AC Grayling: Roman Catholic Church perpetuates ‘the biggest pack of lies that the world has seen’
Gerald Warner simply remarked that the recent arson attack upon Sarah Palin’s church in Alaska may have been perpetrated by ‘militant homosexuals or liberals simply driven by hatred of Palin’.
For Mr Warner, the burning of the Wasilla Bible Church is a metaphor for the West’s onslaught against Christianity. He refers to this as ‘anti-Christian jihadism fuelled by secularism’ which is ‘as unacceptable as that driven by militant Islam’. Since both groups are concerned to make ideological points through violent means, both constitute terrorism.
Enter AC Grayling:
Gerald Warner, as a Catholic (and apparently something of a "jihadist" himself), is a member of an institution whose history is littered with crusades, burnings at the stake, persecution of gays, and the perpetuation of the biggest pack of lies that the world has seen - so would seem to be in a poor position to try working the moral equivalence angle. Gays and liberal secularists as jihadists!
This is the funny bit. In the last few years secular liberals have been uncompromising in what they say about religion, and the targets of their criticism have squealed and complained as loudly as if they felt real flames licking round their feet. The churches answered criticism in the past with murder; if they still had the upper hand would they now restrict themselves to their critics' choice of weapon – words? The foam-flecked variety issuing from Warner suggests not.
Let us look at some comparisons. In Afghanistan the Taliban stop girls going to school, beat up women who show a millimeter of skin, ban music, kill gays, and in general force their choice of life and belief on everyone, thus illustrating the less charming aspects of enforced observance of religious orthodoxy under which most of humanity has suffered for most of history. By comparison, secular liberals of Europe and North America say that they think religion is a load of nonsense and that religious folk should keep their fantasies to themselves. Some comparison, eh? Some jihad! Its effectiveness, though, is a sign of insecurity among the faithful. Mark Twain defined faith as "believing what you know ain't so", and the level of insecurity among the faithful when criticised suggests that almost all of them really agree.
Gerald Warner and his kind strain hard to whip up a belief in a moral equivalence between the inhumanity, intolerance, coercion and violence of their own religions' histories and the criticism and disdain with which secularists view them now. I suspect that Warner really hopes that balaclava-wearing, Kalashnikov-toting secular liberals flew some paraffin-laden model aeroplanes into the Wasilla Bible Church. If so it would make the excesses of religion's crushing imposition on the human spirit all ok, because it would show that liberal secularism has become the very thing it criticises.
I wonder whether, in the dialogue of the deaf that this quarrel has become, a few reminders might be in order. Secularism is the view that religious outlooks, though perfectly entitled to exist and have their say, are not entitled to a bigger slice of the public pie than any other self-constituted, self-appointed, self-selected and self-serving civil society organisation. Yet the religious persistently ask for special treatment: public money for their "faith-based" schools, seats in the House of Lords, exemption from laws inconvenient to their prejudices, and so endlessly on. They even have the cheek to ask for "respect" for their silly and antiquated beliefs; and in Geneva at the Human Rights Council the Islamic countries are trying to subvert the Universal Declaration of Human Rights because it is inconvenient to their medieval, sexist, intolerant outlook.
Secularists in the west say to the apologists of the religions: your beliefs are your choice, so take your place in the queue. They also say: you've had it your own way for a very long time - and committed a lot of crimes in the process - and you still fancy yourself entitled, but you aren't. You don't smell too good at times, so don't try to tell me what I can read, see on TV, do in my private time, think or say. In fact, keep your sticky fingers off my life. Believe what you like but don't expect me to admire or excuse you because of it: rather the contrary, given the fairy-stories in question. And when you are a danger to the lives and liberties of others, which alas is too frequently the wont of your ilk, we will speak out against you as loudly, persistently, and uncompromisingly as we can.
It is curious indeed that Mr Grayling seeks to compare the Roman Catholic Church with the Taliban yet seems ignorant of the Reformation and the profoundly Christian inspiration of the liberties he enjoys. He aspires to be 'neutral', but neutrality appeals to the egalitarian instinct that one group should not be more advantaged or enjoy greater privileges than another, while leaving unresolved the need to adjudicate between competing conceptions of the good. It is manifestly necessary to deem some conceptions as being legitimate or beneficial and others as not. In doing so, there is a need to refer to some ‘higher code’, which in liberal Western democracies has traditionally been identified with Christianity and the principles of the Enlightenment. These, in England, have historically been embodied and articulated by the Church of England.
Nowhere does Mr Grayling specify what the lies of the Roman Catholic Church are. Do they include the divinity and resurrection of Jesus? If so, why does he single out Rome when all orthodox churches subscribe to these articles of faith? And if the lies are to do with matters of history, the understanding of the kingdom of God, justification and salvation, why does he not say so? And why should any of these ‘lies’ be worthy of his time and effort when other religions perpetuate lies with far worse consequences?
Sarah Palin campaigned to promote ‘Focus on the Family’, which reached out to ‘help men and women dissatisfied with living homosexually understand that same-sex attractions can be overcome’. And she is ‘pro-life’, believing that a child is fully human from conception and that abortion amounts to murder.
Does this merit comparison with the Taliban?
Where is AC Grayling's rational discourse (ie philosophy) upon these matters or the right to express them? Does he deny the right of the homosexual to change his or her lifestyle, or to wish to do so? Does he seek to propagate the normalisation of infanticide, and, if so, why? Or is his atheistic jihadism simply a tool of the liberal media to expunge all politically incorrect activity, and he is so flattered and vain that he is unable to see this? Mr Grayling has to demonise Gerald Warner because he dares to be Roman Catholic; he has to ridicule Sarah Palin because she dares to be Evangelical. Yet who may question the liberal secularists without themselves incurring the wrath of the likes of AC Grayling and the hatred of the media simply for posing the questions?
Church burnings have a long association with some of the world’s most repugnant regimes. It is a manifestation of tyranny, not modern plurality.
AC Grayling has fallen for the lie of political 'neutrality'. He would prefer to live in a coercive Marxist secular state, and see it uniformly imposed upon all because it would be 'neutral'. Which might explain his support for David Miliband as the next prime minister.