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We have taken our identity as a Christian country for granted. Now we must defend it

Clive Bone’s success at the High Court shows that Britain has started to lose its Christian identity

By on Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Prayers are said every year at the state opening of Parliament (PA photo)

Prayers are said every year at the state opening of Parliament (PA photo)

Dean Acheson, former US secretary of state, famously remarked in 1962: “Great Britain has lost an Empire and has not yet found a role.” Reading the news story about former councillor (and atheist) Clive Bone who brought a case against Bideford town council in July 2010, claiming he had been “disadvantaged and embarrassed” when prayers were recited at formal meetings, makes me tempted to paraphrase Acheson’s remark. Perhaps: “Great Britain has lost its Christian identity and not yet found its faith”?

Backed by the National Secular Society (who else?), Mr Bone went on to say that the “inappropriate practice” breached his human right of freedom of conscience and made non-believers feel “uncomfortable”. He was backed up in court by a High Court judge who ruled that prayers could no longer be said at the start of council meetings – though they could still be said beforehand. This in turn has prompted Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, to countermand the judge by stating that the forthcoming Localism Act will give councils the power to hold prayers at the start of their meetings if they choose. So is it now a storm in a teacup?

Not exactly. Mr Bone, wishing to demonstrate his sense of fair play, has gone on to declare that “Religious freedom is an absolute right and so is freedom from religion an absolute right in my view.” Enter John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons (and not known for his unwavering support of Christian values) who says the ruling will not affect Parliament’s tradition of daily prayers. An editorial in the Telegraph points out that when the monarch of the country takes a solemn vow to uphold the Christian faith, you can’t separate Church and state in that country as easily as Mr Bone may wish. Former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, writing in the Daily Mail, states that we don’t live in a “secular democracy” and that “Britain is fundamentally and historically a Christian country”.

Historically, yes; fundamentally – well, I wonder. Mr Bone would never have brought his grievances to public attention if he had not been certain he would receive a sympathetic hearing. You only have to add the phrase “breaching human rights” to generate much public fuss and anxiety – and probably win your case. But surely: if we do live in a country with a Christian head of state who makes a solemn vow at the coronation to uphold the Christian faith, a Parliament which opens its sessions with Christian prayers, state schools which are meant to hold Christian assemblies and local councils which begin their formal meetings with Christian prayers, then atheists like Clive Bone, and all his secular and humanist brethren should simply lump it. You can’t change the Christian traditions of a Christian country any more than you can change the rules of cricket.

This brings me back to my paraphrase of Dean Acheson’s prescient remark. We have let our identity as a Christian country dwindle and become blurred. We have taken it for granted rather than defend, uphold and live it; and then we have a rude awakening when people like Clive Bone come along and challenge us. We have to rediscover our faith, profess it and proclaim it – and then we will have a real role to play in the world. Our faith is much older and more vital than our lost Empire, after all.

  • Dave The Happy Singer

    Yeah! And if we live in a country where niggers can’t vote, then Martin Luther King should simply lump it.

  • http://cumlazaro.blogspot.com/ Lazarus

    The Christian culture of this country has historically been the context in which freedoms have been exercised and extended and in which failure to live up to moral ideals has been faced up to and corrected. 
    Not much evidence that the atheist gulag of Clive Bone and his like would be anywhere near so effective in this regard. Just a lot of petty minded bullying on present evidence.

  • Brian Westley

    “atheist gulag of Clive Bone”
    Exaggerate much?  You’re actually comparing someone who brought a complaint before the courts (and won) to imprisoning people unlawfully?  Does the rule of law mean nothing to you?

    By the way, as an American, I was under the impression that the “Christian culture” of your country involved Protestants killing Catholics and vice-versa, depending on whoever is in power at the time.  Has that been entirely handed off to N. Ireland?

  • Anonymous

    Clive Bone is saying he doesn’t want to be subject to the trappings and flummery of someone else’s beliefs, you are saying that you want to enforce those same items on everyone. A large proportion of the population don’t believe in any faith, an even larger fraction do not care for religion. Perhaps you should ‘lump it’ and stop trying to go back to a faith ridden society. 

    The argument of tradition is also poor. Anything that happened in the past can be considered a tradition but certain traditions we have left behind as our society grows up. Some traditions can be useful to reinforce the good in society but too often, and in this case, it is a forlorn wish to turn back a clock. If your religion has anything to offer it must stand on its own two feet in modern society, do not wish for time when you were more important.

