Thursday, July 24, 2008

The emergence of the Conservative Humanist Association

And why not? The Conservative Party has various diverse fora dedicated to Conservative Christians, Conservative Jews, Conservative Muslims, Conservative Hindus (no Sikhs or Jedi). Not to mention the various cults of inter alia Bruges, Animal Welfare, Way Forward and Rural Action. It is the very task of a political party in a liberal democracy to forge links across a very broad spectrum of popular appeal, and it therefore comes as no surprise that the Humanists should feel that their voice must be heard amidst the cacophony of voices vying for the ears of Conservative politicians in the hope of influencing policy. It is a symptom of postmodernity as society splinters into hundreds of sub-cultures and designer cults, each with its own language, code and life style.

Yet Jonathan Isaby of The Telegraph refers to the Conservative Humanist Society as ‘a potentially controversial new faction’.

All that he adduces to support this is their invitation to ‘the leader of the Atheist Opus Dei’ Professor Richard Dawkins, who has agreed to officially launch the group at the Conservative Party's conference in the autumn. But this is simply a logical consequence of the natural Protestant progression which began when the Church of England ceased being the Conservative Party at prayer. That great schism occurred during the reign of Margaret Thatcher, during which era one or two meddlesome priests went further than swimming the Tiber; they came out as Socialists.

But the Conservative Humanist Association is controversial for a number of other reasons. Its intolerance of the public role of religion in society is itself the very sort of extremism the Conservative Party ought to eschew if it is to remain a broad church. They assert that 'politics and religion do not mix', and point to Northern Ireland, the Middle East and the Balkans as 'very tangible proof'. Have they not considered the appalling consequences of humanism and atheism in a number of other nations throughout history? Militant secularism is an inviolable political creed and atheism itself seeks to propagate an absolutist worldview and infallible doctrine as repugnant as any it seeks to repudiate.

If religion is bad and God does not exist, the Conservative Humanist Party must oppose a very great deal of what Conservatism is supposed to conserve. Indeed, they refer to the Christian 'strangle-hold on our institutions of state'. Whilst one may legitimately question the relevance of the Established Church, or express concern over the discrimination inherent in having 26 bishops sitting in the House of Lords, this settlement is woven into the fabric of Parliament and is foundational to its functioning. But the Conservative Humanists must be opposed to the position of the Monarch as Supreme Governor of the Church of England, and thereby they seek to undermine the role of Christianity in the public sphere. At a superficial level they require that British coinage be reformed to eliminate ‘D G REG F D’, but at a much deeper level they seek to abolish all faith schools.

This is not only totalitarian; it is fundamentally anti-Conservative. By removing the individual right of parents to educate their children as they wish, they undermine their profession of Conservatism with the imposition of a bland Soviet conformity to their arid worldview. A liberal democracy ceases to be liberal when it attempts to prevent the passing on of those very foundations by virtue of which it has developed. The liberal state is obliged to listen if it is not to turn secularism into another tyranny. Liberalism Conservatism accommodates the Established Church and the public role of religion: indeed, disestablishment and the diminution of the role of Christianity are more likely to permit an absolutist ‘humanist’ liberalism to emerge which would be just as monolithic as the days when the church was sovereign.

38 Comments:

Blogger botogol said...

no doubt they are seeking to abolish *government funding* of faith schools, not faith schools per se.

And quite right too.

24 July 2008 at 11:20  
Anonymous oiznop said...

Botogol, Why? Don't Christians pay taxes? And Muslims and Jews? Why shouldn't our money fund a diverse education? If it's wrong for the State to 'indoctrinate' God and Christianity then it must also be wrong to indoctrinate Humanism. And if you can't see that you're a kind of fundamentalist yourself.

Cranmer, Dawkins isn't an Atheist Opus Dei, he's an Atheist Abu Hamza.

24 July 2008 at 11:27  
Blogger ultramontane grumpy old catholic said...

Richard Dawkins leader of the Atheist Opus Dei?

Surely Opus Diaboli, or perhaps Opus Neminis?

24 July 2008 at 11:37  
Blogger Cranmer said...

Mssrs Oiznop and Ultramontane Grumpy Old Catholic,

The reference is a quotation, and indicated as such.

