Saturday, February 11, 2012

Islamic prayers in council meetings?

In all the froth and splutter surrounding yesterday’s court judgement banning prayers from a council’s formal agenda, there is something ever so slightly disquieting about the imminent Localism Act and its general power of competence. Eric Pickles is of the view that Chapter 1 of the Act ‘logically’ grants councils the right to pray as part of their business. Certainly, the wording is broad:
CHAPTER 1
GENERAL POWERS OF AUTHORTIES

Local authority’s general power of competence

(1) A local authority has the power to do anything individuals generally may do
(2) Subsection (1) applies to things that an individual may do even though they are in nature, extent or otherwise –
(a) unlike anything the authority may do apart from subsection (1), or
(b) unlike anything that other public bodies may do
Amidst all the assertions of the UK being a ‘Christian nation’, and Christian prayer having been ‘a part of council meetings for centuries’, and yesterday’s judgement constituting and ‘assault on Britain’s Christian heritage’, the Localism Act does nothing to strengthen the historic foundation of our liberties. Indeed, there is a grave danger of this clause being (ab)used to undermine the very foundations which Mr Pickles believes it will underpin.

There have been numerous recent court judgements along the lines of Britain being multi-faith and the law not favouring one religion over another. Lord Justice Laws is of the opinion that Christianity deserves no protection in law above other faiths and to do so would be ‘irrational’, ‘divisive, capricious and arbitrary’. He said: “The precepts of any one religion - any belief system - cannot, by force of their religious origins, sound any louder in the general law than the precepts of any other.”

Lord Justice Munby and Mr Justice Beatson went further, declaring: “We sit as secular judges serving a multi-cultural community of many faiths. We are sworn (we quote the judicial oath) to ‘do right to all manner of people after the laws and usages of this realm, without fear or favour, affection or ill will’. But the laws and usages of the realm do not include Christianity, in whatever form. The aphorism that 'Christianity is part of the common law of England' is mere rhetoric; at least since the decision of the House of Lords in Bowman v Secular Society Limited [1917] AC 406 it has been impossible to contend that it is law.”

It is as if there were no Constitution, no Established Church, no Head of State who is Supreme Governor, and no Oath of Allegiance whereby people swear by Almighty God that they will ‘be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, her heirs and successors, according to law.’ If, in our pluralist, multi-faith, multicultural, politically-correct, non-discriminatory culture, all religions are equal, then it follows (‘logically’) that the general power of competence in the Localism Act may be used by any faith group which constitutes a council majority to include prayers to their particular god as part of that council’s formal business.

His Grace does not know how near Sikhs are to constituting a council majority in Southall, but Muslims in Tower Minaret Hamlets are reportedly close to establishing Britain’s first Islamic republic. Christian councillors (should there be any remaining) might like to consider how they would feel if Item 1 on the Agenda was ‘Prayer to Allah, the Most Compassionate and the Most Merciful’. Some, doubtless, may use the time it as a moment of quiet reflection; many would feel discomfited, if not affronted; most might wonder what country they were in, that a council chamber should be given over to sharia invocations and idolatrous incantations.

If a state seeks to be neutral in the effect of its policies then it requires a greater level of state intervention to ensure that inequalities are negated. It also requires that the effect of all policies is balanced for all conceptions of the good. The alternative is that the government is neutral with regards to the justification of its actions, and this demands either the disestablishment of the Church of England or the establishment of the Mosque of England, along with the Gurdwara, Mandir, Vihara of England, and state recognition for the multiplicity of competing religions (including Atheism) which are a feature of the fragmented postmodern context. Faced with this scenario, disestablishment becomes a very attractive option.

209 Comments:

Blogger Baron Metzengerstein said...

Sounds like William Blackstone is going to be turning over in his grave...

11 February 2012 at 10:23  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Article: "Faced with this scenario, disestablishment becomes a very attractive option."

Yes.

Either the CofE is somehow rewoven into the tapestry of our national life so that we all see the value in it or we must have a secular State. I don't actually think the former is possible now, not only is the barn door open but the dust has settled too.

11 February 2012 at 10:37  
Blogger Youthpasta said...

I would refer Your Grace to my comment on the Eric Pickle article:
"As for this inanity about prayers by other religions, remember that we are a Christian country. The Church of England is established by law, making it the official faith of the UK. As such, prayers in every parish across the country offer prayers for the well-being of this country, it's people and governance. I bet no other religion can boast the same!

Prayers by, say, a Muslim would be worthless in a Christian governance setting (which all councils and parliaments in the UK are, because of the establishment) as they are addressed to a god that the setting hold to be false and as such not there to answer the prayers, making them worthless."

11 February 2012 at 11:04  
Blogger David B said...

There is much that I agree with in HG's post.

A couple of quibbles. One being that there is no established church in either Wales or Scotland, which to my mind knocks a bit of a hole in youthpasta's post above.

We don't seem to suffer from being disestablished, except insofar that there is CoE input into the House of Lords. The West Lothian question in a different guise.

As far as the Oath of Allegiance is concerned, I trust that His Grace has not forgotten the Oaths Act of 1888, in which in spite of ignoble opposition from the Church allowed people to affirm.

No doubt Bradlaugh received even more opprobium than those seeking to end religious privilege do today, but would anyone want to return to those bad old days of preventing non believers, and before that Catholics et al, sitting in Parliament?

While I personally think religion misguided, along with all the other atheists I know I do not seek to take any legal remedies against religion, just the end of religious privilege.

The government, local or national, seems to me to be in the business of governing, not praying, and it seems to me wrong that any religion should be specially privileged.

David B

11 February 2012 at 11:50  
Blogger Dreadnaught said...

Youthpasta

The Church of England is established by law, making it the official faith of the UK

As is Islam in Saudi Arabia. As was Naziism in Germany, Bolshevism in Russia, Fascism in Italy, Maoism in China - doesn't make them any more palatable, valid or democratic does it?

11 February 2012 at 11:51  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

But why should: " ... a state seeks to be neutral in the effect of its policies"?

Isn't the whole point of having a state to promote some form of common vision? That it is not neutral but makes a difference? That it builds a society based on the wishes of the majority of its people?

Let's have some legislation that strengthens Christianity in Britain. So what if it 'discriminates' against other faith groups or atheists? Afterall, the law is about discriminating between right and wrong; between what its people want and do not want.

"Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keeps the law, happy is he."

11 February 2012 at 12:03  
Blogger Youthpasta said...

Dreadnaught, if you don't like the law either work within it to change it or leave. Otherwise, live with it!

11 February 2012 at 12:05  
Blogger David B said...

Wanna go back to pre-1829, Dodo?

David B

11 February 2012 at 12:05  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

Frankly, as far as I'm concerned, it's a risk well worth taking to protect Britain's Christian's heritage. Catholics are more than able to hold their own in the face of persecution and I'd rather be a Catholic in an Anglican state than one in a godless, heathen state or a militant Muslim one.

11 February 2012 at 12:16  
Blogger Dreadnaught said...

Youthpasta

...if you don't like the law either work within it to change it or leave. Otherwise, live with it!

I'm crushed - crushed I say, by the weight of your intellectual capacity: More than a gnat but less than a hamster.

11 February 2012 at 12:30  
Blogger Philip Walker said...

Perhaps there needs to be a reassertion of the centrality of the protestant Christianity of the Coronation Oath as this nation's foundation and at the centre of national life, and a restoration of liberty and laws resulting from it. This would mean Christianity is pre-eminent in national life, but also would mean respect for and freedom of other religions and none. I don’t think most adherents of other religions would object at all – they often say they do not mind and even like being in a “Christian country” and are more worried about the militant attempts to eliminate it from society.

Most people (about 70%) identify with Christianity anyway. Whatever that means about the extent of Christian beliefs, it is unlikely to mean most people reject Christianity and its influence.

11 February 2012 at 13:03  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

Dreadnaught said ...

"As is Islam in Saudi Arabia. As was Naziism in Germany, Bolshevism in Russia, Fascism in Italy, Maoism in China - doesn't make them any more palatable, valid or democratic does it?"

You really don't see the difference and you claim Youthpasta has an intellect less than a hamster?

An establised church in a democratic country with the rule of law and a free press is just somewhat different to regimes that crush all dissent and rebellion.

We won't burn you at the stake, promise, or stop you stating your case. We're prepared to suffer your godless ways, just not let them dictate to the Christian majority.

11 February 2012 at 13:12  
Blogger Paul Dean said...

It seems rather insensitive for Christians to insist on group prayer, when they know that a member is uncomfortable with it or disagrees with it. It is does not demonstrate kindness, gentleness, humility or respect. There is nothing to stop them praying before the meeting, even in public, but to insist it be part of the meeting is surely not about some simple Christians wanting to be allowed to pray. There are power games and politics involved, which we should shun.

11 February 2012 at 13:19  
Blogger Philip Walker said...

Paul Dean.. most members voted to keep the prayers in the meeting. It is just the one ex-member who sought to impose his will on the rest

11 February 2012 at 13:40  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

Paul Dean said ...
"It seems rather insensitive for Christians to insist on group prayer, when they know that a member is uncomfortable with it or disagrees with it."

Yeah, I quess it's equally insensitive to warn people about hell if they don't amend their lives! That's far more troubling for the delicate minded.

11 February 2012 at 13:49  
Blogger Paul Dean said...

Philip, then turn the other cheek and heap shame on him through your gentleness and respect. Make it be known that prayers will go on 5 minutes pre-meeting. When prayers are finished, then the non-prayers can come in, or the other way around - the prayers could pray in another room and then move in when the meeting is due to start. Humility should be able to handle someone trying to impose their will over you, after all.

11 February 2012 at 13:52  
Blogger Paul Dean said...

Dodo Dude,

Look, I regularly warn people about hell when I go out street witnessing, but it should be done with gentleness and respect. That includes the situation where someone refuses to hear it - they must be allowed to pass on by. Insisting on praying with someone would be like me following that person down the street ranting about hell.

11 February 2012 at 13:57  
Blogger Sean Baggaley said...

"and state recognition for the multiplicity of competing religions (including Atheism)"

It would really help your argument if you stopped classifying "disbelief in a deity" as a form of religion in itself.

Atheism is not a religion. It merely indicates a lack of belief in a god, or gods. It is the antonym for "Theism", which applies to the Abrahamic, Old Norse, ancient Roman and ancient Greek religions.

Note that "Theism" does not limit the number of deities worshiped, but does require that there be at least one. Logically, it must follow that there must be also be the possibility of a religion with no gods. Such religions do exist, such as Confucianism.

An atheist who is also not religious is an irreligious atheist, but the "atheist" is effectively redundant as deities generally exist only in religious contexts. I.e. someone who does not follow any religion is, by definition, an atheist. However, it is not the case that an atheist is also irreligious.

Claims that "Atheism" is therefore a form of religion in its own right are therefore invalid. Some atheists are religious. They just don't happen to believe in your particularly book of fairy stories.


@Dodo: Stonehenge was not built by Christians. It was built by those "heathens" you denigrate. Also, guess which religion is responsible for giving us algebra? (Hint: there's a clue in the name.)

Like all the Abrahamic religions, Islam and Christianity are merely reacting to the pressures of increasing secularism. Religions used to serve two purposes, but one of those—explaining the world about us—has been usurped by science.

All that is left is the spiritual aspect: that of providing a moral compass, but the cack-handed handling of the pedophile priests really isn't helping: it is crucifying Christianity's credibility.

11 February 2012 at 13:58  
Blogger Rebel Saint said...

For crying out loud ... what a bunch of spineless, limp-wristed surrender-monkeys most followers of Jesus seem to be. We deserve to be lambasted by the secularists & the Muslims

Take, for example, the last comment by @Paul Dean, who is willing to forgo acknowledgement of God before man in order to give the (false) impression of humility, gentleness or respect.

Maybe we should we also forgo voting on things for those who believe democracy is anti-theocratic? Maybe we should bar women from speaking in the meetings to show respect, humility & kindness towards our Muslim colleagues.

If you stand for nothing you'll fall for anything.

11 February 2012 at 13:59  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Democracy has served us well since we wrestled control of government from our dictators of old (...the last being Charles I...). However, when it contributes to our cultural destruction as an albeit nominally Christian country, one has to ask this. Is it time it was watered down here, before we plunge into the madness of separate ethnic societies, each operating on their imported and uncompromising system of values (which the immigrants themselves were happy to leave behind when coming to the UK). Take the example of the Kurds (...at one time the darlings of the BBC...). These trouble makers would quite happily fight and bomb for their own state in other peoples countries.

11 February 2012 at 14:03  
Blogger Sean Baggaley said...

@Rebel Saint:

Jesus and his disciples were very much a "bunch of spineless, limp-wristed surrender-monkeys". Did you not get the memo?

Christianity's first wave of evangelists didn't go out into a world of "heathens" armed with swords and knives. They went out armed only with prayers and faith. That was the whole bloody point!

The mistake the Christian churches are making are that of responding using the rhetoric of war, not peace.

11 February 2012 at 14:08  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

@Sean: I'm willing to accept the detail of your definition. But what's your preferred term to describe a position that not only posits disbelief but actively seeks to have that disbelief institutionalised and made manifest as the dominant philosophy in society?

I think we can all observe that there are many people in life who don't believe in much, and don't much bother other people about it. But there does seem to be a distinction between such people, and those who, on the other hand, campaign, frequently with some vigour, not merely for the abolition of religious privilege (which some religious secularists would agree with), but the prohibition of religion in public life.

I'm not saying that they have no right to do so, or anything like that, but it there does seem to be a reasonable difference between the positions. I think that calling such atheism a "belief" is clumsy, certainly, but it is onto something which a defence of the dictionary-definition of atheism doesn't satisfactorily resolve.

11 February 2012 at 14:09  
Blogger Arden Forester said...

I may be wrong here but as I see it mayors, etc, choose their own chaplains. A Muslim mayor can choose an imam and a Jewish one a rabbi. There is no law that says that the prayers must be Christian in council chambers, unless there is some Elizabethan law from ages past I don't know of.

This is all about the secularists trying to push Christianity out of mainstream English life.

By the way, the C of E is not a "religion". It is supposed to be a church within the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of the creeds.