    The identity of the British is identified quite clearly by its geography. The predominant religion has been pagan, catholic and now protestant. Didn’t seem to matter that much to our identity, just shucked of one load of rulers for another lot. People are coming to the conclusion that they are not defined by faith let alone religion, so saying prayers before a non-religious meeting is in no way traditional, just an anachronism.

  • http://cumlazaro.blogspot.com/ Lazarus

    1) Well, the only atheist test cases I can think of are precisely those eastern European Communist regimes which produced the gulags. (Fortunately, there aren’t many societies that are stupid enough to ban religion.) So on the one hand, we have a model of Christianity incorporated into the state in the UK which has, as you note, produced the rule of law where petty minded souls such as Clive Bone can have their day in court to not much good purpose; and on the other, atheist societies such as the USSR which produced gulags. The historical evidence is clearly in favour of societies such as the UK (and, in a different way, the USA) where the Christian religion plays an important part in public life.

    2) For any society, injustice and social tensions will exist. (Politeness prevents me from mentioning some American examples.) So the only question is how those tensions are resolved. Certainly, religion did (in the 16th century) result in Catholics and Protestants killing each other. But it was also Christianity that settled those tensions within a society governed by a constitutional settlement including that very public presence of religion now under attack by Bone and (presumably) yourself.

  • Charles Martel

    Hear hear!
    The problem is that we are always going to lose in the courts and in Parliaments against the homo/ secular lobby. Always. In the end, it will come down to how many Catholics are willing to brave dungeon fire and sword. I am, and am asking my co-religionists this question. Will you join me? Think seriously on this, because it’s a question that will have to be answered soon one way or the other.

  • Charles Martel

     “Anything that happened in the past can be considered a tradition but
    certain traditions we have left behind as our society grows up.” Hmm… society grows up, eh? How’s that? By killing the unborn in their millions? By rapping the victims of crime over the knuckles while pardoning the criminals? By penalising those who work for their living and by rewarding spongers? By systematically dumbing down society to a point where we can’t get any sense out of the civil service or private companies when they mess us around, because they simply can not think, let alone verbalise it? By wrecking the education system by turning it into a PC brainwashing unit? British society is trash, and you know it. Stop pretending that we are a more advanced society than we used to be. Go into Tesco’s and look around at the fat, self satisfied mediocrities, stashing up on their victuals for the coming week, and see a society that has whored itself out to a secular, tolerant, moronic, know-nothing philosophy and never wants to be disturbed from its obese slumbers again.

  • BTyler

    A good article. We turn our back on our Judeo-Christian heritage at our peril. What does aggressive and intolerant secularism offer us? Zero. Nothing. At it’s heart is an empty, nihilistic message perfectly in tune with our present-day society. No wonder it’s so popular. 

  • Brian Westley

    “1) Well, the only atheist test cases I can think of are precisely those eastern European Communist regimes which produced the gulags.”

    Well, your ignorance is not my problem.  Mitterand was an atheist, the current PM of Australia (Julia Gillard) is an atheist, Attlee, Callaghan, and Campbell were all atheist PMs of the UK.

    Oh, and Christianity doesn’t have any idea of courts of law; it’s very much on the divine right of kings and such nonsense.

    You seem bothered that other people who don’t agree with your religion also have rights.

  • Brian Westley

    “The problem is that we are always going to lose in the courts and in Parliaments against the homo/ secular lobby.”

    Criminals seem to have a rather poor batting average in the courts, too.

    Following the law too much to ask?

  • Anonymous

    We have no slavery or work houses. We have a health system which stands with any other in the world except some ex-communist countries and it is available to everyone. We accept anyone regardless of their irrational beliefs. Education can be rightfully criticised at the moment but is still available to everyone and is an improvement from 100 years ago. We have more freedom of expression than at any point in our history but if the theists have their way that could disappear again. Our individual wealth is better than at any point in history. All these can improve, nobody is claiming they are perfect. So yes, I do happen to think that present day society is better. About the only point I can agree with you is on the civil service, but any organisation that essentially becomes self governing is likely to go that way, a good example of that is religion. 
    To return to a society that can be so intolerant as you show to women, homosexuals and indeed anybody who doesn’t buy into your particular unevidenced beliefs would be a significant step back and hopefully not one that most people will countenance.A secularist wants a society that is not ruled by theists and in which the rulers are not influenced by theists any more than any sector of society. As such, secularism is no threat to a theist except that they will have no way of affecting the legislation beyond normal democratic rules. If you have some ideas derived from your religion that can benefit society then let’s hear them. But so far, all I see is basic grumbling that religion is taking a back seat and sheer intolerance.