24 July 2008 at 12:02  
Blogger botogol said...

oiznop: mormon state schools? scientologist state schools? moonie state schools? Jedi state schools? state schools which force the demons out of small childen by wrapping them up in towels and beating them?

How about GAFCON state schools where women may be teachers but not headteachers?

Or perhaps state schools which are allowed to pick and choose which (taxpaying) five-year olds they deign to educate, based on the religion of their parents? Oh, I forgot, we have those already, don't we?

24 July 2008 at 12:49  
Blogger John M Ward said...

Your Grace

You will be at least as aware as am I that the devil works in part by subverting good causes and organisations by exploiting their weaknesses. This looks very much like one example of that approach and methodology.

The beauty of it is that an outfit with that particular outlook won't be equipped to suss out what is being done to them. They are very vulnerable, and certainly gullible.

Dawkins is a one-dimensional thinker, with a deliberately narrowed view. I take no notice of him, as his only interest is in pursuing his own narrow agenda. The day that he can tell us where the material for the Universe originated, and why it all exists at all, I might give him some credence, but not one moment before. He is a dead end, with no purpose and no value beyond the trivial.

24 July 2008 at 13:12  
Anonymous oiznop said...

Botogol, not ideal, I grant you, but I'd prefer that to all the UK schools spouting the Gospel according to Botogol. As long as there's some sort of state inspection regime, I don't see much of a problem.

Your Grace, I see it was quoted, but I assumed your quotation indicated agreement.

24 July 2008 at 13:17  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always thought that in the Tory Party we had our atheists on a nice short leash and pretty much under control. Lord help us if we are to have our own version of Evan Harris. Maybe they are actually a lost tribe of Lib Dems!!

24 July 2008 at 14:22  
Anonymous Tory Taleban and proud of it said...

We do have our own version of Evan Harris.

His name is John Bercow.

24 July 2008 at 14:36  
Blogger Little Black Sambo said...

Have you a list of the members?

24 July 2008 at 15:37  
Blogger botogol said...

@oiznop - but those are not the alternatives before us: For instance neither the US or France have government-funded faith schools; but nor do they teach the gospel of botogol either.

24 July 2008 at 15:40  
Anonymous Martin Sewell said...

I think we ought to recognise the wisdom of my favourite American commentator and scourge of the liberal heathen left - Ann Coulter when she forensicallly takes apart the secularists and demonstrates that theirs is in fact " a faith position". Melanie Phillips has recently re-performed the operation succssfully on The Moral Maze.

As John M Ward points out the origins of the universe are no better explained by Dr D than by Genesis and whilst their abiding belief in Darwinism has been successfully asserted, nobody has ever been awarded a Nobel prize - or any other accolade - for PROVING that one creature can evolve into another. It is a working - and perhaps provisional - hypothesis , but as it has not been, and perhaps cannot be proven in terms of the standards required by science, it must of necessity remain a position of faith and nothing more.

As well as having a founding "myth" ( technically defined as a story that fits known/believed facts ) secularism also has secular saints, criticism of whom attracts a visceral response. Nelson Mandela, Che Guevara, JFK , and Barack Obama might be cases in point. They have their Satan - " Dubya" - obviously - and there are also core beliefs that are defended with passion, of which gay rights, Global Warming and the woman's right to choose are obvious examples.

You are plainly "one of them" if you subscribe to those propositions, and there is perhaps greater orthodoxy within the secular cult than within the good old C of E right now.

With such a collection of core attributes many secularist are more "religious" than they perhaps appreciate.

Incidentally many of them assume that religion is necessarily about God, plainly ignorant that some religions have no such feature.

I am happy to accept criticism or answer questions so long as they make no assumptions about me that will distract from the discussion in point.

For the avoidance of doubt, I am intellectually indifferent to how the Universe came into being and if God was happy to use Evolution it is no problem to me.

I regard Genesis as conveying at least deep spiritual truths in a cultural way, and assert that the evidence for Evolution is significantly weaker than many assume.

My current crisis of belief is limited to whether John Bercow is a Conservative. I am marginally more convinced by Genesis!

24 July 2008 at 16:00  
Blogger Homophobic Horse said...

I see what you mean Martin.

