takes a lot of faith to be an atheist. I can't quite make the great leap of faith across the philosophical Grand Canyon to believe that the complexity of life can magically self-assemble

    Like it says on the tin, no faith required, but if the best evidence you have is Teleological, enjoy your god of the gaps!

  • Comment number 55.

    Look what happened to the Labour party when they were led by atheists in the past, they were taken into the political wilderness. It was a Presbyterian who started to lead them out into the promised land of government, but unfortunately he never seen the land of milk and honey, but he did point them in the right direction. The past record of Labour, under the leadership of an atheist doesn’t look good.

  • Comment number 56.

    paul james,

    It's not only teleogical, but an argument of ignorance. LSV is incapable of looking into the evidence and theories that explain how such things as the Grand Canyon can arise naturally through a lot of erosion, so he complicates matters by adding in another parameter; an intelligent agent who, presumably, is easily explained and easily proven, unlike that pesky erosion thing.

  • Comment number 57.

    paul james (@ 54) -

    "Like it says on the tin, no faith required, but if the best evidence you have is Teleological, enjoy your god of the gaps!"

    Oh, yes I will do. And you enjoy your 'materialism of the gaps' too.

    By the way... if your materialism is not based on 'faith', then I assume you can provide me with the following evidence:

    1. An irrefutable theory of abiogenesis (which explains not only the 'natural' creation of life but also its protection and sustenance throughout millions of years).

    2. Direct evidence that this event actually occurred.

    Provide me with answers to these two simple questions, and then your comment about 'no faith required' would have some credibility.

    Gosh, I'm looking forward to your answer to this. It'll be truly eye-opening, I am sure!

    I'll interpret silence and fudge in the appropriate way.

  • Comment number 58.

    LSV,

    1. Given the lack of other any plausible theories to explain its cause, abiogenesis is the prime theory. The technical details need work, but as a hypothesis it's robust and well researched. I suggest you look into it, no faith required!

    2. Life exists. It occured. The specific details are being worked on.

    Are you a qualified biochemist well versed in the appropriate sciences? How's your knowledge of the chemistry involved in the prevailing abiogensis conditions? Why, as I assume you have no relevant knowledge, do you feel qualified enough to question what is a highly technical and very complex matter and demand simple questions in a forum post?

    There are a -lot- of research papers out there, all of them highly well researched and properly peer reviewed. If you truely wanted answers to your questions, you'd be looking them up. As it is, you're just waiting for someone, most possibly without those qualifications either, to say "I don't know" or "I can't prove it" just to jump on them with "FAITH! FAITH! GOD EXISTS AS YOU CAN'T PROVE YOUR IDEAS!"

    Howe about you give us some evidence to show how your ideas have more merits?

  • Comment number 59.

    LSV
    Yet another switcheroo, I have provided you with a definition of an atheist and the onus remains on you as a christianist to provide evidence for your god. Nope? I didn't think so.

  • Comment number 60.

    Natman (@ 58) -

    Well, as usual you've just totally misunderstood my question. It was to do with the question about 'faith', and the claim that the materialistic explanation required no faith.

    I am not disputing that faith is required for the theistic explanation, but that was not my question (although, as I say, in my opinion less faith is required for that explanation than for the materialistic one).

    Now, unless you can come up with some proof, then we are BOTH in the 'faith' camp.

    Do try to read posts properly before jumping to conclusions.

    By the way... even if some plausible mechanism is found by which to explain how the incredible complexity and intricacy of life arose purely naturally from non-living matter (without the need for an external organising influence), it can only be held to be true if the philosophy of materialism is first assumed. This is such a simple, straightforward epistemological point, and I'm amazed you just can't see it. You seem to think that, 'of course', materialism is true, and it is just a matter of time before it is proven to be true once all the plausible theories are assembled. If that is not 'faith', then I don't know what is!

    If you still don't understand what I am saying, let me give you an example from a completely unrelated discipline, that has nothing to do with contentious world views: the etymology of the word 'London'.

    There has been a debate for hundreds of years as to the etymology of the word 'London'. Numerous theories have been proposed, and some are more plausible than others. But, as it says in the Wiki article, "The etymology of the name of the city of London has been the subject of speculation for centuries, though no generally accepted explanation has been found. While there have been many theories advanced over the centuries, most can be dismissed as fanciful on linguistic or historical grounds. A few have been recognized as having some measure of academic plausibility, but none has any direct evidence."