  • http://cumlazaro.blogspot.com/ Lazarus

    1) Remember we’re arguing about the desire to create atheist states, not the existence of atheists. What atheist states can you think of other than those which set up gulags?

    2) ‘Christianity doesn’t have any idea of courts of law…’ Oh boy! Where to start? Justinian? English Common Law? Canon Law?

    3) I’m delighted that people who don’t agree with me have rights. However, those rights are maintained by a state whose existence resulted from Christianity and whose bene esse is also intertwined with the maintenance of the very Christian culture that Bone (and apparently yourself) are trying to undermine.

  • westley

    “1) Remember we’re arguing about the desire to create atheist states, not the existence of atheists.”

    No, that’s not what I was arguing about at all.  Here’s what I said:
    You’re actually comparing someone who brought a complaint before the courts (and won) to imprisoning people unlawfully?  Does the rule of law mean nothing to you?

    Communism is a red herring, to quote the movie “Clue”.

    “2) ‘Christianity doesn’t have any idea of courts of law…’ Oh boy! Where to start? Justinian? English Common Law? Canon Law?”

    No, you START where Christianity started; you can’t just pick out Christians who came AFTER Christianity started.

    “3) I’m delighted that people who don’t agree with me have rights. However, those rights are maintained by a state whose existence resulted from Christianity”

    I disagree, but I doubt I’d ever convince you of the contrary.  Christianity is currently fighting against the rights of gays, and just within my lifetime against the rights of women and non-whites.

  • Anonymous

    Catholicism and Anglicanism surely won’t turn the country to Christ.  They are both paradigms of “religion”.  Only bare heart Christianity which can take people into a life giving union with Jesus, and then teach them the way of a disciple, can save the UK.

  • Honeybadger

    I wonder how far Mr Bone will go with his atheism if he was in a country where their predominant religion forms the fabric of their citizens/subjects and the history of their country!

    Good job he isn’t in Iran or Indonesia!

    The Ukrainian Catholic Church has recently reclaimed St Joseph’s Church - which was turned into a so-called ‘Monument to Communism’ during the horrid, atheistic Soviet era - stripped of its trappings and used as, of all things, a boxing gym! A portico was built at the entrance to the church to ‘disguise’ it!

    The Soviets thought they got rid of faith altogether by turning churches into stables, storage and other desecrations – Notre Dame in Paris was turned into a stable by the Revolutionaries.

    These misguided people were wrong, wrong, wrong to suggest that Christianity would just disappear! It has survived in spite of dungeon, fire, sword, starvation, bullet and gulag.

    Now the portico is to be torn down and St Joseph’s in Ukraine will, once again, be a church building!

    Thanks be to God!

  • Charles Martel

     What law, Brian? Don’t you know that the UK is officially a Christian country?

  • Charles Martel

     I don’t think we can find any common ground here, Acleron, if you think that British society has anything to offer the world. We have become a beacon of filth, degeneracy, selfishness and smugness.

  • westley

    Don’t you know that Mr Justice Ouseley ruled the prayers were not lawful under section 111 of the Local Government Act 1972?

  • http://cumlazaro.blogspot.com/ Lazarus

    1) You objected to my phrase ‘atheist gulag of Clive Bone’. Clive Bone is trying to produce an atheist state. Based on the historical evidence I’ve given, I think that state is likely to have gulags. Again, can you think of a an atheist state that hasn’t?

    2) I have no idea what this response is supposed to mean. Please just explain to me how Christianity (and let’s just pick England as a case study) and its clear involvement in the development of English law both through equity and the common law provides any support for your claim ‘Christianity doesn’t have any idea of courts of law’.

    3) Christianity (specifically Catholicism) is of course the best chance any of us have, gay, women and non-whites, of leading fulfilled lives. Putting that aside, whatever struggles for rights have taken place and are now taking place in the UK are done within the context of a legal system which owes its existence and bene esse to Christianity. (As you’ll doubtless realize once you’ve had a proper think about 2).)