It is my personal belief that these cliquey groups are not exhibiting religious behaviour at all. I think the origin of their behaviour lies in existential horror at a seemingly absurd universe, a horror that they try to stonewall by frantically holding stable propositions about the order of things in their head and forming little groups to help reaffirm these assorted propositions. When you question these propositions, you get a response that is consistent with their anger at the absurd and cruel universe.

24 July 2008 at 17:01  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

NO WONDER WE ARE DEPICTED AS SHEEP IN THE BIBLE!
LEMMINGS MIGHT BE MORE APPROPRIATE WITH DAWKINS LEADING.
TO REJECT JESUS CHRIST IS TO CONDEMN YOURSELF TO BE YOUR OWN SAVIOR!.

24 July 2008 at 17:53  
Blogger botogol said...

A religion without a God is like a blog without comments :-)

I think that for a belief system to qualify as a 'religion' it needs to incluide at least one supernatural being doesn't it?

Otherwise it's a 'philosophy' or perhaps a plain old 'idea'

24 July 2008 at 17:55  
Blogger Cranmer said...

Mr Botogol,

This issue is presently before HM Government in respect of charity law, and it is fraught with difficulties.

Buddhism, for example, although classified as one of the six 'great religions' of the world, does not propose any dogma of a 'supernatural being', as you put it. If Buddhism is merely a 'philosophy', by what right do its adherents sit in multi-faith councils while those of (say) Kant or Marx are excluded?

Incidentally, there are many blogs without comments. In fact, one of His Grace's 'regular reads' rarely attracts a single comment, and Nadine Dorries' blog does not permit comments at all.

24 July 2008 at 18:08  
Blogger mckenzie said...

I can appreciate where His Grace is coming from, but with regards to Buddhism being compared with Marxism etc, There is a definite and strong supernatural, spiritual and theological aspect to Buddhism. For example: reincarnation, Karmic law, Bodhisattvas, and the birth of the Buddhas themselves. Although Buddha did not advocate any necessity to worship Gods, I think I have read somewhere that there is acknowledgment of their existence, such as the realm of the Hungry Ghosts.

24 July 2008 at 18:28  
Anonymous passer by said...

Ole David Hume the great infidel himself was seriously ahead of his time was he not?

24 July 2008 at 18:45  
Blogger Cranmer said...

"There is a definite and strong supernatural, spiritual and theological aspect to Buddhism."

Mr McKenzie,

As there is with Scientology, which various EU states view with suspicion (to put it mildly), and few would classify it as a 'religion'.

24 July 2008 at 18:57  
Anonymous Katy said...

Botogol;

Faith schools are not 100% state funded (well, I might be exaggerating slightly; I don't know the position in the CofE schools but certainly RC and Muslim ones aren't) they are funded usually on 50:50 lines. And as they are required to fit in no less non-religious education (languages, sciences, maths etc) than other schools and have no time to teach more religion than others, whyever should they not be 100% funded? They have to teach children about the same six main religions as other state schools are also required to do. If they happen to celebrate their religion's feast days, and have a moral ethos based round a religion, which is ultimately the only difference, what of it?

That well-known 'humanist' Polly Toynbee was on Newsnight a few months ago bleating that faith schools were not representative of their local communities, and in the same interview, that they were not 'comprehensive'. The two are mutually exclusive! A truly comprehensive school, which in my experience particularly the RC schools are, will not merely accept children from the local ghetto or gated community, so will be comprehensive. I was in the RC education system until I was sixteen and mixed with children of all faiths and none, and from a wide variety of social and racial backgrounds. We were all taught to respect each other. Only when I moved into the state system for 6th form did I encounter any prejudice, directed often by teachers at (how shall we say?) 'effette' boys and clearly religious pupuls, or find myself surrounded exclusively by people of my own economic and social background. There were only two racial groups, rather than the 9 there were in the RC schools, and the teachers didn't respect any pupil who wasn't white and a-religious (for want of a better term). Now, who had it right?

24 July 2008 at 18:57  
Blogger Francis said...

John Ward says of Richard Dawkins:
"The day that he can tell us where the material for the Universe originated, and why it all exists at all, I might give him some credence, but not one moment before. He is a dead end, with no purpose and no value beyond the trivial."