11 February 2012 at 14:11  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

Incidentally, I think, purely from a philosophical perspective, I'd be wary about imputing the explanatory power of myth to science. It certainly goes on, but it's probably best to distinguish quite clearly between scientific practice and science as a presence in society, not least because it really really really winds up scientists to conflate the two. In fact, the scientific method is woefully inadequate to dealing with a host of philosophical questions about ontology: not least of which is the question, how do we know that objectivity is real?

11 February 2012 at 14:12  
Blogger Paul Dean said...

Rebel Saint wrote: "Take, for example, the last comment by @Paul Dean, who is willing to forgo acknowledgement of God before man in order to give the (false) impression of humility, gentleness or respect."

What nonsense. There is nothing to stop any council member commenting during the meeting on their views. Christians should certainly relate everything to the glory of God and his gospel, and they should do this publicly.

11 February 2012 at 14:18  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

An Observation by the Inspector...

Before he came to this site, his impression of atheists was this. Although they had no belief in God, they were more or less in agreement with the way things were done in this country. That they appreciated our shared white culture, heritage, and governance. What an eye opener Cranmer has been...

You atheists are faint hearts at the least and traitors to your country at the most. You have a secular agenda as vicious as Islam ! None of you are to be trusted, you are despicable. You disgust the Inspector.

11 February 2012 at 14:22  
Blogger Sean Baggaley said...

@AnonymousInBelfast:

I use the exact same terms we see applied all those who insist on curtailing anyone's freedoms: "Fanatics", "Extremists" and "Militants". "Ignorant" is another one.

An extremist militant Muslim is no more or less dangerous than an extremist militant Christian or an extremist militant Atheist. It's the "extremist" and "militant" adjectives that are the problem, not the noun at the end.

Extremist fanatics are usually symptoms of ignorance, so the best weapon to fight these people is the light of knowledge and understanding, not war.

11 February 2012 at 14:27  
Blogger Sean Baggaley said...

The Inspector might wish to consider the points I made in my post above. I disagree with the notion that Christianity's influences on British culture should be destroyed. I have absolutely no problem with 99.9% of Christians, Irreligious Atheists, Muslims, etc.

It's that 0.1% of fanatical extremists that cause all the problems. Unfortunately, if the Internet is any indicator, extreme fanaticism isn't limited to religions (or lack thereof) either. People are tribal by nature and the media loves to portray every issue as simplistic, black/white, dichotomies, yet these issues are usually far more complex than is portrayed.

For example: I have no problem with the banning of formal prayers during a council meeting. Prayer has nothing to do with the purpose of a council meeting and I am generally suspicious of any attempts to mix Church and State given the problems that particular combination has caused in the past.

However, there is nothing to prevent people praying in their own time. Nor would I be happy to see that freedom curtailed in any way. But there is no such thing as a "right" to do whatever you damned well please, whenever you please, wherever you please. Council offices are not churches.

11 February 2012 at 14:40  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

AIB: "But what's your preferred term to describe a position that not only posits disbelief but actively seeks to have that disbelief institutionalised and made manifest as the dominant philosophy in society?"

Isn't what we have now the residue of something similar, only with Protestant Christianity as the philosophy? Isn't some of this legal pushing and shoving a reaction to the erosion of its hegemony? On what basis do we choose one over the other except perhaps that one takes more account of the diverse and multi-cultural nature of our society?

11 February 2012 at 14:40  
Blogger Albert said...

Underlying all this is a bizarrely inaccurate and unself-critical idea that a position of no religion is a neutral position. From this position, the non-religious person has managed to convince judges and others, that he is the person who will decide how shared space must be used. In fact, far from being neutral, this is just the tyranny of lowest common denominatorism. Moreover, anyone who really looks deeply at the claims of theism and atheism, notes that the latter entails quite serious (and in my view entirely preposterous) positive assertions about the nature of reality. But as most people who espouse this kind of position haven't yet heard that logical positivism and scientism fail by their own standard, expecting serious metaphysical analysis from them is asking too much.

If multiculturalism and diversity is really the key to all this (as the judges pretend) then let Arden Forester's comment stand: councils one way or another decide on the prayers to be said, or (I would add) can decide that no prayers should be said. But that kind of mutual accommodation does not accord with the secularist mindset: he means to conquer and impose - just like the Islamist he so closely, and I would say shameless, mirrors.

11 February 2012 at 14:42  
Blogger Rebel Saint said...

@Sean Baggaley ... I'm not proposing we go armed to council meetings with swords & knives! But we should at least go with a spine. Laying down prayer so that "we don't cause offence" (which is more or less what you said) just makes us a laughing stock. People do not think, "Wow, what kind, thoughtful people they must be not asking that we observe a time of prayer before our meeting". They think, "That really can't have been that important to them".

Do you think that prayer before meetings is actually important, or just a nice bit of tradition? Whilst I think it would be a travesty if this judgement was destroying a tradition, I think it is even more of a travesty because it is condemning our politics to enforced Godlessness (however, slight or nominal the Godliness was). It is also a democratic travesty as it overturns the very principle of "all things are lawful unless explicitly prohibited".

Still, we can rejoice because this gives a fantastic opportunity for many Christian councillors & mayors etc to stand up and be counted by actually defying this ludicrous and blatantly unconstitutional judgement. Wonder how many will?

11 February 2012 at 14:43  
Blogger Mr Integrity said...

Your Grace; Wow, a mind boggling post, particularly after I went to all your references to see the background of these legal points.
You seem to have said that that in many of the legal judgments, including the 1917 one, that decisions were made based on considerations that failed to take account of Christianity’s involvement in the Law of the Land. Indeed more recently they have said, incorrectly, that Christianity has no authority in the Law and Government.
Our Judges seem to be left wing wets, probably appointed during Blair’s rule, who set out to be ‘fair’ to the underdog and pursue the agenda that some have more rights than others but ignore the fact that our whole legal system was established upon the Judaeo/Christian principles and it is on those principles that they should interpret the law.
Tradition is an important function in the performance of our institutions. Whether anyone disagrees should not significantly cause traditions to be overthrown. Otherwise offence might be caused by walking past a poster outside a Church.
Dodo@12:03. I find myself agreeing with you very strongly.

11 February 2012 at 14:44  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Also, atheism has philosophical flavours whether or not some atheists are more politically active than others. For instance, Mr Tingey is not the same sort of atheist in definition terms as I am as far as I can tell.

11 February 2012 at 14:45  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

@Sean: I think I'd quibble about extremism being a level playing field. In fact, don't you rather make this point above with regards to the "limp-wristed" nature of Christians? Someone following Christianity to the extreme might easily end up being martyred, but I don't know of any martyrs who are celebrated for their having taken others with them.

Likewise, it seems to me that there is a quite a difference between a militantism that is militarised (i.e. uses physcial force), and a militantism that, for instance, seeks to efface religion from the public sphere. The latter view might again be further pushed to extremism by a campaign against belief even in the private sphere, but I've yet to hear even Richard Dawkins calling for that.

That's why I find those terms risible when used against fellow believers, and don't see much value in using them on those with other beliefs, simply because they don't really end up being very accurate.

Unfortunately, I do think that we lack the language to describe a lot of the complexities of belief in modern society. Personally, I've tended to encounter the argument "atheism is not belief" in the context that imputes legitimacy to non-belief whilst removing it from belief. Mental processes aside, there appear to be certain strains of atheism that share many of the characteristics of the essentially political claims made by belief systems, but which aren't adequately expressed in the term "atheism".

I suppose, to coin a phrase from C. S. Lewis, it's a matter of working out the "and" which goes with the atheism: "atheism and secularism", "atheism and disestablishment" etc. etc.

11 February 2012 at 14:49  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

Bagoftea said ...

"An extremist militant Muslim is no more or less dangerous than an extremist militant Christian or an extremist militant Atheist."

So its militant extremism to want to say prayers before a Council meeting in a Christian country, now is it?

What utter piffle!

And Islam doesn't have to be militant to be a threat tolife and liberty - just mainstream. I take it you do know about the laws in Muslim countries?

11 February 2012 at 14:51  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

@DanJ0: To an extent, yes. But isn't the point that in Bideford it was a "hegemony" enforced not by a minority in power, but retained and upheld by a majority of democratic representatives.

Why then is a philosophical perspective that religion has no place in the public sphere a more legitimate hegemony? Especially, as in this particular case, it did not enjoy collective agreement?

11 February 2012 at 14:54  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Mr I: "Dodo@12:03. I find myself agreeing with you very strongly."

The majority of people in the UK seem to want a choice about abortion, divorce, sex before marriage, and co-habitation. They also don't seem to value institutionalised religion very much either. We're a country of 61 million people and less than a million attend services in CofE churches every week. Be careful what you wish for.

11 February 2012 at 14:55  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

@DanJ0 (14:55): It's partly on that basis that I've made responses regarding my views on civil marriage in other threads.

There is though a difference between the death of something through indifference and the death of something through statutory destruction.

11 February 2012 at 14:57  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

AIB: "But isn't the point that in Bideford it was a "hegemony" enforced not by a minority in power, but retained and upheld by a majority of democratic representatives."

Just for the record, I haven't made my mind up yet about whether I agree with the Judgement. That said, the Judgement (at least as I understand it, which may be wrong) is based on a point of law: whether it is currently in the power of the council to make prayers an integral part of the council proceedings. That is, whether there is a democratic consensus or not at that level may be irrelevant.

11 February 2012 at 15:00  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

AIB: "Why then is a philosophical perspective that religion has no place in the public sphere a more legitimate hegemony? Especially, as in this particular case, it did not enjoy collective agreement?"

Political legitimacy is an interesting topic, as I have said in the past. In this case, it may simply be who manipulates the power brokers best. When it comes down to it in lots of debates about this, they seem to boil down to argument from tradition versus argument from underlying social changes.

11 February 2012 at 15:05  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

@DanJ0: That's fair enough, though I've outlined elsewhere why I think this is a cop-out (and Pickles' intervention rather suggests it is a cop-out which he does not intend to remain).

Incidentally, you raised the issue of the Christian Institute elsewhere. I would be quite happy applying the same logic to Christians who wish to see (or in the case of the UK) retain particular privileges. If there is a consensus to retain them, all the better. If not, we have to accept that the practicing of our beliefs where it contradicts the majority view may lead us into conflict (in the non military sense) with the law.

11 February 2012 at 15:05  
Blogger Sean Baggaley said...

@Dodo:

It's militant extremism to want any form of prayer or worship in a council chamber! Church and State do not mix. We've been there before and it did not end well.

A church, or a mosque, or a synagogue is a place of worship. You can pray in your own home. You can even pray in a restaurant's toilet if you wish! You're free to believe anything you like. But you do not get to demand that your religious rites and beliefs should be allowed to become part of State affairs.

A council chamber is not a place of worship. It is not a church. It is not a synagogue. It is not a mosque or shrine or temple! It is a place in which to do the business of the State. Prayer—regardless of your beliefs—has no place in State procedures. None.

Whether you like it or not, the UK's government is a secular government. That it has retained some trappings and fripperies from the days when the Church played a major role in government is irrelevant.

Is this really so hard for you to understand?

11 February 2012 at 15:10  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

AIB: "If not, we have to accept that the practicing of our beliefs where it contradicts the majority view may lead us into conflict (in the non military sense) with the law."

Well, quite. In a modern, liberal democracy I would argue that one of the functions of the State is to arbitrate between competing interests.

For instance, in this case we have a clash of values and procedure. How do we resolve this one? It's not as if they're even the same sort of thing.

11 February 2012 at 15:13  
Blogger Rebel Saint said...

@DanJ0 ...

If you want to play the numbers game, we're a nation of 61million and the number who are members of the NSS is ...? [10,000 is a generous estimate but they are very secretive about their membership info].

Can you name any other national organisations that has 1,000,000 attend them voluntarily most weeks (and that's not including all the other denominations of course, many of which are growing).

11 February 2012 at 15:13  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

Mr Integrity

Thank you, Sir. And don't listen to those doubters who say most people want to lead godless, reprobate lives.

Sadly nowadays people are not receiving a sound Christian education so do not properly appreciate the moral objections to breaking the Commandments. They experience these as restrictions and not freedoms.

Let's return 'religious education', the hybrid that says all are equal, to a solidly grounded Christian education. Let's develop a proper Christin conscience in our young based on the teachings of Christ. Then let's persuade people to rebuild our society on Christian principles.

This generation haven't even been taught to cook to nourish their bodies let alone to appreciate the ways of God to nourish their souls. A Big Mac and MTV culture has been allowed to flourish. Time to wage war against it!

Imagine if all those who believed in Christ went public - at home, in the street and at work. Would the state be able to lock up or fine everyone who broke a law that claimed they were acting 'discriminatorily' or 'inciting hatred'?

A Christian Pride movement is what is needed! Let's come out of the closet!

11 February 2012 at 15:14  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

@Dodo: A Christian Pride movement??

How deliciously subversive. So long as it's about being proud of Christ, I love the idea.

11 February 2012 at 15:18  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Rebel Saint: "If you want to play the numbers game [...]"

I don't, particularly. I'm simply following the theme of that sub-thread which talks about majority wishes. You may note that in the same sub-thread Paternalism is now being advocated; anathema to a libertarian-oriented liberal. No doubt Tony Blair would heartily approve though.

11 February 2012 at 15:24  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Baggaley. Church and State do not mix..

Do write and tell our Queen that, her being the haed of state AND supreme governor of the CoE...

11 February 2012 at 15:25  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

Then let's name it:

Proud to Follow Jesus

Start tomorrow and challenge the godless values and practices we are compelled to comply with.

Have Christian B&B's exclusively for the married.
Call homosexuality a distortion of human sexuality and an offence against God.
Name abortion as murder of a child in the womb.
Describe Islam as the ravings of an illiterate madman.

See you in Court!

11 February 2012 at 15:27  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

@DanJ0: Interesting case, thanks for the link. I'm always quite grateful that Christianity has no doctrinal dress codes (unless you're a mormon I suppose).

In answer to your question: if it's a matter of hygeine then there are two possibilities:

1) Some form of specially hygenic uniform is developed for below the elbows. This would probably be a cost, but would have the advantage of being able to accomodate muslim women on the grounds of conscience. Do I think that this should be a statutory requirement for the NHS? No. They shouldn't be obligated to accommodate an issue of conscience any more than the State was obliged to provide the Bulls with accommodation (ha! pun), or Bideford Council should be obligated to accomodate Mr Bone's discomfort.