  • Anonymous

    Or more likely, we don’t follow a list of outmoded rules that the theists want everyone else to comply with. When you cannot accept that you should have tolerance for all others regardless of their belief, non-belief, sex or sexual orientation then you won’t feel comfortable in such a free society. But I hope the recent attempts by theists to suppress freedom of speech is thwarted, much as I disagree with your stance, I fervently agree with your right to express it. I don’t agree with you having any influence over others beyond the rules of law and democracy.

  • James

    Yes, but I think the Act of Settlement etc overrule a small piece of legislation in 1972 (Local Government Act).  Freedom of belief and so on is enshrined in the British constitution (look at the Magna Carta etc)… Oh dear I forgot you are an American so don’t even know anything about the history of your own country, never mind Britain.  Keep out of debates involving Britain, this is a Catholic website based in the UK and if you don’t agree with the sentiments here then tough.  Most of what you have been saying on this website is utter rubbish.  How can you separate Christianity from the English Common law?  The two are intertwined like husband and wife.

  • Anonymous

    As I understand it, Since Jesus is the perfect hypostatic union of God and man which Christians strive to emulate, innervating worldly (secular) affairs with the divine to create the Kingdom is what Christianity is all about. The secularist argument that secularism ‘protects’ Christianity cannot hold true from the Christian perspective.

  • Anonymous

    Secularism is hardly intolerant, certainly not in comparison to the major theistic beliefs. It isn’t even intolerant to theism, It just denies the theist of any special advantage when we make decisions deciding our own lives. 

    America is, by statute, a secular country, and doesn’t seem to have restricted christianity. But I think you are referring to atheism when you talk about nihilistic etc. The two are quite different concepts, secularism would preclude forcing anyone to believe or not believe in any particular god. 

    But you can have no conception of the glory of reality when you don’t have to filter it through the rules laid down by men who lived 3000 years ago. Their rules may have been ok for their society but this society is different, we know more for one thing. We know that paying obeisance to anyone or anything purely because we have been indoctrinated as children is unnecessary. We can make real decisions, not decisions based on threats and we can disagree as much as we want. If you want to live by your rules then providing you don’t restrict my freedoms and rights by your religion you are perfectly welcome to do so. Note that in a fully theistic society, you would find that quite difficult if you ended up in a country that indoctrinates their children in a minor way different than you do.

  • theroadmaster

    The atheist plaintiffs who bring these ridiculous actions, seem to go out of their way to feel offended.  As things stand, Christian believers and the adherents of other Faith communities are being bound and gagged by rampant PC legislation implemented by organizations in the public and private sectors backed up by the judiciary.  A country which forgets the religious roots from which many of it’s values, laws and institutions sprang from, is liable to get trapped in a fog of confusion without a moral compass to guide it.  This ultimately leaves communities in a parlous state without any objective points of reference which leads to social decay and moral malaise.

  • theroadmaster

    Christian belief in the special dignity of men and women in the light of Natural Law and biblical Revelation is forever young and will become never become ‘outmoded’, even after 2000 years. You ask that toleration be granted to others when it is precisely the secular,humanist, PC laws which are preventing Christian and other religious believers from expressing or acting on their core beliefs in the public square.  Atheists petulantly object to any public acknowledgement of the Christian roots of GB through symbols or prayer in local councils and other public buildings.  Whether they like or not, Christianity has formed the core values, institutions and laws of that nation for well over a Millennium or more.  It is about time they stopped going of their way to be “offended” by these public acknowledgments. 

  • Anonymous

    Mr Bone brought an action based on law, you are welcome to try to change the law by democratic means but social decay stems directly from ignoring the laws of the land. But if you want a fog of confusion you had better look at Cardiff council who are considering the same action.

    http://yourcardiff.walesonline.co.uk/2012/02/16/ruling-could-herald-end-to-cardiff-council-prayer-sessions/ 

    One of the suggestions from a theist is to have different prayers for each religious group. One can see that different theistic sectors, once this is enshrined in the standing orders of the council, can object to having to listen to somebody else’s prayers. And which prayer groups do they have? For each councillor in which case it will change according to elections, or perhaps to represent the people of Cardiff in which case it may include druid prayers, maybe even voodoo, I’m sure somebody still worships mithraism or perhaps there is a predilection for the Nordic gods, after all they gave us the days of the week. 

    Your moral compass is just a list of rules that you wish to live by. They have no significance to the majority of the population. We can take the best of what theism provided and move on. Leaving behind the threats of original sin, the intolerance of each major Abrahamic theistic belief and the ludicrous idea that religion gets a free pass whenever it is discussed. (excepting of course, the posters here).
    But really, you are just railing against the knowledge that others are able to live quite happily without having to believe what you were told to believe as a child.