Serious thinkers consider what is, rather than getting stuck in fantasies about "where" things "originated" as if origin even at all is a given. Even more jejeune is the presumption that existence must be for a reason.

If Mr. Ward has a real criticism of Dawkins, let's hear it. Until then, Mr. Ward is a dead end, with no purpose and no value beyond the trivial.

24 July 2008 at 19:02  
Blogger mckenzie said...

It's a difficult one. I don't have any solutions, I have my faith and that will have to be enough for me: I am sure God has 'a man' in mind for the task of sorting such things out, but I can be sure it is not me.
Good luck who ever you are!

24 July 2008 at 20:28  
Blogger Francis said...

Blogger botogol said...

"A religion without a God is like a blog without comments :-)
"I think that for a belief system to qualify as a 'religion' it needs to include at least one supernatural being doesn't it?
"Otherwise it's a 'philosophy' or perhaps a plain old 'idea'"
....
... thereby excommunicating from "religion" at one fell swoop countless millions of adherents of religions in Sri Lanka, Burma, etc., who do not conform to the narrow view of "religion" held by the Abrahamic monotheists.

Remember last year seeing all those saffron-robed monks demonstrating for democracy on the streets of Rangoon? They will be surprised indeed to learn that their faith is not a "religion" because it does not require belief in a god. But hey, "we Christians" have the right to tell the rest of the world what "religion" means, don't we? So "take up the White Man's Burden" and straighten them out, right?

24 July 2008 at 20:42  
Anonymous hear o israel said...

I am trying to wonder , how this would work ?? what specific lobby groups would he/she entertain ??

are we now saying that as conservatism is opposing gay clergy , that they should revert back to humanist support ??.

I have met humanists and at first it all seems , intellectual very well re searched , just of matter of discovering which emotions you have substituted or have got tangled up with proper humanist ones .

i suppose in liberal thinking if you have a conservative religous association you must also have an anti religon group . It will be interesting to see how it shapes up or if it wishes to have theological debates (let us not forget that a year ago labour was having cabinet meetings on wether it thought god existed) or is merely envious of the power whielded by religous groups .

looks harmless enough for now , but is it thinking that equality is its end , oh dear seem to have been there before only they called it communism then !!

24 July 2008 at 21:21  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ALL THOSE WHO LEAD PEOPLE ASTRAY (LIKE THE JUDAS GOAT) WILL ULTIMATELY BE ANSWERABLE TO GOD.
WE WILL ALL ONE DAY BE ACCOUNTABLE FOR OUR WORDS AND ACTIONS!
HUMANISM IS MANS ATTEMPT TO BE GOD!.
THIS WOULD BE ABSURD IF IT WASN`T FOR THE FACT IT LED PEOPLE AWAY FROM THE TRUE GOD OF THE BIBLE.

24 July 2008 at 21:50  
Anonymous sunyata said...

Regarding Buddhist views on the EXISTENCE of GOD, first you've got to define your terms...

What do you mean by EXISTENCE?

And what do you mean by GOD?

24 July 2008 at 22:11  
Anonymous martin sewell said...

I think Francis needs to think through his position a little further in respect of the secular position which is that everything can be explained by science/reason.

When modern science begins to challenge them they get very unsettled and I offer two examples.

First, when they rejected religion they took the line that what is must have always existed - why not?

When science postulated the big bang theory which is of course consistent with the concept of the universe having a beginning and arising out of nothing they became exceedingly worried as it let the creator God back into the argument.

Many were slow to recognise the science through adherence to their secular religion.

More recently they are being troubled by the implications of what I would call the data aspect of DNA.

When life could be easily explained by lightening hitting a muddy pool of the "right chemicals"
then random chance had a brief flourishing as a theory but with the discovery of the complexity of the genome the mathematics of randomness begins to seem less and less feasslble as an explantion.

Bill Gates has said that the genetic code of life resembles nothing better than computer machine code of an incrediblbly complex Order. In fact, if you look at the most optimistic rate of random mutaion, even assuming the most benign of conditions and no random change away from a "sucessful" outcome, there is probably not enough time in history of the Universe for that level of complexity to have randomly evolved.