2) If there is no such accommodation, then it seems to be a matter of conscience. Personally, I'd not be inclined to resign, but I would in a comparable situation accept the consequences of my belief. The issue is slightly different from some of the others, though, in that there is a clear hygeine reason for the requirement (that is, the NHS uniform is not, in itself an expression of any particular ideology). Hospital authorities would be well within their rights to ask her to leave if she threatened the health of patients. By contrast, Bideford Council would not have been in the right (nor, thankfully did it try to) if it had asked Mr Bone to leave on the basis of his opposition to the prayers. There is, after all, as yet no evidence to suggest that his inability to listen to prayers hindered his role as a councillor.

11 February 2012 at 15:32  
Blogger Rebel Saint said...

I'm with you all the way Dodo.

(Of course, you realise such organisations already exist, but most Christians shun them ... don't want to be thought of fanatical now do we, after all Jesus was all about being nice & reasonable)

11 February 2012 at 15:33  
Blogger Oswin said...

''I have no desire to make windows into mens souls'' - let us be content with that, and preserve our tradition that affords such luxury.

11 February 2012 at 15:36  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

@Sean: References to the Queen aside, I'm not actually sure you're in any way correct on this. There is no clear constitutional secularism enforced in the UK which might prohibit religious practice in the business of the state. Notwithstanding Justice Law's attempts to create one.

But I do understand, and even sympathise up to a point, with your desires to have one.

11 February 2012 at 15:37  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

BagofTea said ...

"It's militant extremism to want any form of prayer or worship in a council chamber!"

To merely want to pray before a Council meeting militant Christian extremism!

I take it you object to any form of public display of Christianity? The Cenotaph ceremonies to honour our fallen warriors? Prayers by the military before battle? The National Anthem as it's a prayer? The Opening of Parliament?

I have no issue with a proper seperation of temporal and spiritual power. But really to deny Christians the right to seek God's help to make decisions and to label it militant really displays gross ignorance of British culture and gross intolerance.

In fact, militant intolerance!

11 February 2012 at 15:41  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

AIB, it was really a rhetorical question. But since you've answered, you're applying some sort of Harm Principle by the look of it and arbitrating by recognising the potential harm to health and assigning some notion of harm to denial of the conscientious objection and to restrictions on religious liberty. I'm doing much the same myself in these cases, it's what liberals in my tradition do really. From that, I think we're generating ethics from these real-life cases. It's been going on since at least the Sikh motorcycle helmet case ... and that's the thing, they're coming up because we're not mono-cultured now. It's inevitable.

11 February 2012 at 15:42  
Blogger Sean Baggaley said...

@Inspector:

"Do write and tell our Queen that, her being the haed of state AND supreme governor of the CoE... "

I did mention that the UK still has bits of Church in its traditions, but to all intents and purposes, the Queen is now little more than a figurehead and plays no substantial role in the government of the country other than opening the doors to let the MPs in every so often.

11 February 2012 at 15:46  
Blogger Albert said...

Sean,

It's militant extremism to want any form of prayer or worship in a council chamber! Church and State do not mix. We've been there before and it did not end well.

What a strangely selective view of history you have. For most of the time Church and state were united in Europe it worked well. In contrast, the secular attempts to separate Church and state, such as in Russia or the French Revolution were, from the start, attended by appalling violence.

A council chamber is not a place of worship. It is not a church. It is not a synagogue. It is not a mosque or shrine or temple!

Indeed, not, but neither is it a place where only the secularist is allowed to determine what goes on.

It is a place in which to do the business of the State.

And the business of the State is the business of the people, who, even in the most secular of places, will still include huge numbers of religious people. The will of the people is expressed in democracy, which, thanks to some bullying secularists and the silliness of a judge (whose judgement is so partial, it appears even DanJo has some doubts about it) has been trampled upon. It is not the role of the state to overrule democracy, but to uphold it. From the French Revolution onwards, this was the nature of politicised secularism.

11 February 2012 at 15:47  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

@DanJ0: I don't think I'm in disagreement with you here.

What I would like to be able to get away from is the idea that the expression of beliefs in some way harms those who do not share them. Far from worrying about "what message it sends out", I'd rather people in public life were straight-forwardly honest. If you want to be a humanist councillor, run on that platform and don't be shy about telling me why your humanism compels you towards the political position you hold. If the public then elects a load of humanists councillors, we can hardly be surprised when they act in accordance with their philosophy. If we don't like it, we elect someone else. And so the push and pull of political life continues.

Of course, one can quite easily be a humanist councillor, or indeed a green councillor, or indeed an atheist councillor, (all philosophies which have been recognised in law as having parity with religious belief) and run on a platform of these views. Whilst they are by no means shielded from criticism (nor do I think most of them desire to be), it is far harder to run on the platform of being a christian councillor. Not in the sense that one cannot be elected - quite a few succeed in fact - but because there is a rather lazy assumption by many that holding certain types of view makes it impossible for one to represent other people.

To an extent this is true: a green councillor is not likely to want to act in the interests of an industry with a poor track record on pollution. An orthodox Christian councillor is not likely to want to advance positions they hold to be inimical to their morality.

But so long as they are not standing on one platform and running on another, you get what you vote for. Blair's "we don't do God" via St. Campbell was in this regard utterly harmful to conviction politics: if you do "do God", for His sake say so. And if it makes you unelectable, then that's the price you pay for your beliefs and principles. Whatever they may be.

11 February 2012 at 15:56  
Blogger Sean Baggaley said...

@Dodo:

"So its militant extremism to want to say prayers before a Council meeting in a Christian country, now is it? "

Nobody's stopping said councillors from meeting up for a good god-bothering before the council meeting, but you have yet to explain why prayers should be part of council meetings. Merely saying that it's "traditional" (when it clearly isn't as not all councils do this) is insufficient.

If your desire boils down to, "We're a Christian nation, damn it!" then I contend that you, sir, are a militant Christian who desires to impose your religion upon others for no other reason than because you want to.

"I take it you do know about the laws in Muslim countries? "

Oh yes. Why do you think I'm against the deliberate connecting of Church and State? Sharia Law is a perfect example of what mixing Church and State looks like!

If that's what you want, go right ahead and rewind the United Kingdom back to the Dark Ages and see how far that gets you. Personally, I'd rather a secular government than a fanatically religious one. Religions aren't big on tolerance, as many posts here prove.

Nobody is stopping councillors from praying at all. They're just disagreeing with the role of prayer in a very specific context: in council meetings.

11 February 2012 at 15:57  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

@Sean: We have inherited a constitutional settlement that privileges in certain ways (though I would contend, not in any glaringly prejudicial ones) the established Church.

The continuation of this is, I put to you, whether at the local or national level, a continuing matter for elected politicians. This means that if elected councillors wish to retain traditional Christian worship, and are clear (by voting) that this is the case, they should be entitled to do so, for so long as they hold electoral power. Likewise, if others attain office with an alternative view, they are entitled to do so.

I'm not suggesting that Mr Bone was wrong to resign - indeed, it can sometimes be very important to make it clear that you do not stand with the majority on a position of principle. What I am saying is that he should have taken the issue to the electorate. If he is right, that the people of Bideford support his view, he would have soon had the mandate to reform the practice in a way that would be far more compelling than a statutory decision handed down by a judge.

11 February 2012 at 16:02  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Baggaley. Exactly, time served British traditions. Comforting and reassuring as well as inoffensive. In a continually changing world and it’s insecurities, you would ditch this. To suit YOUR sensibilities. How selfish of you, not to mention stupid...

11 February 2012 at 16:11  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

All this may be redundant soon anyway when the Localism Act comes into being. The wider question of a secular State or not won't be answered by chipping away at a Prayer section on the agenda of a local council meeting. I suppose it helps to get people thinking about it though.

11 February 2012 at 16:13  
Blogger Sean Baggaley said...

"Sadly nowadays people are not receiving a sound Christian education so do not properly appreciate the moral objections to breaking the Commandments."

Be careful what you wish for...

I attended St. John Rigby R.C. College in Kent. It was attached to a convent and the adjacent Schiller College seminary.

Prior to that, I attended a CofE primary school.

Both did a bang-up job of beating religion out of me, so you see, I'm quite familiar with the sacred texts and "teachings" of your religion. It's entirely the fault of my "Christian education" that I'm now not merely an atheist, but utterly irreligious.

(Colleen McCabe's defrauding of the school took place after my time there, but St. John Rigby was already crap long before she finished the job. Suffice to say that I considered my 6th Form time at Catford Boys a step up!)

11 February 2012 at 16:14  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

This has been a pretty even-mannered debate on the whole so far, it's spooking me out as it seems a bit, well, untraditional. :)

11 February 2012 at 16:16  
Blogger john in cheshire said...

For what it's worth, I don't believe in equivalence in religions. I do believe that Christianity should be given a preferential place within our country.

11 February 2012 at 16:17  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

jic: "For what it's worth, I don't believe in equivalence in religions."

Me neither. Islam would be much worse than the CofE as far as I'm concerned so they're therefore not equivalent. They may, however, be exactly the same to the extent of their being false and the truth of either hasn't been demonstrated.

11 February 2012 at 16:24  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

BagofTea

"For many are called, but few are chosen."

Poor boy, did your teachers show a lack of tolerance towards you? Were they a bit harsh in those days. Perhaps they believed in Scripture.

"He who spareth the rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him correcteth him betimes"(Proverbs 13:24)

We've all suffered at the hands of others, for good and ill. Get over it! Christ didn't promise life would be all cuddly and cosy - did He?

11 February 2012 at 16:27  
Blogger Sean Baggaley said...

@Inspector:

"Exactly, time served British traditions. Comforting and reassuring as well as inoffensive. In a continually changing world and it’s insecurities, you would ditch this."

No, actually, I wouldn't. There may be some argument for removing some of those traditions on the grounds of cost, but there's very little that's overtly religious about most of the traditional rituals of Westminster.

(I'd argue that Sigmund Freud would have had a field day with the phallic symbolism though.)

"To suit YOUR sensibilities. How selfish of you, not to mention stupid... "

Please don't put words in my mouth. I'm trying to keep this discussion reasonably civil.

Nor can you claim that all the rituals surrounding Parliament and government in general are entirely due to Christian influences because they're not.

The reason we have the pomp and circumstance, the retinues, the shiny jewellery and those expensive costumes isn't because some god said so, but because no successful leader dresses in rags and opens their own hovel's doors without any retinue or ceremony whatsoever. It just wouldn't look right to creatures with the strong tribal instincts we humans have.

The boss always gets the big corner office on the top floor with the full height windows, great view, and balcony. He doesn't get tucked away into the broom cupboard.

I'm indifferent to traditions like these myself. They're interesting from a purely socio-cultural perspective, and I have no particular desire to see it removed or changed; I'm completely neutral on the subject.

My point fundamental point is that I do not think mixing the church with the state is a good idea. That there are still some bits of church mixed into the UK's state infrastructure is not, in my view, a good thing.

You are entitled to your opinion, as I am to mine.

11 February 2012 at 16:36  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

BagofTea

You've described yourself as "not merely an atheist, but utterly irreligious"/ To be at indifferent to religion and hostile towards it is not terribly liberal or tolerant.

And what of the National Anthem? Would you remove that? It must irritate you. I mean, it's not terribly politically correct or neutral.

God save our gracious Queen,
Long live our noble Queen,
God save the Queen:
Send her victorious,
Happy and glorious,
Long to reign over us:
God save the Queen

O Lord, our God, arise,
Scatter her enemies,
And make them fall.
Confound their politics,
Frustrate their knavish tricks,
On Thee our hopes we fix,
God save us all.

Thy choicest gifts in store,
On her be pleased to pour;
Long may she reign:
May she defend our laws,
And ever give us cause
To sing with heart and voice
God save the Queen.

11 February 2012 at 16:56  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

Well, Sigmund Freud. That's put us all in our place I'm sure.

You know Dodo, he'd probably have a field-day with your choice of a big-beaked bird as your avatar ;)

11 February 2012 at 17:13  
Blogger Sean Baggaley said...

@Dodo:

"Poor boy, did your teachers show a lack of tolerance towards you? Were they a bit harsh in those days. Perhaps they believed in Scripture."

If you're referring to me, I'm afraid you've misunderstood me. It was the sheer hypocrisy of the place. Very little was personal and many of my fellow students there came away with the same impression: it was a truly awful school. It had a worse academic record than schools in Catford, which has to be saying something.

One example: they claimed a "100% pass rate" for Italian O Levels in their annual report, despite it being a subject they did not even offer, and which my mother had taught me at home—and had also paid for as a "private entry" O Level exam to boot.

That's not just misleading: it's a flat-out lie. They had precisely f*ck all to do with my Italian O Level. I even took the exam papers and oral exam in central London.

*

I'm genuinely fascinated by religions in all their forms. I have no problem with people practicing their religion, as long as they don't try to force their beliefs upon me.

The Abrahamic religions have all become deeply entwined in regional and national politics. Israel, the Middle East, and Western Europe have very strong political threads going right back to the birth of all three. Yet, despite their obvious similarities—they all worship the same "god", after all—it's astonishing just how difficult they find it to just get along. They seem to get on better with completely different religions than with each other.

So, here are three religions that, from a purely objective viewpoint, share so much in common with each other that they should be able to get along like a house on fire. So why don't they?

My theory is that it's for the same reason religions tend to splinter into sects. And the reason why it's so easy to find people willing to argue the toss about anal details of even the most mundane topics, such as whether some character in a movie shot first. The debates on even these trivial topics famously degenerate into flamewars, with each side becoming increasingly polarised.

If we ever find out why we do this, we may, finally, be able to have a bit of peace and quiet!

As for why I don't think formally joining church and state is a good idea, I give you Israel and Iran. Do you really want to copy these?

11 February 2012 at 17:21  
Blogger Sean Baggaley said...

@Dodo:

The only thing that irritates me about the British National Anthem is the music it is set to.

Also, a song asking a fictional character to "save" the Queen of England is, frankly, more hilarious than offensive to me.

Sing what you like; words alone are harmless. It is actions I worry about.

11 February 2012 at 17:25  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Baggaley. Dismantling our traditions because it’s inherent Christianity annoys you is hardly a valid reason, is it. You really need to see the bigger picture. You are a carefree liberal precisely because Christianity is at the moment dominant. Something else will fill the void if it goes. Perhaps you are too young to remember the Soviet Union in action. Without a belief in God, there was nothing left but a belief in the communist system. If you disagreed with it, you were sent to a gulag for ‘re-training’. If you were famous, you were sent to a mental hospital. And worst of all, if you were the wrong sort of communist, you disappeared.