  • Anonymous

    Oh, so moslems, hindus, atheists, janists, jews, shintoists etc don’t have dignity? lol, the rest of the world never realised.

    I don’t insist on coming into a church and telling people they are mistaken in their beliefs, why should you have the right to bring your church into a public meeting designed for civil matters. You want to pray, do it in private, it should make absolutely no difference to your friend, why should it care? It sounds to me, that not being able to force your ritual down the throats of people who don’t want it is your problem. 

  • Anonymous

    In addition-

    Your rules have changed over the years, you no longer think it proper to torture people who ignore your beliefs, you have shed your overt anti-semitism. These are some of the rules you have changed, your rule set is not absolute and certainly isn’t fresh. When you have shed your intolerance to women and to homosexuals you will be more acceptable in a dignified society. When you have accepted that others do not want your rule set because we have a better one you will not only be acceptable but be better for it.

  • Mike Badcock

    As Mayor of Abingdon I intend to continue as we have done for centuries,I will of course pleaed guilty to being a Christian. What will be next  – no christian service at the Cenotaphe on Remebrance Sunday?

    Mike Badcock
    Mayor of Abingdon

    mikebadcock@btinternet:disqus .com

  • Oconnord

    Well he simply isn’t in Iran or Indonesia so that’s just a silly point.

    But are you are implying that if he stood up to enforced islamic prayer in an islamic country he’d be a hero? Whereas if he’s standing up for enforced unlawful christian prayer in a christian country he is a villain. Seems you’re objecting because it was a christian prayer, would you have supported him if the unlawful prayers were islamic, or hindu or indeed pagan?

    Of course it’s wrong to force closed a church and use it for other means by law. A church should not be closed and used for civic means, by political decree. But by the same logic a council meeting place should not be turned into a place of worship.

    Secularism simply means allowing churches to be free to be churches. And government to govern without any bias towards any belief, no matter how dominant that group is.

  • Oconnord

    Delusions of christian martyrdom?

    Dungeon, fire and sword. As used by christians against heretics, but as Mr Martell points out 14 minutes later in another comment, not used by secular government.

    “By rapping the victims of crime over the knuckles while pardoning the criminals? ”

    Just part of his inane rant, but proving he knows martyrdom is not imminent, in fact he’s relying on  the free speech he has been awarded by secular governance. 

    As an aside I haven’t heard anything like that since Kevin Spacey’s character in the movie “Seven”.
     I hope for the sake of shoppers in his local Tesco that he doesn’t have access to sharp objects.

  • theroadmaster

    Vatican 11 changed the direction for the better concerning the often fraught relationship between Christianity and it’s elder brother Judaism for over 1,500 years.  The present pope and his Blessed predecessor have done much to mend those broken fences. 
    As for your charges concerning torture, it was usually the secular courts which dispensed rough justice such as torture and executions during the Medieval period and later, for offences against Orthodoxy in belief.  The Church is not entirely blameless in regards to this,but ecclesiastical courts were a lot more lenient in terms of punishment in comparison to their secular equivalents.  If the person arraigned on charges recanted their heretical beliefs, mercy was extended.  We are looking back through a time-tunnel to a period many hundreds of years behind us.  These were different circumstances and different times.  The period of the Inquisition was a dead letter by the 18th C
    You blame the Catholic Church for intolerance of women and homosexuals.  In reference to women, are you arguing that because the Church argues against abortion and contraception as gravely immoral that it constitutes discrimination.  The Church is being true to herself in arguing this way as these practices constitute an offence before God(which you have no belief in anyway.) Maybe you referring to the Catholic Church ordaining only men.  But Christ the founder of the Church only chose men as His apostles. Was he in breach of anti-discrimination legislation of His time.  The priesthood is modeled on Christ, who is the supreme High Priest.
    The Church does not discriminate against homosexuals but rather deems homosexual sexual activity to be sinful.  Does the Church discriminate against heterosexuals because it preaches against pre-marital/extra-marital sexual activity?  Sex in the natural order, leads to a closer union of the complementary genders of male and female within marriage and open to new life.