    So even if you get to the stage of constructing a plausible theory about something, it still cannot be proven to be true without direct evidence. It remains a theory, and therefore can only be believed on the basis of some other philosophical presupposition, which is held 'in faith'.

    Isn't it strange how the rules are different when they concern an uncontroversial and innocuous linguistic debate about the origin of the word London - which has absolutely no world view implications. Academics are very happy, in this instance, to manage knowledge properly and submit to coherent rules of epistemology. But, of course, in a debate that does have personal world view implications, these rules are recklessly violated and even abandoned.

    I hope that eventually this point may actually get through to you. I am not holding my breath.

  • Comment number 61.

    LSV,

    However, there is a city and it's called London, therefore it must've been named London. The fact that it was named London is not under doubt.

    The same is true of abiogensis. There is no doubt that it occured, only the mechanisms involved. Or I should say the -specific- mechanisms. Like I've mentioned already, there is a lot of research work done on it and the general conditions and processes are fairly well established.

    You're not a biochemist, why you feel upto questioning the process is a mystery to me.

  • Comment number 62.

    Natman (@ 61) -

    As this discussion is drifting off topic (in the usual way), I am about to put my reply to your last post on an open thread.

  • Comment number 63.

    If there is a God he or she should be kept in his or her place and that is a place of worship whatever that is.

  • Comment number 64.

    Sorry team - coming to this very late, and haven't caught up on all the discussions yet. I have no objection to people bringing up their religion in politics, but there is no reason why that should give them a right to not be challenged. If their argument is that we should do X because Amun-Re or Yahweh commands it, then they deserve all the ridicule they get. If they can make a convincing non-religious case for whatever they propose, then that is fine, and it can be discussed on that basis.

    In the marketplace of ideas, only religion seems to feel it should get a free ride in an armoured tank. That is ending.

  • Comment number 65.

    Even though religious governments may have a sorry history, atheist governments have an even worse record.

  • Comment number 66.

    "If their argument is that we should do X because Amun-Re or Yahweh commands it, then they deserve all the ridicule they get."

    What we need is a new set of Sorrellian myths to unify our broken society

  • Comment number 67.

    I have just been reading an interesting thing in my newspaper. Druidism, in the UK, is to have the status of a official religion, just like Christianity. Strangely the body that decides these matters is the Charities Commission. Is it now time then, for the peoples of these islands, to return to their traditional religious culture and reject the alien middle eastern stuff? Now some of you may think that this Druidism is ancient hokum and old men in white beards and robes ridiculous, but that has never been a problem for other faiths.

  • Comment number 68.

    rochcarlie, I hope your paper isn't the Daily Mail? They have some really daft people writing for them.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1317490/Druids-official-religion-Stones-Praise-come.html?ITO=1490

    The quote from Melanie Philips that will burst your irony meter is this one:

    "Some might shrug this off. After all, the Druids don’t do any harm to anyone. What skin is it off anyone else’s nose how they are categorised? Well, it actually matters rather a lot. Elevating them to the same status as Christianity is but the latest example of how the bedrock creed of this country is being undermined. More than that, it is an attack upon the very concept of religion itself."

    To which one of the commenters justly sneered

    "The bedrock creed of this country? Hahahahahahahahahaha. Oh my, take a walk outside, Mel...see that stone circle? Jesus made that!"

  • Comment number 69.

    rochcarlie 67

    You make a fair point about "that never being a problem for other faiths". People will laugh at the idea of Getafix and his potions, but when it comes to a bloke called Jesus they'll assure you that he definitely did come back to life after being executed! This is magic mushroom stuff in my view.

    What charitable work does the Druid Network do?

  • Comment number 70.

    Thanks for the link PK. Although I usually make a effort to avoid the Mail and Melanie Phillips, I did enjoy that.

  • Comment number 71.

    newlach,

    On the Resurrection of Jesus....you sound like someone who hasn't checked out the evidence. I encourage you to get to it!

  • Comment number 72.

    Pastorphillip,

    "On the Resurrection of Jesus....you sound like someone who hasn't checked out the evidence. I encourage you to get to it!"

    What evidence is that? The bible? Do you have independant evidence to support your unsubstantiated claims?

    You said in an earlier comment "Let me just say that the credentials of the Bible, as the foundation of the Christian faith,are very sound and its positive effects are well documented for those who care to check it out."