One wonders what Islam will bring here. All eyes on Tower Hamlets then. We can at the the very least expect intolerance. Islam does that very well. Do you find intolerance from Christians ? Will you find intolerance from Islam ? Will you wish you kept your ideas to yourself when you find it’s a good idea to keep your ideas to yourself...

11 February 2012 at 17:51  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

Mr Baggaley

Whilst the Abramhic faiths have common texts they actually do not share a common understanding about the nature of God or His Divine purpose. Jesus revealed God from the Judaic origins; Muhammed just lost it and bastardised both underrstandings. That's what differentiates them.

And, as you acknowledge, 'religion' become hostile when nationalism, economics and personal power gets caught up. However, that doesn't mean they're all wrong, one of them might be right, just that man is a fallen creature prone to behave in evil ways. It's the same when it comes to denominations within a shared faith - people, power and property tends to shape 'doctrine'. Man twists his understanding of God to fit his own particular needs. It doesn't mean God doesn't exist or that Truth doesn't exist or He cannot be understood.

So then if the National Anthem is okay, what's wrong with a few prays before Council meetings? Presumably to the unbeliever they're "just words" too.

11 February 2012 at 17:54  
Blogger Dreadnaught said...

DoDo

An establised church in a democratic country with the rule of law and a free press is just somewhat different to regimes that crush all dissent and rebellion.

Agreed - but how did it arrive at the present? and exactly what, apart from some undeniably magnificent music and skillfully constructed and beautiful architecture, is this Country's genuine Christian heritage?

1. European Organised Christianity was established as the bastard progeny of the collapsing Western Roman Empire. It maintained itself through violence and indulgent corrupt patronage - not through debate and intellectual consensus of the population at large.
2. Christianity early on, introduced the act of Blasphemy as a crime in Law long before the UK existed or anywhere near what could be called a democratic Society - yet some are still on the Statute Books.
3. Christianity can not claim to have introduced the modern concept of a 'free press' no more than Islam can claim to have invented algebra (as alluded to by someone else). The RCC did not even approve of the Bible being reproduced in the indigenous languages as it weakened their control.
4. Catholics massacred Protestants. Protestants massacred Catholics. When either one was dominant they massacred each other and anyone else around whom dared express dissent or detachment, legitimising their action by invoking the name of God according to their particular doctrine. Nice.

The list could go on far longer than anything I can offer off the cuff.

Progressive Anglicanism and the work of the Non-Conformists, rather than orthodox Catholicism, fostered the uptake of democratic principles and early social reform. Ultimately the foundation of that which most would recognise as our 'Christian' cultural heritage, began to take root in the late 17th Century - the preceding periods under the influence and dictats of Roman Princelings, contributed nothing towards the development of present day democracy.

'We won't burn you at the stake, promise, or stop you stating your case. We're prepared to suffer your godless ways'.

Only because your 'Church' (and you do still only speak for the RCC don't you) can't get away with it anymore: which reminds me ... just who do you mean by this mysterious WE?

You appear from time to time to deny the legitimacy of the Anglicans (and Len) then piously align yourself with them as fellow Christians when you think it strengthens support for your cut and paste arguments. Continue by all means to delude yourself to speak on behalf of an unknown majority of others, but it's hardly a convincing platform in the context of debate in a modern democracy? - bit odd is that.

Try just speaking for yourself man!

11 February 2012 at 17:57  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Dodo. Before a man realises how ignorant he is, he must first go through a period in his life when he thinks he knows it all. And while he knows it all, he’s most keen to share his knowledge with the un-enlightened. We await patiently Baggaley’s progress...

11 February 2012 at 18:08  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Dreadnaught. The Inspector thanks you for the history lesson, but’s it the here and now that matters...

11 February 2012 at 18:13  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

Dreadnaught

Go read your history again and learn how Christianity civilised the western world and much of the rest of the world and overcame paganism and all that went with it.

The history of European Christianity is entangled with the emergence of nation states and the democratic state. I wouldn't wish to deny that. So what?

Personally, I'm not sure the world is a better place for protestant individualism, the enlightenment and liberalism. But who knows? We are where we are and, no doubt, "That's the Way God Planned it". Here and now we are all free to make a choice for or against God and that has to be a good thing.

As for Anglicanism - whatever this means - I don't have a problem with the majority of its followers although I do believe within it it has sown the seeds of its own destruction. As for len, he is a different matter and I consider his expressed ideas a dangerous distortion of Christianity.

I'm with Christians - that's the WE I refer to. Those who accept Christ as the Son of God into their lives as King. It's time WE stressed what we have in common in the face of the aggressive and destructive influence of the ideas peddled around by people like YOU.

11 February 2012 at 18:16  
Blogger David B said...

Some of us might suggest that the bulk of the civilising of the western world insofar as it is civilised has come about in spite of the various churches, generally with the at least some of the churches kicking and screaming.

The universal suffrage, the emancipation of women, the Oaths Act, the ending of tithing, the understanding that the world is not geocentric, an acceptance that marriages break down, availability of contraception, freedom of expression and print......

David B

11 February 2012 at 19:22  
Blogger Anoneumouse said...

Where we attribute to the Queen's Majesty the chief government, by which titles we understand the minds of some slanderous folks to be offended, we give not to our princes the ministering either of God's word or of sacraments, the which thing the Injunctions also lately set forth by Elizabeth our Queen doth most plainly testify: but that only prerogative which we see to have been given always to all godly princes in Holy Scriptures by God himself, that is, that they should rule all estates and degrees committed to their charge by God, whether they be ecclesiastical or temporal, and restrain with the civil sword the stubborn and evil-doers.

11 February 2012 at 19:28  
Blogger Anoneumouse said...

Your Grace may I reminde you

By way of the Human Rights Act 1998 Section 11 Safeguard for existing human rights.

A person’s reliance on a Convention right does not restrict—

(a) any other right or freedom conferred on him by or under any law having effect in any part of the United Kingdom; ........

The High Court should be reminded that the 39 articles of religion as found in the book of common prayer is still good law in this country.

Article 37 of the 39 Articles of Religion is quite clear.

"The Queen's Majesty hath the chief power in this Realm of England, and other his Dominions, unto whom the chief Government of all Estates of this Realm, whether they be Ecclesiastical or Civil, in all causes doth appertain, and is not, nor ought to be, subject to any foreign Jurisdiction".

The Thirty - nine Articles of Religion were drawn up by the church in convocation in 1563

Subscription to them by the clergy was ordered by act of Parliament in 1571. The Subscription (Thirty-Nine Articles) Act (1571), 13 Elizabeth, Cap. 12

The 39 Articles can be found in the Book of Common Prayer, which has not been repealed and are part of the British constitution through the Act of Settlement 1701 and the Act of Union with Scotland 1707

Oh yes, and the Clergy of the Church of England are still required to acknowledge that the Articles are "agreeable to the Word of God," CANON C15 OF THE DECLARATION OF ASSENT

11 February 2012 at 19:54  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

David B. You secularists have done rather well out of Christianity being the nominal state religion. “If it ain’t broke...”

11 February 2012 at 20:07  
Blogger Harry-ca-Nab said...

Apropos to nothing in this blog heres a sad reflection of the state of people forced by Coalition policy to live on welfare.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OA9t61PuiDc&feature=g-all-s&context=G290c13dFAAAAAAAADAA

11 February 2012 at 20:08  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

The blog owner gets a mention in The Times!

"The Bideford prayers ruling makes it clear that the right not to worship is also a liberty worth fighting for. The religious blogger “Archbishop Cranmer” warned that if the National Secular Society won, prayers in Parliament may cease. “Under the guise of ‘neutrality’, secularism would become the orthodoxy.”"

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/faith/article3316095.ece (paywalled)

11 February 2012 at 20:22  
Blogger Preacher said...

It seems like a storm in Teacup to me. Perhaps if the councillors had a choice of whether to pray & who to pray to, the prayers they say, may have more meaning & power.
I remember at primary school, we all recited the Lord's prayer, parrot fashion before going to lunch. As the majority of us didn't have a clue about the gospel, it didn't mean much, but now as a believer, I find prayer powerful.

We Christians must understand that we can & must preach the gospel, & have a God given duty to share the good news, no matter what the cost personally .Our love for the lost should ensure that this is the case.
But others have the God given freedom to choose their eternal destiny & we must let them.
If the Holy Spirit cannot convince them of their need for salvation, then wrangling, rhetoric & clever arguments will only produce an illegitimate, religious fake, not a true child of God.

11 February 2012 at 20:23  
Blogger David B said...

@Preacher

I'm not sure that preaching the gospel is appropriate in a work situation, whether as a surgeon, or in a democratic chamber or whatever.

Personally I have no objection to being preached at, as long as the preacher doesn't get upset when I subject him or her to rigorous questions and objections.

Actually, come to think of it, I don't really mind if they do get upset.

I don't think anyone has any sort of right to not be offended.

David B

11 February 2012 at 20:39  
Blogger non mouse said...

Your Grace: ...state recognition for the multiplicity of competing religions (including Atheism) which are a feature of the fragmented postmodern context. Faced with this scenario, disestablishment becomes a very attractive option. Oh, I do believe deconstruction hoists itself on its own petard. I have been known to ask its adherents: "And when you've destroyed civilisation, including the skill for constructing artefacts: how will mankind make anything work?"
The only reply I ever received was a gallic shrug.

On this strand, I'm mostly with Rebel Saint, Anon...inB..., and Anoneumouse [love that pentacle!]. I'd add that the nature of the prayers in question should concern us:-

Surely the underlying Christian motive is that the deliberations and efforts of 'governors' should contribute to the glory of God, Who is: Truth, Justice, Mercy, Goodness, Beauty, Light, and Righteousness (et al). Thereby, committee members remind themselves of a goal greater than their own aggrandisement and enrichment, or that of any Human Master. Does the reminder, perhaps, offend them? The reminder, and the fact that while such ideals inform the culture of our island, their own inspiration dwells elsewhere.

For my part, I am grateful to an echo of school prayers which rises to consciousness still:
God be in my head, and in my understanding;
God be in mine eyes, and in my looking;
God be in my mouth, and in my speaking;
God be in my heart, and in my thinking;
God be at mine end, and at my departing.


I see King's/Cambridge have it on UTube... and I thank God for them, the prayer, and the beauty and goodness that inspires our culture.

I suspect that those who desert the CoE do so in response to custodians who have deserted our own principles. The betrayers lead us to sing: "Who takes care of the caretaker's daughter..."

11 February 2012 at 20:59  
Blogger Mr Integrity said...

Preacher; Well put but those who chose to reject the Lordship of Jesus Christ become vitriolic against believers in order to justify their own lack of belief.
No one can make another become a Christian, it is only the influence of the Holy Spirit on an individual’s life that gives them the opportunity to respond.
Unbelievers can't see the logic of belief because they have not experienced the power of the Spirit. They can however if they chose to do so, see in the lives of believers and in the universe around them the unmistakable presence of God.

11 February 2012 at 22:26  
Blogger David B said...

@Nin mouse, who said '...glory of God, Who is: Truth, Justice, Mercy, Goodness, Beauty, Light, and Righteousness (et al)'

And, according to the biblical accounts, jealousy, bloodthirstiness, deception (et al)

The most common reason for Christians deconverting, in my experience, is reading the bible.

@Mr Integrity who said '...Unbelievers can't see the logic of belief because they have not experienced the power of the Spirit. They can however if they chose to do so, see in the lives of believers and in the universe around them the unmistakable presence of God.'

I have felt that pseudo logic, though in a quasi hindu context. Check out the bliised out inanities of the Hare Krishna people, the scientologists who swear blind that scientology has transformed their lives.....

In the universe around us there is unequivocal evidence of evolution and catastrophe.

In the universe around us there is evidence of blind mechanical forces like tsunamis and volcanoes, tornadoes and hurricanes, and the occasional survivor believing that they have been miraculously picked out by some god or other.

There is malaria and bilharzia.

But there is also fellowship, romance, optimism, love, and in many people an urge to do the right thing.

Without any need of intervention by any sort of outside entity, and particularly one so nasty as the god of the OT or the God of Revelation.

David B

11 February 2012 at 23:17  
Blogger Richard Gadsden said...

I fear that His Grace is mistaken on the oath or affirmation of allegiance.

He should consider the matter of Charles Bradlaugh, in respect of religion, and the purpose of the words "according to law", and why they were inserted into the oath in 1689.

Certainly, this atheist republican stood for Parliament with the intention of taking the affirmation prefaced by the simple words "Recalling that the Parliament of which I am now a member makes the law," ... "I solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, her heirs and successors, according to law".

It commits republicans only to pursue a republic through legal means. A commitment which I would have no difficulty in making.

One should recall that Her Majesty's successors are whoever the Act of Settlement says they are, and that Parliament can amend that whenever they like. One should also recall the fate of His Majesty, King James II, whose successors arrived rather earlier than he might have chosen.

11 February 2012 at 23:28  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

David B said ...

"But there is also fellowship, romance, optimism, love, and in many people an urge to do the right thing."

One sees very little of these qualities in the nonsense you write. So the world is a place of trial and difficultly. Perhaps that's the point. Not everyone has the opportunity to come to know God. Those who do and who wilfully reject Him are bad enough. Those who set out to disturb and undermine the faith of others because they themselves can't believe are particularly evil.

"The most common reason for Christians deconverting, in my experience, is reading the bible."

This statement is sheer nonsense. And just what expperience is that? Your clever little discussion board? Is that what happened to you? Did your ego get in the way of perception? Did you go to the Bible looking for reasons to dismiss it?

12 February 2012 at 00:42  
Blogger Manfarang said...

Inspector
Yes I remember the Soviet Union.
I don't think you ever knew much about it.
Many Russians remained devout Orthodox Christians and in Eastern European countries the Churches thrived.
The Churches are hardly thriving in England.Disestablishment is the way to go.

12 February 2012 at 00:56  
Blogger non mouse said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

12 February 2012 at 01:58  
Blogger non mouse said...

DB@ 23:17: if you read the Bible as carefully as you do people's names, then a sliver of doubt might one day lighten the monochrome of your dark certitude. One prays for such as you.