  • theroadmaster

    What is your point about Moslems, Hindus, Jews etc not having dignity.  The general points can relate to them as well i.e the determined efforts on behalf of militant secularists/atheists to claim somewhat ironically that any outward acknowledgment of the role of Christian religion constitutes a breach of their rights.  The consistent pattern has been the implementation of policies by public and private bodies which leaves little room for religious believers to act according to their consciences e.g Catholic adoption agencies having to fold rather than than betray their deepest beliefs.

    The Church whether you like it or not, is a major component of society.  It has been around for well nigh on 2000 years and has contributed to the foundational values which constitute nations across the Western world.  Morality is not strictly private as you would like it to be, as human interaction in the public sphere cannot be divorced from it.  Religious believers will not be gagged on important matters which impinge  on the right to life or dignity of human beings. Christian believers propose and never impose in sharp contrast to the campaigns of secularist and atheists to silence the opinions of people of Faith which they find inconvenient.  

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for a much fuller explanation of how the rules you work with have changed.

    The intolerant attitude of many of your co-posters in this web site is testimony to the intolerance. The complaints about premarital/extra marital activity are not a fair comparison, in one you are complaining about a behaviour, in the other you have a group of quite normal but identifiable human beings in your sights.
    The intolerance to women and homosexuals is, as you say, excused by you by your belief in god. When you realise that the excuses are irrelevant and disregarded by an increasing proportion of society, you will be well on the way to changing these rules as well. When you have come into line with that view perhaps your beliefs will be taken more seriously. You will certainly be considered as better people because one progression we have made in society is the firm knowledge through experience and common sense that intolerance of groups of people is not conducive to congenial society.

    It seems a shame that such a large proportion of the population as yourselves is led by words first recorded thousands of years ago and of which you have no evidence whatsoever that they are the word of anything but the writer of the time.

    You mention that we shouldn’t look back and criticise actions taken in the past under different societal conditions. Actually I didn’t, I just showed you that you as a group had changed. That’s not say that what happened was correct, it wasn’t, we can just understand it.

    But I ask you to look at the societal conditions when the new testament was supposedly written. Homosexuals were despised, women were second class, Jews were hardly even legal entities. Doesn’t all this sound eerily familiar. Could it be that these rules were nothing to do with any deity but just a man writing down his own natural intolerances? 

  • Anonymous

    Your statement implied that dignity was associated with christianity, my point is that anyone can have dignity regardless of their belief/non belief.

    Secularists are not saying that your free speech should be stifled. In absolutely no way do atheists try to suppress your free speech, we are trying in the face of entrenched and physically threatening theists to save your free speech. Personally, I wouldn’t care if you or any one else were allowed to preach intolerant rants, it would make my point far more eloquently than I could. But the switch to atheism is just goal post moving. Bone and others want a secular society, we don’t want religion as part of the governing of society. You can advertise your beliefs as much as you want, but evangelising in a council meeting is not on.

    The argument ad antiquity is easily rebutted, the Egyptian gods lasted far longer before they were ousted by other beliefs. Society in the UK is now growing beyond your gods.

  • theroadmaster

    Dignity is not the prerogative of Christians.  It is a universal quality that all humanity should enjoy, regardless of belief or ethnic origin.  My point still stands, that religious  belief and Christianity in particular is being marginalized by a distorted application of secular laws across the Western world. We can see this currently in the US with regards to the Health Care Act instigated by the Obama administration.
    You state that Bone is only acting out of concern for the involvement of religious symbols or prayers in state governance.  But it seems that  he is going out of his way to be offended in regards to the innocuous saying of morning prayers in council chambers. Such acts are one of the few public vestigial reminders of the profound influence of religion in the history of Britain.  There is no obligation on anyone to partake in them. It is a leap of enormous proportions to claim that this is an attempt by religions to take over the government of the country.One cannot divorce GB or any other nation state in Europe from the influence of religion in any meaningful sense.  Your current head of state Elizabeth 11 swore to defend it on her coronation oath.  It does seem like current campaigns by atheistic objectors is designed to erase any public acknowledgment or concrete signs of this historical reality.  

  • theroadmaster

    Religious believers are not looking to take over the governance of GB.  All they are asking for is for their beliefs to be respected like those of anyone else.  In many instances, this is not the case. 
    Women and homosexuals have been appalling treated by society over the centuries.  They were oppressed  and rendered second class citizens.  Social legislation has thankfully amended these unacceptable conditions.
    Catholic teaching regarding morality and sexuality applies to all men and women and does not discriminate against any particular group.  In fact, it is a liberation from enslavement to particular mindsets and behaviors which undermine the dignity of each.

