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Why religion can never be ‘a private matter’

Religious-secular debate continues to be a dialogue of the deaf

By on Friday, 17 February 2012

Polly Toynbee: committed to reasonable debate Photo: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

Polly Toynbee: committed to reasonable debate Photo: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

It is nice to know that there is someone out there who thinks what I think. I mean of course Andrew Brown over at the Guardian’s Comment is Free who has written an excellent piece on how militant secularists fail to understand the rules of secular debate. I urge you to read what he has to say here. Brown refers to an earlier posting by Julian Baggini which invokes the philosophy of John Rawls – one of the philosophers who is the subject of my doctoral thesis as it turns out. We need to listen to Rawls now more than ever, I think, as he does provide us with a way out of the “dialogue of the deaf” which much talk of religion has become these days. There is a good if dense article about Rawls provided by the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy here.

Why is Rawls important?

First of all, he provides us with a way of understanding pluralism and living with pluralism: we all have our belief systems which we all believe to be true, but rather than concentrating on their mutual incompatibility, we can act in a way that springs from shared values. Thus Catholics and atheists, though approaching the problem from very different angles, can join together in combating poverty. Catholics and atheists can find common ground, or what Rawls calls an “overlapping consensus”.

The second thing that Rawls points out is that religious people are welcome (as is everyone else) to the conversation, but they must express what they want to say in a way that is accessible to all. (He calls this “The Proviso”.) This is illustrated by the Catholic Church’s approach to the question of abortion. The Church never invokes Scripture when talking of abortion, because scriptural authority is not universally recognised. Rather the Church speaks about the right to life, because the language of rights is something, in theory at least, that can be grasped by all, irrespective of their religious beliefs or lack of them.

What Brown and Baggini are pointing out is that many secularists are not being Rawlsian enough: they are failing to engage with the language of universal reason, and failing to credit that Catholics and other religious people, when they speak, speak reasonably. Funnily enough, one person who does seem committed to the Rawlsian approach is Polly Toynbee.

She writes:

I will defend to the death anyone’s right to practice any faith, if it breaks no law, interferes with nobody’s rights nor claims undue public policy influence. Church bells, calls to prayer, displays of crucifixes, beards or side-locks are freedoms, alongside bare midriffs and knicker-short miniskirts. Personally, I am affronted by women in face veils, but that’s my problem. I will argue against them but freedom of speech, thought and dress are non-negotiable.

I can only applaud what she says. But she also says this:

Ipsos Mori found 74% of Christians consider religion should be a private matter and should not influence public policy, so even most Christians are secularists.

The last bit is right, or partly right. Most, indeed all, Christians are or ought to be secularists, as they should all recognise the autonomy of the saeculum, the world. In other words, believing in God, we believe he created the world with its laws and that these laws are not arbitrary but are underpinned by the rule of reason. That is what secularism is, a belief in the autonomy of reason, which in theological terms we call “theonomous (ie God-given) autonomy”. Atheists will not agree about the origin of reason in God, but they will surely agree that reason is non-negotiable, indeed it is the basis of all negotiation. Hence we can discuss things like face-veils, using the langauge that reason gave us (and as it happens I complete agree with Ms Toynbee about face-veils: I think they are an affront to reason, but I think to make them illegal would itself be unreasonable.)

However, what is this about religion being “a private matter”? This is misleading. Private matters of their nature often spill over into the public sphere. Prayer is private, but if I pray it may well influence my public behaviour: it may make me more tolerant and loving to people who disagree with me, for example. Again, sex is private, but marriage is public, but the two are clearly connected.

Finally, Ms Toynbee criticises religious privilege, but please let us be careful here. When she talks of the monarchy and the House of Lords, she is correct. These are Anglican privileges, and I do not defend them. But when she talks of Church schools, we need to be clear that the freedom of association of religious people is not a privelege, it is a right.

  • Anonymous

    Of course faith can never be a private matter. Christianity would have died out in a generation if it had been.You are sent out of MASS on a MISSION!

  • Jpepe

    That is the objective of the militant secularists, to get rid of religion by cornering it to the private realm. 

  • Oconnord

    Again with the “militant secularists”. How are secularists militant?

    In the recent council prayer decision the council was asked to compromise it’s unlawful position twice. Both compromises were refused which then led to a decision being made by a court. How is this militant?

  • Alexander Lucie-Smith

    I think that “militant secularist” is a term used by newspapers. I have read over what I have written and I do not use the term except to refer to its use by the Guardian in my first sentence. I prefer the word “atheist” for those who do not believe in God. I think the term secular which is in origin a theological term needs to be used carefully. Incidentally rather than using the term militant secularists for certain people, I would prefer to call them “anti-religious campaigners”. Not all secularists would fall into this category, neither would all atheists

  • Romsbar

    Forgive me if I Misunderstand you Father but you seem to be saying that pluralism is a good thing, what ever happened to the state subordinating itself to Holy Mother Church? Do you not long for the world described by Mgsr Benson in “Dawn of All”, where the state is effectively the Sword and Shield of the the Church? where abortion, and other evils are outlawed?