God does not require "blood"- it's men who spill and drink that; God does not deceive us, we wilfully fail to see and hear. "Jealous," like so many words, has several meanings. The Biblical application I recognise lies in God's wanting us to understand that we cannot emulate Him: we can never equal or surpass God. We may, however, strive towards His goodness by obeying the Law of His Universe. That's part of the symbology inhering in the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

You have chosen a pejorative sense of "Jealous." Indeed, you apply the same principle generally: everything you deem "bad" is Judaeo-Christian, and everything you pronounce "good" is man-made.

That is how you read our ancient history of your "good" (mankind), and so you fail to see that The Book describes and records the evil, the stupidity, and the stubborn pride of your god: not mine.

Indeed, it's a horrible story; so is most of [in]human history. And an even scarier truth of the matter is that the race of men has changed very little-despite some spiritual and material gains over the last 2,000 years.

The vile realities of your pagan world prevent me from seeing that race as anything great. If it were... after all these millions of years, your kind would have succeeded in controlling the forces* you consider ranged against you. But you haven't.

Personally, I begin to wonder if God brought us along last because we are the most foul scum in His Universe. However, we think we're so pretty we just weren't going to believe Him if He said so. We had to prove it to ourselves.

Thus, I thank Him for letting me know some good people, and some beauty. Products of British Christian culture as they have been, the contrast shows up your preferred kind for what it is (and that's not godless).

--
Oh - and we aren't having a discussion. Whether or not you reply - I'm done. Experience bids me spend no more words or time.

**************

*English provides an intelligible expression for one of your forces: "tidal waves." That tells us what the thing is; your foreign word doesn't.

12 February 2012 at 02:04  
Blogger David B said...

To start, non mouse

'if you read the Bible as carefully as you do people's names, then a sliver of doubt might one day lighten the monochrome of your dark certitude.'

Anyone can make a typo

'God does not require "blood"- it's men who spill and drink that'

By no means an exhaustive list

Gen 6 7, Gen 6 17, Ex 32 27, Num 18 17-19, Deut 12 27

That is enough to show the point

'God does not deceive us,'

Jeremiah 4 10, Jeremiah 20 7, Ezekial 14 9, 2 Thess 2 11

Bed calls. But, as Dawkins says, "The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully."

David B

12 February 2012 at 02:50  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

There is a curious illogic in, on the one hand affirming the moral good of humanity without recourse to the divine, whilst on the other rejecting what must be (by the preceding assumption) a man-made system of belief on the basis that it occupies a category of "wrongness" distinct from "good" humanity.

Either the things created and dreamt of man have some value in and of themselves - what you suggest to be "the urge to do the right thing" - in which case such an urge understood within a religious context cannot so easily and completely be rejected. Or, if religion is indeed so fundamentally wrong and "bad", it casts considerable doubt on the capacity for mankind to be in any meaningful sense "good"; given that our race appears to have organised itself around religious principles for as long as it has existed. True, you may say, such was a response to the blind mechanical forces of the universe by sentient beings; it seems doubtful, though, that what is "wrong" stems from religion per se, but rather that it is a consequence of the human condition (or, that the preconditions for the "wrong" in religion cannot be divorced from the preconditions for the development of humanity). Unless you can produce a utopia where such forces are not dominant I'm struggling to see how, logically, we could hope to see the effacement of what is "wrong" simply by rejecting certain forms of thought, when our present forms precede out of those that pre-existed them. In fact, the more I ponder the consequences of materialism, the more I see that religious claims that salvation can only be found in the spiritual (which is to say the non-material) make an enormous amount of sense; if one accepts the full extent of materialism, it is the only reasonable basis for any meaningful and lasting hope.

Or is mankind only "good" when it aspires not to heaven? I have to confess, not holding the blind mechanical forces to be the final determinants of what is, I'm left a little confused.

12 February 2012 at 02:53  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

Incidentally:

Jeremiah 4:10 - deceipt is quite clearly being used poetically to express the disparity between God's covenant promises and Jerusalem woes. As the proceeding and succeeding verses make clear, this is the result of people not honouring the covenant; the consequences for which were not only well established but, as Jeremiah points out, consistently warned about. Any deceipt is wilfully self-inflicted.

Jeremiah 20:7 - again poetic; though the deceipt in this instance expresses the fact that Jeremiah would not rationally choose the life of scorn and outrage that has come as a consequence of his fidelity to God. That he continues to do so is not a matter of his being insane, but that the message and presence of God is simply more compelling than the disincentive provided by life. I'm quite willing to personally attest to this: Paul describes this as being a "slave to Christ". We are simply captive in His love. Can't put it any other way than that.

Ezekiel 14:9 - This one is admittedly less straight forward. Taken in isolation, it does appear to suggest that God might wilfully mislead a prophet for the purposes of then destroying him. Looking at the preceding and succeeding verses though, it's clear that the passage is referring to those who have usurped God's authority by worshipping idols and giving themselves over to sin. Thus, "deceipt" in this instance is not deceipt of a true prophet, but rather that God has permitted false prophets to continue in their delusions for a time(hence "deceiving" them) but is now going to put Israel right. Any other reading is textually incoherent.

2 Thessalonians 2:11 - Again the deceipt is clearly a product of the wilful sin of the 'unrighteous'. In rejecting God, and thus truth, they are given over to Satan, the "Father of Lies".

non mouse made the assertion that God does not deceive us, which is to say those who accept Him as Lord. None of these verses in any way contradict that claim.

You'll have to forgive me for not taking up the blood references (I haven't even looked them up yet). As you said, it's late, but I'll try and give you my response to those passages sometime tomorrow.

12 February 2012 at 03:19  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

I was reminded of the thinking of Professor Screwtape (an easy cut and paste job - last one tonight I promise):

"You will
notice that we have got them completely fogged about the meaning of the word "real"'. They tell each other, of some
great spiritual experience, "All that really happened was that you heard some music in a lighted building"; here "Real"
means the bare physical facts, separated from the other elements in the experience they actually had. On the other hand,
they will also say "It's all very well discussing that high dive as you sit here in an armchair, but wait till you get up there
and see what it's really like": here "real" is being used in the opposite sense to mean, not the physical facts (which they
know already while discussing the matter in armchairs) but the emotional effect those facts will have on a human
consciousness.

Either application of the word could be defended; but our business is to keep the two going at once so
that the emotional value of the word "real" can be placed now on one side of the account, now on the other, as it
happens to suit us. The general rule which we have now pretty well established among them is that in all experiences
which can make them happier or better only the physical facts are "Real" while the spiritual elements are "subjective";
in all experiences which can discourage or corrupt them the spiritual elements are the main reality and to ignore them is
to be an escapist.

Thus in birth the blood and pain are "real", the rejoicing a mere subjective point of view; in death, the
terror and ugliness reveal what death "really means". The hatefulness of a hated person is "real"—in hatred you see men
as they are, you are disillusioned; but the loveliness of a loved person is merely a subjective haze concealing a "real"
core of sexual appetite or economic association. Wars and poverty are "really" horrible; peace and plenty are mere
physical facts about which men happen to have certain sentiments.

The creatures are always accusing one another of
wanting "to cat the cake and have it"; but thanks to our labours they are more often in the predicament of paying for the
cake and not eating it. Your patient, properly handled, will have no difficulty in regarding his emotion at the sight of
human entrails as a revelation of Reality and his emotion at the sight of happy children or fair weather as mere
sentiment.
"

12 February 2012 at 03:53  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Dodo: "Those who set out to disturb and undermine the faith of others because they themselves can't believe are particularly evil."

What about those who disturb and undermine the faith of others because they themselves believe in a different god? What are they?

12 February 2012 at 07:43  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Mr I: "They can however if they chose to do so, see in the lives of believers and in the universe around them the unmistakable presence of God."

Aspiring to something and imagining oneself in that place is one of the techniques of most self-help books. It works too, though for only some of the people who try it. I would expect to see the presence of your God in all sincere believers but I don't at all, especially if one scratches the public-facing surface, which is why I usually quote Matthew 5-14 at the worst cases.

12 February 2012 at 07:51  
Blogger len said...

I think it not surprising at all that humanity (the secular part of it) is entering a Judgement of God.

The secular World is rejecting the God of the Bible.
There can be no vacuum in the spiritual dimension.
The 'god of this World' is only too keen to fill any space vacated by the God of the Bible.

Islam is advancing rapidly, Sharia law is already being used in the UK.There will be nothing to stop the advance of Islam materially and spiritually.

For God to Judge Humanity he only has to withdraw His Hand of restraint on spiritual forces beyond the control of man.

12 February 2012 at 08:51  
Blogger wallygreeninker said...

During the standing phase of the regular Muslim prayer, the Sura al-Fateha, from the Koran is recited. This includes the lines:

"Guide us to the right path.
The path of those upon whom thou has bestowed favors, Not of those who thou has cursed once nor of those who have gone astray."

All the standard commentators agree that 'those thou has cursed once' are the Jews and 'those who have gone astray' are the Christians.(It should be pointed out here that interpretations that have been unanimously accepted for 1400 years have a habit of suddenly becoming controversial, dubious or not widely believed, as soon as any non-Muslim uses them to criticise Islam.)
I'm not sure the specific disowning (and disparagement) of Jews and Christians, is the right spirit with which to inaugurate a council meeting in the UK.

12 February 2012 at 10:08  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

@DanJ0: An interesting idea - what is it that you would expect to find in the case of God genuinely indwelling in a person?

12 February 2012 at 10:10  
Blogger Dreadnaught said...

DoDo said

'Those who set out to disturb and undermine the faith of others because they themselves can't believe are particularly evil'.

Such a Drama-Queen - but still can't feel the pain of shooting himself (as he naturally speaks only for himself) in the foot; this absurd view fits the bill for any prosletysing missionary - however well meaning the intentions of the individual.

12 February 2012 at 10:14  
Blogger Albert said...

Sean @1725,

The only thing that irritates me about the British National Anthem is the music it is set to. Also, a song asking a fictional character to "save" the Queen of England is, frankly, more hilarious than offensive to me. Sing what you like; words alone are harmless. It is actions I worry about.

So, you'd have no objections if the prayers at the council meetings were sung?

12 February 2012 at 10:18  
Blogger Dreadnaught said...

'The secular World is rejecting the God of the Bible'

Len this is completely wrong.
Secularism is the principle of separation between government institutions and the persons mandated to represent the State independently free from religious institutions or religious domination.

There are many Secular Christians, Secular Jews, Secular Muslims and Secular(they would be) - atheists. A secular society is one that sets in law the right of an individual to follow his/her religion or none, without fear of oppression from the State or organised Theocracy.

12 February 2012 at 10:29  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

AIB: "@DanJ0: An interesting idea - what is it that you would expect to find in the case of God genuinely indwelling in a person?"

For starters, I'd expect a very marked improvement in character over time. Things like kindness and compassion ought to really stand out, I'd have thought. I'd expect Christians with an indwelling god to try to avoid situations that bring out ungodly behaviour, rathe than to seek them.

Actually, I expect more than all of that. I expect people with an indwelling god to sing off the same songsheet, so to speak. I'm bewildered that they don't. How can that be? The source of spiritual life is the same, surely the message and the detail ought to be the same.

12 February 2012 at 11:05  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Also, when someone is being particularly vile and I remind them of Matthew 5-14 I expect some sort of contrition, not an excuse that if Jesus can be angry at money changers in the temple then they have their god's permission to verbally punch and kick unbelievers for being disrepectful about their religion. Isn't that the point of Matthew 5-14: to demonstrate the truth through behaviour rather than try to punch and kick it into people?

12 February 2012 at 11:11  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Manfarang said... Inspector, Yes I remember the Soviet Union.I don't think you ever knew much about it.

Isn't that the point ! The Eastern Orthodox church banished from public life, replaced by a secretive and oppressive system. Take Christianity out of British, nay, to be more specific, English public life and we all know what will replace it. “Political Correctness”. That creed whereby those who feel guilt about being white and middle class and heterosexual can condescend to those that aren't. There’s a massive problem though. Those who are not white and with the aforementioned qualities don’t feel the need to be constrained by it’s strictures.

They will eat us from the inside out, and take over. They will be assisted by secular liberals like David B. and humane homosexuals like DanJ0. The first will be rather disappointed when he’s ignored and referred to as an ‘infidel’, and after all the help he’s given them too in dismantling state Christianity ! The second will be somewhat upset he’s being persecuted for being gay, again, after all the indirect help he’s given to their cause on the likes of Cranmer...

12 February 2012 at 13:48  
Blogger Albert said...

Inspector,

You are quite right. Manfarang saying that most Russians remained devote Orthodox is missing the point. Orthodox who expressed their faith ended up in gulags, where their explicitly atheist oppressors would give thanks to God in whom they didn't believe that they didn't have to worry about any kind of morality and could just get on with torturing their Christian inmates. Meanwhile, outside the camps babies would be baptized again and again because every member of the family would take the baby to be baptized without the knowledge of the others. Such was the break-down of basic family trust in this most atheistic of regimes.

As Rick Santorum said recently:

When you look and see what the left is trying to do in America today, progressives are trying to shutter faith, privatize it, push it out of the public square, oppress people of faith, strip their charitable deductions away from them, trying to weaken them, churches...They are taking faith and crushing it. Why? When you marginalize faith in America, when you remove the pillar of God-given rights then what’s left is the French Revolution. What’s left is a government that gives you rights. What’s left are no unalienable rights. What’s left is a government that will tell you who you are, what you’ll do and when you’ll do it. What’s left in France became the the guillotine.

This is why, given the choice between political atheism and Islam as the state philosophy- though a hard choice, I'd prefer the Mullahs any day. History, indeed numbers, themselves supports that decision.

When secularists wonder why we worry about such things as banning prayers in public it is because history shows secularists don't know when to stop. Unless they are completely naive, secularists ought to acknowledge they know they don't know when to stop.

12 February 2012 at 14:16  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Inspector, is it Catholic Thespian Weekend this weekend? You're all being drama queens at the moment, it's getting to be like the cast from Glee. You'll be swooning next, holding the back of your hand to your forehead.

12 February 2012 at 14:21  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Albert We both remember a time before the individual when society as whole was the issue, not personal objectives of ‘enlightened’ liberals who have all the answers. What is so mystifying is that they seek change for selfish reasons.