    The Bible is the amalgamation of writings which took place over the time-span of at least 2 thousands years.  As you say, the texts were written by men, but they were very much inspired by a higher authority. The legacy of these writings has persisted to our day and if these texts were simply constructed from the imaginings of man, it is doubtful that their influence would have lasted so long.  It is the leap of faith beyond the boundaries of our limited materialistic understanding which allows us to comprehend this.

  • Anonymous

    If they are so inoffensive then please pray, book a room somewhere and have a blast. Praying in a council meeting serves no purpose, not that it has any purpose anyway, but that for a different discussion. The Queen also swears to uphold the laws of the realm, seems you only want to call her name when it’s in your favour.

    As for taking over the government, yes, you would do that in a shot if you had a chance. Theists do that, we have numerous examples from history and the present day.

    But to pretend that saying prays in this context is some obeisance to history is ridiculous for a number of reasons. Here are two of them :- 1) It does not occur in all council meetings and their historical heritage is in no danger. 2) Religion has not been a power for good all the time, so blindly accepting some historical necessity for its continuance without careful sifting of what is useful is not an intelligent way to progress. 

    No, we don’t need theists dragging us back and I see no reason to offer free advertising and official backing to a single group.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, we all know that religion is a belief without evidence, no argument with that.

    Funny how those texts reflect the prejudices and the intolerances of the time isn’t it.

    As for how it lasted, we are seeing a living example of two of the techniques in your post.

    1) Do something noteworthy and I’ll respect you. You don’t get respect for an irrational belief. You do rely on that emotion to push your agenda. But the days of the free pass that theists demand are finally over.

    2) You get offended because someone disagrees with you. You have been to law yourselves to get official approval for public displays but then object when someone uses the same technique in reverse. But it is quite obvious that public prayers where everyone else must remain ‘respectfully’ silent is just a ploy for evangelisation. It has the incidental effect of reinforcing 1)

    There are all the other well researched methods you use. The indoctrination of children, the ritual, the uniforms for priests, the constant search for the levers of power in any country. The catholic church is well versed in these techniques and applies them well, any marketing company would be proud to be such experts.

    I left the part about the setting minds free to last because I had to think deeply about the intent of your words. You have struck me as an intelligent person so expecting someone else to consider what you said about ‘setting minds free’ to be true is astounding. Perhaps you should consider why so many theists of all stripes are so homophobic. But quite how you see the suppression of women and the discrimination against homosexuals to somehow set their minds free will forever be beyond me. To subject women to a lifetime of bearing children because of a prohibition against contraception is definitely not setting them free, it is the same old suppression that the bronze age goatherds wrote about. 

  • theroadmaster

    So what are you afraid of? Maybe this “irrational” belief is making you feel uneasy in your “atheistic” bunker. Is it because it points so something beyond our narrow materialism and that just might be true?
     Is your atheism so fragile, that it cannot cope with the public display of the beliefs of people of Faith. You display a paranoid fear of religions and especially the Catholic Church, 
    Members of religious faiths hold no arms or plans for a Coup D’etat All they want is for their beliefs to be respected, as in a simple prayer service in Council chambers, which should offend no-one,
    Your point about contraception is so hackneyed and erroneous, that it should not require comment.  The Church does not want women to be pregnant on a continuous basis but rather that they responsibly have as many children as they can afford.  But this should not be done with contraceptive pills as this destroys the link between sex and the mutual union of the couples.  The Church recommends that they do so through Natural Family Planning which respects the dignity of each person.
    Your last point about goat herders writing the bible is just plainly ridiculous.  The pens of educated scribes and priests put those indelible words onto parchment

  • theroadmaster

    It all boils down to “intolerance” of any public display of Religious belief by you and other atheists.  As I have explained in earlier comments, the believers of  Faith are only armed with their beliefs and arguments which should effect no-body(only those uneasy in their atheism/agnosticism).
    Prayers at Council have been around for hundreds of years and are an inoffensive part of local government life.  It is very obvious that Bone went far out of his way to raise a fuss in a very petty way about something that is a normal event in council chambers.  To be honest,it does not reflect well on the claims of tolerance made by atheists.
    The reputation of Religion has suffered from time to time when it has been misused by some people for their own base.motives.  But the true face of Religious Faith is displayed by those who feed, clothe and support the poor, hungry and needy citizens in society.  Something that is not publicized or celebrated daily but it still goes on

  • theroadmaster

    further to my comments on the Church freeing people from particular “mindsets”, Church doctrine in the area of sexuality and morals is never mean’t to scapegoat or degrade anyone, but rather it teaches the truth about the dignity of each human person.  It warns about particular behaviors which threaten that very dignity. This goes for every man and woman, whatever their sexual orientation.  I will admit that some of the language used  in Church documents should be amended in relation to the attitude expressed towards homosexualityas it sometimes does not sound very compassionate.  But I believe that Church does have the best intentions for humanity at heart.