Personally when my computer machine code randomly mutates it ***** everything up! ( Forgive me your Grace but some latitude is sometimes to be afforded the humble servants of the Lord)

The tendency is from Order to chaos not the other way round.

Finally Nasa has determined that when seeking extra terrestial life
they would search for a radio signal that emitted a stream of prime numbers - I forget how many but it is not vast. Such an emission is so statistically unlikely to arise from a random/ non inteligent source that it would be scientific proof of an intelligence outside of Humanity.

Francis, consider now the volumes and volumes of intelligently sequenced machine code in your DNA and a multitude of other different creatures and you might begin to envisage where the superficial attractions of Dr Dawkins begin to fade - and that is before we begin to consider the fact that life can only exist within a very narrow range of temperature, radiation tolerance, needing an tmosphere "just right" with gravity etc. Put these into the statistical mix and "it just happened" looks a very very weak explanation and yet the reluctance of Dr D and others to accept the implications of the new science shows moral cowardice of a high order.

24 July 2008 at 22:37  
Anonymous sunyata said...

The basic problem with creationism and intelligent design is moral, not scientific.

The same DNA coding system that specifies you, me, and cuddly bunnies also specifies the malaria parasite, the rabies virus and the schistosome worm. All created/designed by a loving God?

24 July 2008 at 22:53  
Anonymous martin sewell said...

Spot on Sunyata, and we have to consider how things moved in the direction of the negative aspects of life - for which Christians also have explanations.

What is important about the kind of analysis I have given is that it punctures the arrogance of the Dawkins followers. Paradoxically those of us who believe in the revealed truth of Christianity seem to be a lot more open to the implications of science as it develops than the secularist who do actually claim to have all the answers.

25 July 2008 at 07:34  
Blogger botogol said...

@martin: nope, your 'analysis' hasn't punctured me!

@francis and others - Chambers has

Religion noun
1 a belief in, or the worship of, a god or gods.
2 a particular system of belief or worship, such as Christianity or Judaism.
3 colloq anything to which one is totally devoted and which rules one's life • mountaineering is his religion.
4 the monastic way of life

Yes, of course the commomn usage of the word 'religion' includes some belief systems that don't have a God per se (eg Buddhist) but, as Mckenzie observes, these religions do nevetheless include belief in supernatural powers/events and beings.

A belief system that disregards and discards *all* elements of the supernatutral is commonly referred to as a *science*.


Your Grace - as usual - hits the spot: ine of the problems of state-funded religion is *indeed* deciding what counts as a religion, as it's far from obvious. There are two straightfoward approaches:

1) Try to keep the state separate from all religion
2) Recognise (and privilege) a single, established religion

and one confused one
3) Try and work with 'all' religions repsepcting them all equally.

England of course has historically chosen (2) which has the advantage of being practical and workable and clear, but alas is moving toward (3) which will lead to confusion and division.

It seems to me that any clear thinker should prefer (1) to (3).

25 July 2008 at 08:56  
Blogger John M Ward said...

Oh, dear! Francis also seems to have a one-dimensional outlook.

Dawkins and others who look to "science" invariably miss the point that "science" merely means knowledge -- i.e. an understanding of at least part of what already is. It goes no further than that. It is one useful tool (or, in a sense, a collection of such tools) in the experience of this thing we call "life" -- but that is it.

When we grow intellectually, we are designed and intended to go beyond that limited outlook. Some of us -- indeed, I daresay many of us, do mature to that point. Others are in effect "as dead men" (to quote from the Bible), unable or unwillingly to proceed beyond the robotic.

25 July 2008 at 14:21  
Blogger Francis said...

Responding to:
John M Ward said...

'Dawkins and others who look to "science" invariably miss the point that "science" merely means knowledge -- i.e. an understanding of at least part of what already is. It goes no further than that. It is one useful tool (or, in a sense, a collection of such tools) in the experience of this thing we call "life" -- but that is it.'
..........................

This is correct, since indeed "science" means knowledge. For the past century or so, "science" has come to be used as an abbreviation for "natural science," the knowledge of what is natural.

The University of Edinburgh, I think, retains the term "natural philosophy" for what we generally call "physics."