    The bible, aside from the fact it's old and lots of people have one, has zero credentials for historical accuracy. Compared to other manuscripts dated from the same or earlier time periods, the bible is considered particulary suspect in both it's modern translations and the sources from which earlier versions were compiled.

    I suggest you look into it, you might be suprised!

  • Comment number 73.

    pastorphilip,

    As you are still about, could you tell us which version of god or religion or christianity or indeed protestantism should be "in Politics". Perhaps we should stick by our own Druidic roots and get rid of this middle eastern philosophical Johnny come lately interloper that seems to be the current fashion.

  • Comment number 74.

    Natman,

    You are obviously unaware of the fact that the Bible is very well attested by amnuscript evidence. You might check out, for example, Professor FF Bruce's book 'The New Testament Documents: Are they reliable?' But the idea that the Bible has .."zero credentials for historical accuracy' would be laughed out of court by any ancient historian you care to ask.

    On the Resurrection of Christ, you might read a study of the subject like 'Who moved the Stone?' by Frank Morison. I submit that it is a crucial pillar of Christian belief (as Paul pointed out in 1 Corinthians 15), but - like other aspects of Christian doctrine - it has nothing to fear from honest investigation.

    You could treat that as your homework assignment for this week!

  • Comment number 75.

    Pastorphilip. There just is no "evidence" for a resurrection. You can choose believe the impossible, that a man came back from the dead or the more probable, that a man told a tale.

  • Comment number 76.

    Hi Pastorphilip, I would encourage you not to waste your time answering some of these folks....they are not interested in anything that involves your faith and mine. They are absolutely not prepared to step outside of their own world that is influenced by philosophies and science. All they will do is continue to cry out for proof....and they will continue to do so on these blogs.


    I am sure you know the verse of scripture that points to the fact that the god of this world has blinded their eyes.



  • Comment number 77.

    This is a fascinating debate. Thanks to LSV and pastorphilip in particular for giving me a good laugh at the utter and complete nonsense they've spouted.
    Proof that god exists = zero
    Evidence for creationism = zero
    Evidence for intelligent design = zero
    Biblical silliness and outright errors = substantial/overwhelming
    Set against these points is the massive swathes of evidence for evolution and the myriad of other issues that help lead the athiest/agnostic to enlightenment.
    Anyone want to tell me where i'm wrong? Facts? Figures? Or will it be the usual 'for the bible tells me so'?
    Saint Thomas Aquinas said: "Clearly the person who accepts the Church as an infallible guide will believe whatever the Church teaches"
    Martin Luther sang this little ditty: "Reason must be deluded, blinded, and destroyed. Faith must trample underfoot all reason, sense, and understanding, and whatever it sees must be put out of sight and ... know nothing but the word of God"

    LSV and pastorphil...that's you, that is.

  • Comment number 78.

    I still don't get the atheism vs god argument. Why can't you have a scientific mind, believe in evolution and everything that goes with that and still be religious? -I am- well I'm at least spiritual.

    If, for one moment we're able to stop taking sides , isn't it possible to conceive that God created everything in the known/unknown universe and a scientific/ enquiring mind is what's needed to unlock the knowledge out there

    Personally, I cant believe in one religious book over another and I haven't read the Bible, but as an outsider to it all, if Christianity is entirely focused on Christ, then why have an old testament part and why focus on anything anyone else writes in it unless it directly revolves around Christ. I'm sure if you did that- you'd end up with a much softer , humane, inclusive religion many more people would feel apart of.

    As Crawley says, a religious outlook impacts on areas many Politicians wish to tackle in Society. It's important to know how decisions are reflected by belief. Many seem to be scrambling for a cohesive structure that allow individuals to benefit the society they're in. Many great humanist movements that sprang from the victorian age did so out of a spiritual or religious conviction. In the UK at least- I think the Church of England/ Archbishop of Caterbury should embrace a more inclusive Christian take on Spiritual Humanism to unite a society that still needs a religious/spiritual voice- but is shut down by the conversative/fundamentalist elements on either extreme.

  • Comment number 79.

    There's no reason why it isn't possible to be an atheist and believe in god. To be atheist is to put at the centre of one's life that which one says does not exist. Yet theism/God is acknowledged in the very word itself. If there was no god we would have no need of atheism for there would be nothing to be without, we can only be without that which is, or that which is within. The whole concept of religious atheism or believing atheism makes perfect sense, that which we are without is within.
    that which is within, we live without. That which is not, is and that which is,
    is not.