But today, they are on the ascendance. As John Lennon sang, “They think they’re so clever and classless and free”. (quod vide what the quare fella quipped at 14:21). No true idea how our cherished freedoms came about.

As for a choice between political atheism and Islam, the correct answer is of course, neither ! (Back of the class for now, old chap...)

12 February 2012 at 14:42  
Blogger Dreadnaught said...

Hey Inspector - I thought it rather odd that a Chap of your urbanity should quote a bit of Lennon's Working Class Hero in part only - thought it was safer than 'Imagine' - 'there's no heaven - and no religion too etc'?

Try the phrase again in the context of the rest of it -

'Keep ‘em doped with religion and sex and teevee
And they think they’re so clever and classless and free
But they’re still f*cking peasants as far’s I can see'


Inspector General you're a comedian alright - hahahaha - You certainly brightened a rather dull winter's day!

12 February 2012 at 15:23  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Dreadnaught you wag, haven’t you got anything better to do on a Sunday afternoon than follow this site. The Inspector admits {ahem] that he shot himself in the foot on this occasion...

12 February 2012 at 15:47  
Blogger Dreadnaught said...

At least you have the capacity to see the funnyside and laugh Inspector - good on you!

12 February 2012 at 16:24  
Blogger len said...

Dreadnaught,

'A secular society is one that sets in law the right of an individual to follow his/her religion or none, without fear of oppression from the State or organised Theocracy.'

I am in total agreement with this sentiment.This is the Christianity that Jesus preached..No 'forced conversions'. Actually from what Jesus said you might actually have thought He was trying to put some people off!.Jesus said that the road to Life was narrow and few would find it.He told to the rich young man to give all he had to the poor.Jesus quite clearly spelt out that they way of a Christian (in this present life at least) would not be an easy one.

Christianity should not be forced on anyone, but Christians should be able to speak and preach the Gospel if people do not want to listen then they can make this obvious(and generally do in my experience.)

12 February 2012 at 16:49  
Blogger Albert said...

Dan,

You're all being drama queens at the moment

Is that so? Apart from the history I've already mentioned. Look at the present. President Obama is the darling of the secular left for example. But this is the man who voted to retain partial birth abortion, and even voted to prevent treatment and help to a child who had been mistakenly born as a result of a botched abortion.

Strange hero to have.

And this is exactly why Santorum is right: if there is no inalienable basis for human rights, then the state gives human rights, and can withdraw them. At the moment, it is the unborn child - or in Obama's case, the un-wantedly-born child - who has no rights and must be left to die. It's not just that the child may be left to die, Obama voted for a law to make it illegal for anyone to come to the aid of that child. And he is the hero of the hour (or he would be if he had not turned out to be so hopeless, but that's another matter).

I am young enough to believe that, unless society changes course, it is highly likely I will not die a natural death. By the time I am old I expect the elderly and the sick will be euthanised by the state. For our own good of course.

Why would anyone who looks at history, the present, the metaphysical (and therefore meta-ethical) nihilism of atheism, not to mention the bizarre kick the NSS seems to get out of its small-mindedness and mean-spiritedness, doubt it? They'll come for you too Dan, when you've ceased to be useful. This is not a fantasy, it has happened already. What, in your world-view will stop it?

12 February 2012 at 17:31  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

I think someone has fainted.

12 February 2012 at 17:41  
Blogger Albert said...

I think someone else is naïve.

After all, I gave evidence of various kinds and asked what was in your world-view to stop it.

All you give me is a woman passed out on sofa! She's not going to do much!

12 February 2012 at 17:47  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Of course, rights follow from our arguments and depend on a shared will to maintain them. Most people recognise the reality of that. I certainly do but then I'm a liberal.

12 February 2012 at 17:56  
Blogger Albert said...

What's your take on the baby who has been mistakenly born as a result of a botched abortion? Should he or she be saved? or left to die?

12 February 2012 at 18:00  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Hey, there's an embedded clip in this BBC report of Mr Bone talking about it. Nice to put a face to a name, I think. I love that the BBC has dug up a liberal-minded Muslim councillor from somewhere else to comment positively on it. Lol.

12 February 2012 at 18:14  
Blogger Albert said...

Mr Khan's comment is interesting:

Under the old regime I had to wait outside the room while everyone else was praying. This meant that it appeared I was being late or just plain rude to other people's religions as I walked across the floor afterwards

It looks as if he took this view because he wasn't particularly religious. But the question arises as to whether those with religiously narrow views - by I which I mean those who cannot even be present during a service of a religion he does not follow (i.e. some Muslims and some atheists) are really able to represent their communities. It's not religion that should be removed from public life, but that kind of Muslim/atheistic narrow-mindedness. (I speak of removal in a democratic sense - people should't vote for individuals who cannot represent and be part of the whole community. If that means extremist Muslims and atheists are unrepresented that is because these two groups it seems, are unable to integrate.)

12 February 2012 at 18:34  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

DanJ0. liberal-minded Muslim councillor .

Use to be quite a few of those around 10, maybe 20 years ago. As our wild life experts would put it, “becoming increasingly rarer, might have to put them on the endangered list...”

First generaton immigrants they were, but now their sons are taking over. And of course, they're not so grateful for being allowed into the UK...

12 February 2012 at 18:38  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Inspector: "First generaton immigrants they were, but now their sons are taking over. And of course, they're not so grateful for being allowed into the UK..."

That's because most of them were probably born here. They're probably parents themselves by now. That is, they're British citizens with religious freedom. *meaningful look*

12 February 2012 at 18:43  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

@DanJ0: The two things (a movement towards compassion and a movement towards unity) are, at least in my experience, inseparable.

Accepting rebukes is, I think for any of us, very hard. I know I never enjoy it. Certainly though, if we've been caught out for being ungodly, we can hardly expect to play the religion card and keep up appearances.

I'm sorry that your experience of Christians has gifted you with neither. I'll pray that that does not remain the case.

12 February 2012 at 19:07  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

DanJ0. Rather think the point has slipped past you. It’s the ones that have been born here who are the biggest problem. You see, they don’t have any recollection of the poverty their parents escaped, and little of the gratitude their parents had either. Still, they have inherited Islam, and all the comfort that brings them and will bring us, when they {Ahem} impose it on us, LGBT and all... {INSPECTOR TURNS HEAD AND WINKS AN EYE}

12 February 2012 at 19:12  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Inspector: "It’s the ones that have been born here who are the biggest problem. You see, they don’t have any recollection of the poverty their parents escaped, and little of the gratitude their parents had either."

I see my point has slipped past you too. They're British citizens with the same rights and liberties as the rest of us. If religious freedom is important to everyone here then presumably I can be a Muslim if I want. Or are you denying me that freedom? If I can then why not the children and grandchildren of Pakistani immigrants? Are they somehow second class citizens to you? If so then on what basis? This has a whiff of racism or something similar about it at first glance. Perhaps you ought to explain.

12 February 2012 at 19:22  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

DanJ0. While your liberal sensibilities allow you to criticise Christianity, there seems to be no such compulsion from you to do the same for Islam. And yet, Islam has so much NOT going for it. If you believe the Inspector is racist for pointing out the evils of that religion, then you must attach the same label to all others who do so, including our beloved Archbishop.

The Inspector welcomes Pakistani immigrants and hope they assimilate well into UK society. If they feel they are unable to do so, the Inspector will wave them a tearful goodbye as they jet off to Islamabad. Of course the Inspector is free to say this, as he too is of immigrant stock (both sides), although in his case, he has long bought into his host culture.

12 February 2012 at 19:43  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Inspector, in my devilment I was simply feeding out the rope and wondering if you'd fashion a noose for yourself. The children and grandchildren of Pakistani immigrants do not have a duty to assimilate as far as religion goes. That's what religious freedom means. Perhaps you might like to assimilate instead and become like the majority who aren't really religious at all? If not then I can meet you at Heathrow if you like and wave a tearful goodbye as you set off for Rome.

12 February 2012 at 19:52  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

DanJ0. Of course the Inspector is all for religious freedom, and you are right, immigrants in their assimilating do not have to adopt the host country’s DOMINANT religion.

Now, back to the main course - Your campaign against Christianity. Seems to be you yourself are denying Christians their religious freedom. But why ? We love you DanJ0, and we hope that you will love we too.

12 February 2012 at 20:04  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

As for my thoughts about Islam: I'm an atheist, all the religions I have looked at so far look false to me. Both Islam and Christianity look to be constructed by men as a post hoc explanation of the human condition. The fact that they both assert an absolute morality and a divine design means that one can't even argue for or against certain things. As such, I think they're a poor choice to underpin a modern and diverse society. I particularly dislike Islam and Catholicism as they appear to have aspirations to temporal power.

12 February 2012 at 20:05  
Blogger Dan said...

Localism Act

"(1) A local authority has the power to do anything individuals generally may do"

This is a rather curious statement, isn't it?

It is being taken to mean that councils may pray, since individuals can.

If that's the case, can Bideford Council also get married, perhaps to Salford?

Could it subsequently get divorced, because Salford committed adultery with Norwich?

Can it take driving lessons?

Can it stay up all night playing poker and be late for work the next day?

Can it take part in five-a-side football, in goal?

Only asking, like.

12 February 2012 at 20:08  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Inspector: "Seems to be you yourself are denying Christians their religious freedom."

In the sense that I've used it in the previous few posts, I'm doing anything but that. As I say again, and again, and again, and again here, I fully support Article 9 of the ECHR. I'm a liberal, of course I do. In fact, I argue for a secular State in order to protect the freedom of the religious and the non-religious in this area.

However, that does not mean the religious have complete religious freedom. That would be daft. So, it depends on the situation. I think I'm being completely reasonable arguing for certain restrictions. The B&B case is a perfect example. I'm amazed anyone tries to defend their position to be honest. But hey.

12 February 2012 at 20:10  
Blogger Dan said...

Of course, if councils can pray, because they can do anything individuals do, that would also seem to mean that they can have a religion.

So if the council prays, presumably that means the council (assuming they are Christian prayers) is a Christian.

And if the council can be a Christian, it can also experience doubts.

And if it can experience doubts, it can also become an atheist. It has to be free to do this, because it can do anything an individual can do.

Which would mean that a "Christian council" could become an "atheist council".

And an atheist council would not be the same as a secular council. An atheist council would not pray at all (though it might attend church weddings or funerals if friends are involved), before during or after official meetings.

So perhaps unintentionally the Localism Act in fact opens the way for State Atheism, Albania-style, in local government.

Interesting.

12 February 2012 at 20:13  
Blogger Albert said...

DanJo,

A little earlier, you were accusing some of us of being drama queens with our visions of future intolerance. But I asked you a simple question, to see how secure humanity is on your world-view:

What's your take on the baby who has been mistakenly born as a result of a botched abortion? Should he or she be saved? or left to die?

I would have thought this was an easy question for anyone with a bit of humanity. But apparently not. So how secure are the vulnerable in your world-view?

Another question: do you think women from ethnic minorities have the right to abort a child on the grounds that the child is female?

12 February 2012 at 20:18  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Chaps, off to visit the ‘Mouse and Wheel’ for repairs. Will leave you with one thought, be careful when you throw our heritage on the fire, something else, something unexpected even, might take it’s place. Something horrible. Be seeing you...

12 February 2012 at 20:19  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Dan, the statement has a context: it's about the power of competence. Despite all the stuff about common law and freedom in the other threads, local councils have defined roles and their powers are set out in legislation. They can't act outside of those.

This new Act will change that. It removes the limitations so that councils can act to fulfil their roles unless specifically prohibited to do so, at least as I understand it. This reduces the likelihood of legal challenges. It's an incredible shift of power.

12 February 2012 at 20:25  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Inspector: "Will leave you with one thought, be careful when you throw our heritage on the fire, something else, something unexpected even, might take it’s place. Something horrible."

It might. But it might not either. We threw some of our heritage on the fire when women were included in the electorate. That turned out okay despite dire warnings at the time.

12 February 2012 at 20:28  
Blogger Dan said...

Our heritage includes atheists too. The NSS was founded in 1866, which means it has been in existence longer than Bideford has been minuting prayers at its council meetings.

12 February 2012 at 20:37  
Blogger Dan said...

DanJ0:

I've been learning all about the Localism Act over the last few days.

My point is merely that it may not simply give councils the right to do whatever individuals can do. Because that would have absurd consequences.

12 February 2012 at 20:40  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Bizarrely, it actually fits in with the Big Society thing in some ways. I thought that was just a slogan to take the edge off Small State by reversing the emphasis. But perhaps not.

12 February 2012 at 20:47  
Blogger G. Tingey said...

1] Atheism is NOT a religion.
2] The ruling would also prevent the public saying or performance of islamic prayers as part of any council's meeting.

12 February 2012 at 21:46  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

What’s this ? DanJ0, what appears to be his understudy, Dan, as if there could be another, and, God help us, Tingey !!

Talk about worst case scenario. Knew I’d come back too soon...

12 February 2012 at 21:56  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

You know Tingey, the only reason you find "atheism is a religion" so offensive is because you insist on using religion as a pejorative term.

12 February 2012 at 22:41  
Blogger Sean Baggaley said...

@Inspector:

"Before a man realises how ignorant he is, he must first go through a period in his life when he thinks he knows it all. And while he knows it all, he’s most keen to share his knowledge with the un-enlightened. We await patiently Baggaley’s progress..."

I suggest you try removing the log from your own eye before pointing at the splinters in others'.

Yes, I remember the Soviet Era. Perhaps you should go look at this and come back when you've understood what Magritte was trying to say. A name is not the person. Calling something "Communist" does not make it so. War is not Peace.

Returning this discussion kicking and screaming to its original topic, there is another passage from your own sacred books that seems to answer the problem very well: Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.

The middle of a business meeting is not the right time for prayer. That's something you should do before you go into the meeting.

There's a world of difference between having an informal prayer meeting before a meeting, and having "Item 1: Praying to God" on the meeting agenda itself.

This is about principles, not freedoms. Freedoms are rarely absolute.

12 February 2012 at 22:46  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Baggaley. I suggest you try removing the log from your own eye before pointing at the splinters in others'..

Log removed many years ago, after having gone through the ‘know it all’ stage himself.

The Inspector takes your point re ‘Item 1’, perhaps you are right, but note this, and it’s something he has sadly learned over the years. To compromise is to be seen by your opponents as weakness. And weakness shows a lack of position. So, no compromise, position intact. Would that it were not like that, but it is.