  • Anonymous

    Column is too narrow, reply to both above or below,wherever it ends up

  • Anonymous

    I have no fear of some sort of god that out of all the universe and its plethora of matter and energy happens to take a rather unfortunate and disjointed view on Homo sapiens. The proposition is ridiculous and I take notice that there is not one single iota of evidence for such an entity’s existence. Note that, in the thousands of years people have worshipped gods, not one single piece of evidence that the universe works in any way except through physical means has turned up.

    I do fear religion , it is a corrosive influence on society with its rules of behaviour derived from bronze age goatherders. Yes, it may have written by the shamans of the time, as they relied on their education to maintain their influence, writing skills was not so readily available to everyone, but they were the shamans of goatherders. Restriction of knowledge is a  technique that religion uses very well, many 16th-19th century proto-scientists took religious qualifications because that was the only way to get an education. 

    Societies where religion has real power and a grip on the government are not particularly happy places, the usual tyrannies and oppressions are always there. A secular society gives greater choice. For example if you don’t want contraception or an abortion you don’t have to have one. Your religion wants to tell us all to obey you. It, of course, has to do this. Theists laughable try to blame communism on atheists but the parallels to a theist led society are much more chilling with suppression of free speech, punishment for any dissent and networks of informers. Islamist states are like this today, but we don’t have to go far back into the history you are so in love with to find Western examples. The Inquisition was catholic wasn’t it?

    The complaints about your rules on contraception may be hackneyed but that is because they will continue to be repeated while those rules exist. Apart from the unnecessary subjugation of females, the catholic church’s ignorance of the effects of over-population is truly staggering. You either do not know or are wilfully ignoring the incredible human misery generated from that item alone. It is also a prohibition widely ignored throughout Western society. The catholic church screams whenever the topic of lifting contraceptives occurs in Ireland. In such ways you oppress people who have nothing to do with your religion. As you have no qualms about doing that where you can have power, why should I sit back and quietly allow that to happen in my society.

    Your main argument seems to be we have always prayed in council meetings so it must continue. You failed to register that it hasn’t always happened and doesn’t happen universally and guess what, the sky didn’t fall in. I fail to see why you can’t privately affirm your belief but no, you are demanding that people who have no interest in your strange beliefs remain silent and respectful while you complete your ritual. I conclude that the ‘public’ bit is important to you. As I said, I have no objection to you buying advertising space for what is obviously a bit of advertising, but I object to religion of any stripe maintaining semi-official approval and I would certainly object if my time was wasted by anyone who wanted me to change my behaviour because of their religion, a ridiculous proposition.

    The biological causes of theism are being teased out and the evolutionary pressure to believe to some degree in that which isn’t true is slowly becoming clearer. But don’t worry, we would never force a cure on you. The incredible biological and evolutionary complexities are wonderful to behold. The beautiful sights we see in the night sky, alas only to be seen through telescopes because of over-population are quite awe inspiring and when you understand that they can be explained by physical processes that not only can be seen on earth but do not require any supernatural intervention you will find you don’t need some tired and tawdry god at all, which only clouds the natural beauty with irrationality. 

  • Norman yardy

    Oconnord wrote below; ‘And government to govern without any bias towards any belief’.
    This is liberal nonsense. Everyone has opinions and beliefs even if they say they don’t. You cant have an admisistration that has no bias or does not support some belief system or another,
    What we need in this country is an administration that believe in biblical integrity and legislates accordingly. Then as you say, ‘atheists like Clive Bone, and all his secular and humanist brethren should simply lump it’.

    Norman Yardy/Mr.Integrity

  • Acleron

    You are quite correct, everybody is prejudiced and biased. But those with high ethics strive to eliminate those from their dealings with others. Those with low ethics just revel in their prejudices and beliefs.

    If you want to follow the bible, just which piece of which bible do you want to follow?