There does exist the study of knowledge outside nature. Whatever may be supernatural, by definition, belongs in that realm. Insofar as this involves religion it is called "theology."

The recognition that nature exists and can be studied originated around Homer's time among the Greeks of Ionia. That, and not the mental activity of Athens, is the birthplace of natural science.

Thus, while Plato and Attican thought are the precursors of Christianity, it is Thales of Miletus, and Anaxagoras (who went to Athens and became the teacher of Pericles) and the like who gave us natural science, founded on experiment with nature rather than on exploration of mind.

Science in our time is based on observation of nature. Religious faiths are not. That is where they part.

25 July 2008 at 15:19  
Blogger mckenzie said...

Science does not have all the answers. I can't be bothered going into it (sick of explaining it), but read up on this and you will soon begin to see another side to the paradigms of science.
Have a look at the movie 'What The Beep Do We know' on You Tube as a start.

There are sites like 'Answers in Genesis', which can be a little fundamental and bizarre, but have some good challenging material to ponder.

www.answersingenesis.org

I have done a science degree, and there are lots of holes in the cheese. The problem is that when you mention one, there are people who think that your faith is based upon them and they go off on a 'prove it wrong mission'. I think it must be just too scary for some people to lose the reins, and science is God's answer to their dilemma. This sounds condescending, and I will admit here that science is also a comforter to me: we live in such a world where we need such answers.

25 July 2008 at 19:34  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The idea that anyone with a science degree can claim answersingenesis is anything but a farcical website is appalling.

Then again if you educate people in ex-polytechnics, that’s what you get!

I never knew there were so many half-witted religious loons in the party.

29 July 2008 at 11:53  
Anonymous Victoria said...

I'm an Atheist, and a Conservative Party Member and I'm glad there's a voice for the non-religious in the Conservative Party.

One of my more socialist friends commented recently that the presence of such an organisation within the Conservatives 'makes them almost electable'. The Conservative Humanist Association has to be a good thing if we want to win the next election.

15.5% of people in our Country identified themselves as non-religious in the 2001 Census (not including the 7.3% who didn't answer the question) making Non-religious the second most common answer, followed by no answer, Dwarfing all the other religions added together at 5.1%.

My understanding of the Humanists is that they want to level the playing field for everyone, with no favoritism towards any one religious group in respect of legislation or Party policy.

It's about the individuals freedom from Religion and freedom of Religion - and there's nothing totalitarian about that.

30 July 2008 at 14:45  
Blogger mckenzie said...

The idea of leveling the playing field for everyone is a wonderful idea, but will be the end of us if carried forward by naive fools.
This nation of ours was founded on Christian principles, like it or not. It is right that individuals should have freedom from religion as well as freedom of religion. But it is naive to imagine that religious fundamentalism will go away simply because the controlled media and the intellectual egg-heads who like to think they control public discretion, would like to bury their heads in the sand.
Alien politics and alien religions are being used to undermine and permanently change our British politics. Politics has become the preferred avenue of this alien invasion, but this alien invasion is coming to us in many forms. it is coming through cultural subversion, religious subversion, political subversion, and of course through the overwhelming introduction of alien cultures and religions into our own Christian cultural identity. This alien collectivism has already watered down our own heritage, and is now firmly roosting in our own national identity.
Watch this space for the types of chastisement and ridicule which is poured out to anyone who even dares to stand up for what is rightfully ours to defend.

31 July 2008 at 20:23  
Anonymous Victoria said...

“Alien politics and alien religions are being used to undermine and permanently change our British politics“.

Which is why we need a secular government, that way ensuring religion is kept out of our politics.

3 August 2008 at 19:45  
Blogger SoundAndFury said...

Mckenzie,

No one is trying to bury their head in the sand - is it just me, or are we having a debate here?

Furthermore there is nothing alien about secular government - we (the UK) pretty much invented the idea, and if belief systems from the Middle East are unwelcome then Jesus qualifies.

If you don't like the winds of change you certainly have the right to your say - I, a humanist, would have that set in stone - but if you choose to relieve yourself into gale-force good sense you can expect to get wet.

4 August 2008 at 11:20  

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