  • Honeybadger

    I am sick to death of people – even amongst prominent Roman Catholics – who say that religion is a personal matter!

    Well, TOUGH! It isn’t! Deal with it!

    The UK and Commonwealth Head of State is also the Supreme Head of the Church of England. The head of a Christian denomination. End of.

    If the Queen hadn’t taken her Coronation vows with such gravity, having been anointed and consecrated IN A CHURCH, strengthened by her own faith of which she is Supreme Head, then she surely would have buckled under the crises which have faced her family and this country in the past 60 years!

    Are militant atheists going to take a sharp object to their British passports and scrape off the motto from the variation of Her Majesty’s coat of arms which translates into GOD AND MY RIGHT? Or the crosses off the heraldic crown?

    HM judges should do well to remember that they sit beneath her coat of arms containing that motto!

    Or refuse to rise during the UK National Anthem because it has GOD as part of the lyrics?

    Or chip away the motto from the various ranks of the Order of the British Empire where it says FOR GOD AND EMPIRE?

    Well, if the tiny National Secularist Society get their way, it will be devastating, catastrophic!

    In the United States, militant atheists have sought to erase GOD from society (with Obama’s help) – so, will they deface coins with the motto IN GOD WE TRUST?

    So, there you have it – militant atheists!

  • Anonymous

    I would have thought that seeking to radically change a country and its 1000 year old culture is fairly militant.

  • Alexander Lucie-Smith

    Pluralism is a fact of life and we have to deal with it. The Rawlsian approach helps us to get round the idea of pluralism and create the circumstances for dialogue. I do not think pluralism is good in itself… but Divine Providence seems to have allowed for quite a few communities who do not agree with us such as the Orthodox. And we have to dialogue with them. I certainly want abortion outlawed, but how can we bring this about except through dialogue? A close relationship with the State can be good – the period of Adenauer and de Gasperi was a good time for all, I think; and Napoleon III is a huge personal hero of mine, but…. with the way things are now, we have to be realistic.

  • theroadmaster

    The recognized boundaries which constitutionally separate the secular sphere from the religious as in the US or Britain were never mean’t to prevent people of Faith from engaging with the issues which effected the very beliefs which they promulgated.  The First Amendment in the US Constitution categorically ruled out the State favoring any particular religion but likewise stipulated that the national government or it’s agencies would never interfere with the activities of religious bodies.  This has allowed healthy debate in the public forum, which has become more robust over the last 20 years or more, between a wide spectrum of opinion in American politics.  
    It is nonsensical to claim that there are there are boxes clearly marked “private” and “public” into which we can neatly divide morality.  We can think of any number of MPs who had to resign over their personal conduct outside parliament which contradicted their public pronouncements on certain issues.  Ethics encompasses all facets of human life and “Catholic” politicians in the US who state that they are “against abortion,,,but” to excuse their support for legislation which enables this terrible evil to take place, are living a lie which they will discover, if they really examined their consciences to take stock of the self-deceit inherent in their flawed logic.

  • Anonymous

    For most of our (American) history, one’s personal religious beliefs and practices WERE considered to be private.  President Kennedy’s Catholicism was a curiosity, and an issue in the abstract:  how will being Catholic influence his policy positions?  But he didn’t speak of it in public fora and he wasn’t asked personal and specific questions about his faith.  President Nixon was widely known to be a Quaker, but he was very private about it and it was assumed that his faith would inform, but not control, his leadership.  President Carter was a devout Southern Baptist who spoke about it in general terms when asked; but his faith wasn’t a litmus test of any kind, for the Democratic Party or the body politic. Etc.
    One could hardly say religion has ever been “cornered to the private realm.”  There’s nothing wrong with expecting public figures to base their policy decisions on values that ALL of us share–not just their fellow congregants.

  • Parasum

    “Religion is a personal matter” can mean:

    1. “What i believe is between me and whatever god or gods I may believe in, and is no concern of yours”;

    2. “My religious experience is mine – yours is yours; so what yours and mine may not agree in every respect, even though we share the same religion”;

    3. “Religion is a matter of individual experience as well as one of public relevance”;

    4. “You keep your religion to yourself – please don’t think everyone holds it, because they don’t, nor do they wish to”

    5. “Religion is for church, on Sundays, for those who go there – not for public life; it has no place of any kind in public life”.

    There are probably other shades of meaning for that sentence – this is enough to show that those words can vary greatly in meaning. What an Evangelical means by the phrase, is not at all the same as what an atheist might mean by it; and a Catholic might mean something else again – partly because the word “religion” has several shades of meaning: outward ritual acts; the interior spirit of religion; what those religious Charlies do on Sundays; what those vicars & parsons & suchlike try to get people to swallow; and so on.