  • Comment number 80.

    gigbonads may want to look at what I have to say about the definition of masculinity elsewhere.

  • Comment number 81.

    Too many people seem to equate atheism with some form of active anti-religion To ease their persecuation complex, they constantly imagine that those who don't believe in god, somehow, threaten their own faith; as if non-faith sucks the faith out of others.

    I'm sorry to destroy this illusion, but if those with a faith and religion kept it to themselves and didn't try to make everyone else suffer from their own ethics and morals, I'd keep my atheism to myself.

    However, it seems impossible for those with a religion NOT to insert their values into other peoples lives, even those people who don't believe the same things they do. One big reason why religion and politics should never, ever mix. cDesign isn't science, blasphemy isn't a heinous crime, your religion isn't 'better' than anyone else's, it certainly doesn't deserve special rights and, finally, you can't use your faith to be discriminatory about other people.

  • Comment number 82.

    I think I deleted a couple of sentences by accident, but I think it still makes sense

  • Comment number 83.

    deckard
    So god exists because atheists don't believe in it? Wow!
    That is which, is not what.

  • Comment number 84.

    Natman: sad fact is people do use religion to be discriminatory against others - frequently! So rather than 'can't' perhaps 'you should not use your faith to be discriminatory about other people'. Religion as it stands in the world is responsible for alot of evil-doing and man's inhumanity to man borne out of ignorance and fear. That said, it's not just in religion but widespread amongst humanity - even in very small ways that people disrespect one another - even atheists do it!

  • Comment number 85.

    Eunice, you're so right.

    Atheists have as much right to be idiots as everyone else, some of the biggest idiots in recent history were atheists.

    However, at least they have the good grace not to try and claim they're doing it for a higher purpose or for rewards in another world.

  • Comment number 86.

    Paul

    I am used to saying this to friends... "You misrepresent what I say"

    I did not say that God existed, nor did I provide an argument for what I cannot envisage or infer! I did not say that God did not exist! Such statements and arguments mean nothing --- they can only do violence!!!In fact atheism and theism are inextricably opposed AND linked!!!!

    I suppose one could say "I can’t believe its not belief!"LOL!

    It’s not a matter of believing that god exists because a atheist (not atheist) does or does not believe in god. It has more to do with why we would think it is important not to believe.

    In other words the more we realise why we "believe" in "not believing" the less we will be troubled with "belief". In this way theism is a kind of atheism, and atheism a kind of theism.

    Look at this another way - The question has been asked- 'to be-lieve "or" not to be-lieve?' But have we any need of the "or"? Or could we use a Boolean "OR"?

    Perhaps what we must ask is, "is it permissible to believe AND not believe." (Is that a question?)

    Must we do violence and resolve what cannot be resolved? What should never be resolved?

  • Comment number 87.

    Natman

    "However, it seems impossible for those with a religion NOT to insert their values into other peoples lives"

    My point entirely and exactly!I'm glad SOMEONE is following me! Of course the converse is true, but I suspect that you know this.

  • Comment number 88.

    Deckard

    Sorry old chap, still don't get your banter.

  • Comment number 89.

    Deckard: why do you say it cannot be resolved and should never be resolved?? Could this just be your way of saying you feel you cannot resolve it and therefore stop even endeavouring to ?? Personally I disagree that it cannot be resolved - it is our divine heritage to resolve it - if we so choose. And that does not require imposing one's values onto anyone.

  • Comment number 90.

    "My point entirely and exactly!I'm glad SOMEONE is following me! Of course the converse is true, but I suspect that you know this."

    The converse of my statement would be "it seems impossible for those without a religion to insert their values into other people's lives" - as in for those, like me, who don't have a religious faith, we cannot force our values on others. I'd like that to be true, but alas, atheists can be as aggresive as theists.

    It's quite simple; if you follow a religous faith and are in politics, you should never let the values and teachings of that faith influence your policy unless said values and teachings are universal. Otherwise, you're using your position of power to force your beliefs onto other people who might follow different moral structures.

  • Comment number 91.

    Natman

    But, by the mere fact that you raise the possibility of being non-religious, you make "A Secular Age" possible.

    We cannot help but impose our values --- though you are correct, we should not *aggressively* impose our will.