Not sure what you are trying to say via Magritte’s pipe. What the Inspector thinks you are implying is that you are a bit of a Marxist-Leninist, or a maybe a fellow traveller. Do put him right if that is not the case as he wouldn’t want to misrepresent anyone...

12 February 2012 at 23:28  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

Inspector

You've been fighting the atheists manly today, well done.

They have been out in strength! DanJ0 with his new found pal Dan,our inhouse comedian Tingey and then along comes the thrusting stag . Of course, David B will be watching in the wings waiting his moment to recruit to his godless discussion board.

What godless drivel they have been posting. One almost misses len! Almost!

13 February 2012 at 00:13  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

... the thrusting stag being the ever so 'umble Baggaley.

13 February 2012 at 00:14  
Blogger E.xtra S.ensory Blofeld + Tiddles said...

OoiG

"What’s this ? DanJ0, what appears to be his understudy, Dan, as if there could be another, and, God help us, Tingey !!"

At last, revealed on the blog.

The unholy Trinity of Atheism, the religion that never saves..bit like RBS?.

In the name of The Mother, Son and Holy Ghoul.
HeHeHe

Ernst.

13 February 2012 at 09:39  
Blogger E.xtra S.ensory Blofeld + Tiddles said...

Your Grace

Is Ernst the only one who continually staggers at the dumbing down of society by our 'supposed betters'.

Ernst watched the BAFTA's last night and was pleased that Streep won best Actress but I was horrified to watch as The Artist won 7 awards.(The French having a massive laugh on the moronic Anglo Saxons intellect perhaps?)

How on earth is a silent movie able to be put in the Best Screenplay award and win.

Imagine going to Fairfield Halls and watching a silent production of Hamlet. Actors entering, mouthing for 6 minutes what should be words, then leaving stage left/right for the whole evening performance.( Hamlet enters in silence, clasps skull in left hand, places right hand on forehead in anguish,in silence, leaves stage right after 15 minutes, in silence)

It appears the Emperors clothes is alive and well in luvvie land! but what next?

The Grammies nominate an unknown artist and backing group who record a song via an acoustic system using an acoustic horn,scratched onto a 78 rpm shellac resin cylinder and dominates the evening, winning award after award.

Has the world not gone mad and that they who are mad govern us?

What a generation!

ES Blofeld

13 February 2012 at 10:05  
Blogger dbhbarton said...

Some discussion of Matthew 5:14, I see, but a lot of Christians completely ignoring Matthew 6:5...

"When you pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites, for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Most certainly, I tell you, they have received their reward.
But you, when you pray, enter into your inner chamber, and having shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly."

Pretty cut-and-dried wouldn't you say?

13 February 2012 at 11:32  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

dbhbarton

This has been discussed in other threads, but putting it bluntly, the successive passages following Matthew 6:5 outline the Lord's Prayer - which is the communal & public prayer par excellence. It's also what the Bideford Council prayers always ended with, I've since learned.

Jesus himself prays publically on several occasions in the Gospels. Not least of which at the resurrection of Lazarus, where he explicitly included in his prayer why it was he was praying out loud:

Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” John 11:41b-42

"Pretty cut and dried" sounds rather like you're supporting a reading that is not merely reductively literal, but legalistic. If you can't see from the preceding verses that Jesus is criticising the pharisees for their hypocrisy - that their loud prayer is wrong by way of the motivation in their hearts as much as from their attempts to cultivate public favour, rather than favour from God, then its no wonder you've been confused by the passage.

Jesus calls us all to personal and inwardly-active prayer. The pharisees probably didn't pray at all once the doors were closed - and that's part of Jesus' complaint. But from his own example, when we do have that private prayer life there are times when we will lead prayer publically for the benefit of others rather than ourselves.

It's true - Council prayers could easily fall into either camp. But that's really a matter determined by councillors' relationship with God. Some are unquestionably hypocrites; others may well desire prayer as a way of reminding those who have been called to government that they do so on behalf of other people, and are answerable to God for how they discharge their position.

13 February 2012 at 15:01  
Blogger dbhbarton said...

I'm sure you do think I'm confused. I will be kinder to you: I think you are dishonest rather than dim.

Jesus doesn't just 'outline the Lord's Prayer': he says that it is the only prayer that his followers should use, "for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him". But this isn't really relevant to the question at hand, so you are simply attempting theological misdirection by raising it here.

Yes you have indeed spotted an apparent contradiction in the Bible, in which there is one passage that explicitly states "Do as I say", and some others that you choose to interpret as "Do as I do."

The latter can only be considered a more preferable interpretation in that it fits more comfortably with the wishes and needs of your chosen priesthood.

To be sure there is some explicit criticism of the Pharisees and their showy traditions (I suppose the Eric Pickles of the day would have labelled Jesus 'intolerant' and 'illiberal', with no less justification), but that does not in any way alter the fact that - according to Matthew - Jesus was explicitly and unambiguously telling his followers not to pray in public.

13 February 2012 at 15:31  
Blogger Albert said...

dbhbarton,

I will be kinder to you: I think you are dishonest rather than dim.

I wish I had the capacity to judge with such insight on so little evidence! So it is either dishonest or dim to read a text within its wider context is it?

Compare this:

Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Now since I cannot in fact give with my right hand without my left knowing what my right hand is doing. It seems on your interpretation that Jesus is forbidding giving alms. But that makes a nonsense of the passage, and the rest of his teaching.

13 February 2012 at 16:55  
Blogger dbhbarton said...

You are mistaken, sir. AnonymousInBelfast cast aspersions on my intelligence. It was not the other way around. But no matter..

So it is your contention that a statement beginning "when you give alms..." can logically be taken to mean "do not give alms?"

Are you not rather giving succour to those who would claim that you use the Bible to justify any old thing?

13 February 2012 at 17:14  
Blogger dbhbarton said...

Missed a word; obviously should have written 'claim that you CAN use the Bible to justify any old thing...'

13 February 2012 at 17:16  
Blogger Albert said...

dbhbarton,

You are mistaken, sir. AnonymousInBelfast cast aspersions on my intelligence.

Then you have my apologies.

Are you not rather giving succour to those who would claim that you use the Bible to justify any old thing?

I think I probably would say that, or something like it. In fact, history shows something pretty similar. It's a text after all. However, I would argue that the statement "Jesus' teaching is that it is wrong to pray in public" is hard to defend.

13 February 2012 at 17:30  
Blogger Oswin said...

Ernst @ 10:05 : it reminds me when we used to fall at the feet of the like of the so-called French comedic genius, of Francois Truffaut ... I once did, in a bid to impress a delectable 'blue-stocking' ... but my heart just wasn't in it (the 'films' that is, not the 'blue-stocking'!). I've had more fun watching my socks mould!

13 February 2012 at 17:57  
Blogger dbhbarton said...

Albert...

I would argue that the statement "Jesus' teaching is that it is wrong to pray in public" is hard to defend.

Well then, I look forward to hearing you argue that.

13 February 2012 at 18:05  
Blogger Albert said...

dbhbarton,

I don't think I need to add anything to what Belfast has already said. I think the only way to argue with it, is to reduce the whole text to absurdity - as you did (and as I did with regards to alms-giving). But that kind of move only works with some texts rather than others. Yes, if this was some kind of legal constitution, we would have problems (though I suppose courts deal with problems all the time), but I don't see that it is that kind of text. So I think the meaning is clarified by the context.

13 February 2012 at 18:13  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Beyond Belief on Radio 4 today was discussing the role of bishops in the House of Lords if anyone is interested.

13 February 2012 at 18:15  
Blogger dbhbarton said...

Albert...

Belfast hasn't said anything much. He asserts that I am taking the passage out of context, without providing any evidence to that effect.

The best he can suggest is that since Jesus prayed publicly sometimes (is it praying if you're a relative?), and since praying in public is OK by the Church, therefore Matthew 6:5 must not say what it does in fact very clearly say. This is special pleading of the most obvious sort.

And you repeat it with 'the meaning is clarified by the context', again without providing support for that claim. It isn't an argument. It is an assertion.

In fact I'd say you've illuminated the wider context quite nicely yourself with your addition of the alms-giving passage, which only reinforces the general message of doing God's business in private and with modesty, and certainly doesn't undermine the literal interpretation of Jesus's commandment on prayer.

Please tell me there is a better argument than this.

13 February 2012 at 19:01  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

dbhbarton

I didn't say dim, merely "reductively literal, and legalistic"

Which is exactly the nature of the interpretation you have continued to defend.

I know competent lawyers who are reductively literal and legalistic, but no less the intelligent for it. But just as one would be poorly advised to read literature from such a viewpoint (and potentially confused as a result of doing so), advocating a reading of Scripture in this fashion produces rather than reveals inconsistency.

What you suggest is that Matthew 6:5 can only be read as a prohibition on any form of public prayer. Far from being a theological misdirection, the Lord's Prayer is essential. Following your interpretative approach, one could only conclude that Jesus is explicitly restricting his followers to only ever use this prayer without variation. As a consequence of this approach, you characterise John 11:41-42 as an apparent contradiction.

What I suggest is this: that Jesus' criticism centres on the pharisee's attempts to make the form of prayer more important than personal communion with God. He also establishes that his followers will have a prayer life which is inwardly-focused. He then gives the Lord's Prayer, which has been the basis for communal prayer in the Church ever since. Unless Jesus intended his followers to pray only by rote, why else give his followers something that they could all collectively pray?

These passages show that Jesus is concerned with the heart above all, and not with the outward signs of religion as a marker of one's faith. It seems rather odd that we might also become obsessed with the outward forms of religion, albeit inversely as a means of censure. Rather, there is, as Jesus himself exemplified - at the raising of Lazarus, but also when he prays and gives thanks at meetings attended by thousands - more than sufficient scope for outward signs of what is within us. That prayer, for the sake and benefit of others proceeds from the inner communion we have with God.

13 February 2012 at 19:08  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

Incidentally, I'm not sure that I have a chosen priesthood...

13 February 2012 at 19:10  
Blogger Albert said...

dbhbarton,

This is becoming quite amusing really!

Firstly, you are demanding (except that you must be leg-pulling) a legalistic reading of this text, which implies the proper mode of the text is a legal one. You have provided no evidence for this and there is thus no reason to believe it.

In contrast, I have pointed out that the context is not a legal one, but one of hyperbole. The fact that a legal interpretation reduces Jesus' teaching on alms to absurdity demonstrates, and there are other passages in the neighbourhood that would do too.

I think Belfast has given you a context, he talked about what Jesus was speaking against by talking about the Pharisees which Jesus was clearly speaking against. One could add to his example of Jesus praying publicly, that he sent out the disciples to cast out demons and heal. They could only do this by prayer.

Now you can, as with any text, continue with your line of reasoning. You can argue that the moral of the Good Samaritan only applies on the road to Jericho, or that when it says "God is my rock" this really is meant to give us literal information about one of God's attributes (namely that he is some kind of stone). And if that's what you want to do then fine!

But you won't convince me that you don't know full well that your interpretations are leg-pulls.

Incidentally, if you want to be really legalistic about it, you would say, far from Jesus saying the Lord's Prayer being the only prayer that his followers should use, it actually forbids the use of that prayer (pray like this). And if you took that line, there's probably nothing either of us could do to remove the error, except shrug our shoulders and doubt anyone would really make such an obvious (if literal) mistake.

13 February 2012 at 19:34  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

Excuse me for butting in but what a silly discussion initiated by
dbhbarton.

Exclusively private prayer contradicts the very nature of God - a Trinity of Love and Community.

Doesn't the Lord's Prayer start with the words "Our Father"? If it was meant to be said in private wouldn't it start "My Father"?

Jesus also said:

"For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."

What is one supposed to do? Look at the other blankly?

13 February 2012 at 21:47  
Blogger Albert said...

Very good Dodo, why didn't I think of that?!

[I'm not sure about the Trinity being a community though - sounds a bit tritheistic to me.]

13 February 2012 at 21:52  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

I've probably explained it badly - who can explain the Trinity?

Augustine's thinking, I believe, was that the essence of God was Love - The One who Loved (Father), The One who was Loved (Son) and Love (Spirit). One God and Three indivisible Persons.

13 February 2012 at 22:17  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

There's also the Last Supper that Christ commanded us to commerate Him by. Another collective prayful gathering.

13 February 2012 at 22:24  
Blogger dbhbarton said...

@Belfast:

John 11:41-42..
"Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me."

Forgive my widely-acknowledged ignorance but I fail to see the relevance, much less the contradiction with Matthew 6:5. Try again?


@Dodo:

What is one supposed to do? Look at the other blankly?

The Quakers sit in silence for a few minutes, I believe, and thus find it perfectly possible to both gather together and pray in private without fear of contradiction on that score. Scoff away if that's all you've got.

@Albert:

I assure you I pull no legs. I am genuinely curious how you square this with yourselves. I haven't yet been shown a passage that contradicts Matt 5:6 but it would not surprise me if you eventually find one. I am not at all of the view that the Bible is infallible. Yet still I'll be left scratching my head and asking myself "well how do they decide which of these two contradictory passages is the one to be taken literally and obeyed, and which one is to be explained away as metaphor?"

Thus far the only answer seems to be that you accept whichever passage suits the beliefs you already hold, and dismiss the other with nothing more than a wave of your tongue.

I invite you, gentlemen, to do better, if you can.

13 February 2012 at 22:32  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

It is remarkable what people think we believe, and think we think.

13 February 2012 at 22:36  
Blogger Albert said...

Dodo,

I agree with the Trinitarian love, not the community. Community implies a gather of individuals. The Trinity is individual (in the proper sense of being indivisible) not individuals.

13 February 2012 at 22:49  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Just a moment chaps. For any atheists following this, you don’t have to understand God or Christ to be a Christian. Just go with the spirit. No point in analysing to the ‘nth’ degree what must remain a mystery to us earthbound folk. A bit like a television. We can see, yet we don’t understand the full physics behind it.

Just thought you might appreciate this bit of wisdom. Do carry on....

13 February 2012 at 23:01  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

Albert, agreed! A clumsy choice of word.

dbhbarton

Soyou want toplay silly ganes? Sorry to say it but you are either a deliberate wind-up merchant or exceeding dim.

Have you actualy read the Lord's Prayer?

"Thus therefore shall you pray:
OUR Father who art in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give US this day OUR daily bread. And forgive US OUR debts, as WE also forgive OUR debtors. And lead US not into temptation. But deliver US from evil. Amen."

(Matthew 6:9-14)

13 February 2012 at 23:08  
Blogger Albert said...

dbhbarton,

I haven't yet been shown a passage that contradicts Matt 5:6 but it would not surprise me if you eventually find one

The reason we are perhaps not being successful in that regard, is that it strikes us as being obvious that it is hyperbole. Let's take a different example, where we know there is (at the literal level) a flat contradiction:

On the one hand we are told that God is a rock, on the other hand we are told "God is spirit". I'm going to guess that there are many more times when God is called a rock than when he called spirit, but we all know that it is the rock that is a metaphor. How? Many things I suppose. God is supposed to be alive and intelligent,which hardly sounds like a rock. He is supposed to be everywhere, which could only be true of a rock if the rock filled the universe, then there is the fact that God tends to be called "rock" in poetic passages and so on. So we simply put the passage in a wider context. You don't need a knock down argument each time, and you may sometimes be wrong.

But let me give you an example from one of your own posts. You said:

Belfast hasn't said anything much.

Now if I take it literally, I would have to say that sentence is false. Belfast has said rather a lot. So if I say to you that there's no point in discussing anything with you because you proclaim demonstrable falsehoods, you will reply that "X hasn't said anything much" is a figure of speech and that you meant only that he hasn't said much to convince you.

How would you feel if I came back at you and said you would say that because if you didn't, it would be clear you speak manifest falsehoods and there is no point arguing with you?

We don't need to get into great arguments about comparing one of your sentences with another. We all know what you meant when you said what you said about Belfast. And so it is with the Bible. Read it a lot and you get a sense of it. There are loads of Psalms for example about praying in public, Jesus speaks of the Temple (a very public place) as a House of Prayer, St Paul tells us to pray without ceasing, Jesus prays publicly in Mat.19, he tells his disciples to pray in the garden (not in their own room) Then there's all the hyperbole in the relevant part of Matthew's gospel - the absurdity of what he says about almsgiving, if viewed literally. And so on.

Beyond that of course, Dodo and I (and the Inspector - thanks for that) are Catholics, so we believe that Jesus lives and speaks within his Church. That the reality he proclaims is made present in the life of the Church. We do not just read about it (the letter killeth, the Spirit giveth life) we encounter it, and sometimes we are corrected by it as when the Church defines something.

13 February 2012 at 23:08  
Blogger Albert said...

Is he playing silly games Dodo? I'm prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt. The example is daft of course, but the underlying question isn't: how does one deal with two passages which seem to be in contradiction. Traditionally, one simply followed the passage that seemed to be clearer - and much was missed by that method.

13 February 2012 at 23:10  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

Albert

You're a patient man!

13 February 2012 at 23:11  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

John 11:41-42 shows Jesus praying in front of a group of fellow Jews who have followed him from Mary and Martha's house (v31).

He is, thus, praying out loud, in public, and expressly does so in order to benefit those around him:

"Father I thank you that you have heard me."

Prayer is a communication with God, Jesus is praying to the Father.

"And I knew that thou hearest me always"

Most references to Jesus praying do indeed have him doing so privately or to one side. Thus Jesus' conviction that his (remarkable) prayer will be heard and answered stems from a pre-existing personal relationship with God. He isn't praying for the sake of appearing pious in the eyes of his fellow Jews standing nearby (as the hypocritical pharisees are so accused in Matthew 5:6).

"but I say this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me"

Jesus is vocalising his prayer. Doing so does not have any bearing on its efficacy. Jesus' prayer would be answered by God even if made silently. He makes it publically, in order that people might understand that what he is about to do is by the power of God. He prays out loud for the benefit of others.

So far, you have suggested that Matthew 6:5 must be read as a specific limitation on how prayer must be carried out, and as a prohibition on public prayer.

You've also somewhat cryptically said: "is it praying if you're a relative?" - I'm not sure what this means. Jesus was not Lazarus' relative. What else do you think a conversation with God is if not prayer? Perhaps you might clarify.

If I've understood your argument correctly, you must understand John 11:41-42 to be in breach of the "prohibition" you interpret as being provided by Jesus against public prayer in Matthew 6:5.

As I began with: this interpretation is reductively literal and legalistic. The inconsistency and contradiction you keep refering to only arises out of the interpretative practices that you employ.

"well how do they decide which of these two contradictory passages is the one to be taken literally and obeyed, and which one is to be explained away as metaphor?"

The answer I can give you from a personal perspective. For the sake of clarity, I'll give you the whole sequence that you might get a sense of how I "square it" with myself:

1) Am I holding back any sins that might impinge my ability to be taught by the Holy Spirit?

If so, I seek forgiveness and thank God for His Grace.

2) Am I reading this passage with the intention to use it to adopt a self-righteous attitude?

If so, see 1)

3) Am I reading this in an unnecessarily literal way? Especially if in doing so, I violate 2)?

See Galatians 3:24-25; Romans 3:27; amongst others for why Christianity is not predicated on legalism. If I seek justification for myself (i.e. see 2)) through legalism, I am not saved (Galatians 5:4)

4) Am I reading this passage as a means of deepening my understanding of God; am I reading what Jesus said, in order to understand what he meant, that I might be more like him?

5) Do I have love? (1 Corinthians 13:2).

---

The dictionary definition of legalism is "adherence to the letter rather than the spirit of the law".

Satan can quote scripture, and did so in order to tempt Christ (Matthew 4:5). But he does not know the Spirit who gave the Law.

So to answer you in short: I read Scripture in adherence to the Spirit.

13 February 2012 at 23:11  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

@Albert: Though dbhbarton does not have a public profile on blogger, googling him provides his public twitter feed.

There is an interesting exchange with the noted theologian Dr. Evan Harris that might be pertinent to answering Dodo's query.

13 February 2012 at 23:15  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

@dbhbarton: It occurs to me that you may not want your twitter feed to be public, which is why I refrained from reposting. If you subsequently wish to make it private, and I have compromised the privacy to which you are entitled online, please let me know and I'll happily delete this and the above post with my apologies.

13 February 2012 at 23:22  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Has anyone checked whether he has a profile on Gaydar yet? Or is everyone busy searching 192.com trying to find his address?

13 February 2012 at 23:32  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

Umm, somebody appears to be judging others by their own standards.

13 February 2012 at 23:44  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

If only you would judge others by your own standards, Dodo.

14 February 2012 at 00:02  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

AIB
It would appear that dbhbarton is yet another secular humanist testing out possible points of attack on Christianity.

Somebody said....

"Has anyone checked whether he (dbhbarton) has a profile on Gaydar yet? Or is everyone busy searching 192.com trying to find his address?"

How sleezy, no way to welcome a guest and an insult to his fellow bloggers. Makes one feelquite smutty just reading it. And then this 'voice' then suggests others should be more circumspect. Astonishing!

14 February 2012 at 00:29  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

No way to welcome a guest? Dodo, you wrote the following an hour a bit before that.

"Soyou want toplay silly ganes? Sorry to say it but you are either a deliberate wind-up merchant or exceeding dim."

When you look in the mirror, do you wonder who is looking back at you? You're really not right in the head, I swear.

14 February 2012 at 00:46  
Blogger dbhbarton said...

Good heavens, Belfast! Are you suggesting that I should in some way be afraid for my safety? Will the Spanish Inquisition be calling at my door? Should I be ashamed of the arguments I have raised? Should my arguments be taken less seriously because you have so shrewdly Googled my 'big secret'?

I do hope not. Yes I am now a secular humanist, having found no other way to square the kind of contradictions I speak of. But I could be a Christian again if shown the error of my ways of thinking. Again, I invite you all to try.

No Dodo I am neither a wind-up merchant nor exceedingly dim. Your argument doesn't sway me at all. Indeed it sounds every bit as 'legalistic' as others condemn me of being, without the virtue of logical coherence. For one thing, Matthew 6:5 says pray in private but it does not say you must be alone. I am sitting in my house in private, but I am not alone. And for another thing, even if you were physically alone, you need not be *spiritually* alone surely? I can speak of 'us atheists' without being at this moment in the company of other atheists.

@Albert: you've done me the favour of treating my inquiry with respect, so I doff my hat to you. But still, I see a very great difference between statements such as "God is my rock", and the quote in Matthew 6:5. "God is my rock" and many of your other examples are very obviously figures of speech, which cannot coherently be interpreted any other way. But Matthew 6:5 is of a quite different quality, and can be interpreted as a literal commandment without any logical difficulty. Moreover it reads to me as being spiritually - as well as literally - in keeping with the rest of his teachings (teachings, by-the-way, that I do not entirely disagree with even if I do regard their provenance as fictional).

Yet... it still seems to me that the same difficulty in deciding which literal interpretation to follow also attends the decision of which spiritual interpretation to follow. I suppose as Catholics you probably answer 'well that's what the Church is there for'. But then you have begun with the conclusion, have you not?

14 February 2012 at 01:01  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

dbhbarton said...

"But I could be a Christian again if shown the error of my ways of thinking. Again, I invite you all to try."

No thank you. As my dad used to say, you've made your bed now lay in it. Go and play games with your atheist friends.

14 February 2012 at 01:15  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

@dbhbarton:

Spanish Inquisition? I'm not quite sure why you should construe anything I wrote as a threat.

I made the offer for the reasons I stated: I know that many people are often distressed to discover that they are unintentionally more public on the net than they think they are. You are entitled to whatever degree of privacy you desire, and hence the offer still stands.

The only reason I googled you in the first place was because I can honestly say that I have never encountered your kind of interpretative practice in approaching Scripture amongst fellow Christians. I have encountered it, frequently, from non-Christians, here and elsewhere.

Consequently, I'm not going to defend inconsistencies that stem from your own interpretative practice. I'm sorry if that's the kind of thing which caused you to stop being a Christian. However you've arrived at it, the nature of your interpretation has impoverished the text for you, and possibly many others if you adopt that approach as a general rule.

If you are sincere about being open to being a Christian again, pray to God about it. If you are willing to seek His Grace you will not be disappointed.

"If you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved." Romans 10:9-10

14 February 2012 at 01:54  
Blogger Manfarang said...

What's all this Baroness Warsi going to the Vatican?
A good telling off is needed!

14 February 2012 at 02:48  
Blogger Albert said...

dbhbarton,

"God is my rock" and many of your other examples are very obviously figures of speech

What about when you said Belfast hadn't said much? That needn't be a figure of speech. We find the meaning from the context. But even if Belfast had said very few words, we would still have probably guessed your meaning had nothing to do with the length of his posts.

But I don't think the issue here is one that is particularly peculiar to the Bible. It's a general problem of texts. We don't find it an insuperable problem in any other context.

You speak of logic. Are you saying that a text must be properly interpreted literally unless to do so would create a logical difficulty? If so, I really don't think that that is how we deal with texts. I have argued from the context that Jesus is using hyperbole - this was a very Jewish thing to do. You have given no reason to suppose it must be a literal legal instruction. So I can't see the difficulty.

I suppose as Catholics you probably answer 'well that's what the Church is there for'. But then you have begun with the conclusion, have you not?

Certainly difficulties of interpretation need some kind of resolution sometimes. And certainly the Church is the final arbiter of that. I don't see that as a problem, rather I see the that the difficulties of interpretation imply that there must be some kind of final arbiter.

14 February 2012 at 09:43  
Blogger dbhbarton said...

Thanks Albert. You impress me with your courage and tolerance.

I agree absolutely that it is a general problem with all texts, but of course it only becomes an important problem if the text is held to be important. And if the text is held to be sacred then it becomes a very serious problem worthy of serious discussion.

I don't think that I *am* saying "that a text must be properly interpreted literally unless to do so would create a logical difficulty". For me, the problems of interpretation are insurmountable and lead me to conclude that NO claim can be justified on the basis of its appearance in a text.

With regard to Matthew 6:5, I don't in fact proclaim that the pray-in-private interpretation is the only possible and correct one (though it genuinely still strikes me as the most likely one), I simply wanted to hear the reasons for so fervently believing it to be the wrong one. I suppose I have been playing devil's advocate a little bit, but not out of mischief. Out of a genuine spirit of inquiry.

14 February 2012 at 10:28  
Blogger Albert said...

You've been a good sport dbhbarton - it's a bit of a bear pit down here!

For me, the problems of interpretation are insurmountable and lead me to conclude that NO claim can be justified on the basis of its appearance in a text.

I agree, and that's why I'm a Catholic. The worry you have is only a problem if you take a sola scriptura approach.

As Fr Ted would say "Ah cumonow, would you not give Catolicism a troiy?"

14 February 2012 at 10:53  
Blogger dbhbarton said...

it's a bit of a bear pit down here!

Oh that's OK. They're no worse than Dawkins or Myers on the other side. Of course they're no better either, but then I don't hold the two sides to different standards of conduct.

Pleasure talking with you.

14 February 2012 at 12:43  
Blogger Albert said...

Pleasure talking with you.

And to you too.

14 February 2012 at 16:52  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

Albert

Your approach is to admired and emulated (if only!). Well done!

14 February 2012 at 20:25  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Someone has got a bit overtaken by the Valentine's Day spirit by the look of it. I think a little bit of vomit came up into my mouth there.

15 February 2012 at 07:23  
Blogger len said...

I think the final arbiter of scripture is the author.

Why should a Church (in particular the Catholic Church) be able to interpret Scripture better that the author?.
This is in direct opposition to the Words of Jesus (not the first or the last time that those who conceived the Catholic system have alleged that they "know better than God , and they are the only ones who know what God REALLY meant to say".)

Which takes us back to the biggest the first,and the most effective lie of the enemy of Mankind "Did God really say?".
The arrogance of Catholic theologians(and their followers) is quite breathtaking.

15 February 2012 at 08:00  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

len, you keep banging your prejudiced and ignorant little drum and encouraging the enemies of Christianity. I'm sure you'll receive your just reward in the after-life.

15 February 2012 at 14:23  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

Do give an answer on homosexuality, there's a good chap. Cat got your tongue? Or is it you need more time to consult the web based oracles?

It's not a trick question.

And while we're at it, how is it that you feel able to set yourself up as the final authority on scripture? Obviously God understands His Word but there is so much divergence on Scripture that some authoritative interpretation and teaching is needed. Christ knew this. It's in the Bible.

15 February 2012 at 16:45  

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