    Paul

    My point is that in being consciously non-religious you are in fact acknowledging the power and attraction of religion.

    Eunice

    If a question can only be resloved by an act of the will, the result is violence.

  • Comment number 92.

    The Boolean "OR" can take one part of the disjunction, or both.

  • Comment number 93.

    Deckard: can you expand please - cos at the minute I disagree with what you are saying but I may not have the full understanding of what you are saying!

  • Comment number 94.

    Eunice

    I should condense rather than expand. We cannot define God, or conceive him fully, so in some sense every believer cannot truly believe in God. The atheist is is a double bind. He cannot conceive of what he does not believe in -

    and his whole identity is based on what he rejects. he must take the idea serious;y enough to protest against it. There is more belief in the atheist than in the "casual" believer.


  • Comment number 95.

    The interesting thing here is that is is impossible (not) (or ever) to be a believer, or an unbeliever as it is impossible never to be (non) political. Even if we wish to be apolitical we recognise to reality not only of politics but also of those who do not wish to be political. The same is the case with atheism/theism. Even Marge Simpson is a political icon.

  • Comment number 96.

    I am a bit confused so let me say what I think you are saying deckard.

    The question has been asked- 'to be-lieve "or" not to be-lieve?' But have we any need of the "or"? Or could we use a Boolean "OR"

    ORing something (believe) with the not (not believe) of itself will always achieve the same result - believe. As you have essentially cancelled out the possibility of non believe (as the only way of getting the non believe from an OR gate is two non beliefs but as one input is always the inverse of the other this is an impossibility).

    But, you have fixed the result from the start by linking the inputs and then using the output as proof that there is a linkage which you initially created.

    So you have conjectured a theory (belief and non belief are linked) and then created a truth table which can only produce the result you want because you have linked the inputs prior to the operation of the logic you are proposing.

    It's a bit like saying all smarties which go through a pipe are blue and then standing and painting all the smarties blue before they go into the pipe.

    "is it permissible to believe AND not believe."

    Boolean logic would dictate that result is always a not believe.

    So

    Believe OR NOT Believe = believe
    Believe AND NOT Believe = not believe

    The Boolean "OR" can take one part of the disjunction, or both

    Which basically means if any input is true then the answer is true, and if it is fixed so that one input is always the inverse of the other then the answer is always true.

    My point is that in being consciously non-religious you are in fact acknowledging the power and attraction of religion.

    being consciously non religious implies a decision whereas it is simply an absence of religion (or belief), it still does not stop you acknowledging the power and attraction of religion it simply means you do not acknowledge its validity or credibility.


  • Comment number 97.

    deckard_aint_a_replicant - to misquote from 'When Harry Met Sally'; i'll have what he's having.
    Being an athiest/agnostic certainly doesn't mean you put what you DON'T belive at the centre of your life. On the contrary, life is lived without the 'input' of invisible friends, nor the need to follow daft rules laid down by sheep herders a couple of millenia ago.
    The reality is that non-belief is based (usually) on rational examination of the facts, theories and stories presented to us. Using reason it becomes clear that the fairy tales hammered into us since childhood are just a little bit silly and should have no place in the modern world. After that, the entire idea of religion is laughable. So much time and energy is wasted by people on the pursuit of impossible ideals and systems of belief that stifle and deny the very fabric of life itself. It's a case of opening ones eyes to the reality of the universe and marvelling at it; no neeed for Yaweh, Allah, Thor, Jupiter, Gaea or any of the pantheon of Gods. That we are here at all is amazing, and bringing religion into it only casts a pointless and false shadow over what should be a bright future for us all.

  • Comment number 98.

    One more thing, as Columbo would say:
    Would I vote Labour just because the leader of the party has 'confessed' to being an athiest? No. Would I AVOID voting for Labour if the leader of the party came out and said he was on a mission from God? Absolutely! If only for that, religion should play no part in politics. Political decisions must be made based on policies, surely? I live in Northern Ireland and, believe me, I see first hand how bad things are when other agendas (religious and tribal) take precedence over proper politics.

  • Comment number 99.

    Dave

    You are entirely correct. The Boolean OR does not suit my purposes at all. This was an unfortunate mistake on my part, and I am glad that I made it under a pseudonym.

    D-a-a-R

  • Comment number 100.

    However I do believe that life, as we experience it, is set up in the way that you describe. However the Smarties tumble, we end up
    (not)religious. This seems inescapable.

 

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