  • Parasum

    “…(and as it happens I complete agree with Ms Toynbee about face-veils: I think they are an affront to reason,…”## On what grounds ? They are demure and chaste, and show that the woman wearing them is “not available” – unlike the Christian “street-walkers” who are available to any man with the money to pay for them. Is chastity an “affront to reason” ?  We need more women to wear veils – not fewer. Muslims stand out, only because they unusual. If nuns & women religious were not so secularised (thanks to V2 !) but wore habits as they used to, the Christian aversion to demure Muslim women would die overnight. It is beyond words that V2′s timing was so bad – the Church embraced secularity, and corrupted many countries in the process, by leaving them without any distinctively Catholic character.  The spread of Islam to the West is in part a result of the change of direction at V2. The Council has stripped the Church of much of its symbolic language – and symbols are immensely powerful. The wearing of the veil is one of these. The only people in the CC aware of the strength of symbols appear to be traditional Catholics – but not neo-Catholics, even in the clergy. This rejection of much Catholic symbolism & of the associations that go with them & connect them, has done untold damage to the Church – it has made the alienation of sacred vessels and the deconsecration of sacred places dangerously easy; for taboos have been violated, which formerly were thoughtto be inviolable. They were violated, the heavens did not fall – so further trans-gression become easy and natural. Bringing the Church to its present condition. 

  • Anonymous

    Looks like this is going to be reversed. Deo Gratias.

  • Annie

    Uh, I do hope you aren’t suggesting lay Catholic women burqa up.

    I’m more than willing to don the lace in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, but no way do I think that turning yourself into an utterly invisible human being, where only eyes show and which is anyway a  non-Christian cultural practice, is a good idea even if fashion is horrible.

  • Anonymous

    You ask “what ever happened to the state subordinating itself to Holy Mother Church?”. My answer is that democracy became more fashionable than theocracy, but that was quite a while ago now.

  • Anonymous

    I can answer your questions with regard to myself, though not on behalf of my fellow atheists, as they might have very different feelings.

    My atheism is not going to lead me to deface my passport. A passport is simply a tool which allows me to go abroad, and having “DIEU” printed on it no more bothers me than having the same word on a coin or a pen. I hadn’t even noticed it until now.

    I stand for the national anthem out of respect for the Queen, but I think it was high time the words were replaced, as they are not only divisive but third-rate and uninspiring anyway. It’s unlikely that a change will be made during the present reign but conceivable in the next. (Come to think of it, the tune’s not so great either.) While I’m on this topic, I think you seriously underestimate the Queen’s strength of character when you suppose that she would have buckled without religious faith.

    In the extremely unlikely event of my being offered an Order of the British Empire, I would probably refuse it unless I could have a more up-to-date and less presumptuous motto on it, since, whatever good I have done in my life I have not performed for a deity in which I do not believe or for an empire which no longer exists.

    Replacing the words of the national anthem and those on state honours would not be an attack on traditions, but an appropriate updating of traditions for a more secular age. If traditions don’t keep up with social change, they often risk becoming irrelevant and falling into obscurity. It is not the aim of the National Secular Society to attack religious traditions per se. The NSS merely aims to remove them from those public contexts which pertain to the wider society, including non-religious people. What goes on in a place of worship or religious service is none of the state’s business, as long as it is legal, but a law court is not a place of worship, and a town council meeting is not a religious service.

  • Oconnord

    Only if you were to try to change it by militant actions. Culture constantly changes through various ways, almost all of them non-militant. Using the legal framework of a country to highlight the unlawfulness of a common practice (in the example I used) cannot be considered militant. 

  • Anonymous

    Over 1500 years ago the Christian message of our salvation in Christ first arrived in our land. I am both a member of the Church of England and  for the last 25 years a Malmesbury Town Councillor. Every year when the new Mayor is sworn in at what is known as “Mayor Making” he or she then appoints his or hers Mayor’s chaplain, in the past the chaplain was from the Mayor’ own church although nowadays the ecumenical group known Church Together in Malmesbury is appointed. With fewer Clergy available  for the last three years I have been asked to say prayers at the start of council meetings. I have always deeply considered what the prayers are about, bringing before God the needs of our Town, Nation and World. In this time, two serving and two retired councillors have died so the prayers for their loved ones was very imprtant. The general nature of my prayers is :-” Almighty and ever loving Father, you alone govern the destiny of men and of nations, I ask you at this time to bring wisdom to all assembled here that we may better discharge our duties as councillors to the people of our town that we have been elected to serve.” What the National Secular Society is seeking to do is to destroy our nation’s Christian heart and soul. In the name of Human Rights others are attempting to destroy my human rights to live in a Christian country. The hour is late but we must stand together.

  • Oconnord

    “So, there you have it – militant atheists!”
    As opposed to “militant secularists” which was the question I posed. Thinking atheism and secularism the same is just wrong. 

    “so, will they deface coins with the motto IN GOD WE TRUST?”

    Well that’s a new one to me, but if it’s true it’s pointless but hardly militant. Defacing a coin then using it as shrapnel in a suicide vest.. well that would be militant. I’m just going to ignore your other imagined scenarios as flights of fancy.

    “Well, TOUGH! ….. Deal with it!”

    Ok then. Divorce, contraception, abortion, civil partnerships and Tesco sponsoring gay Pride… all happening, all legal so… 

    “Well, TOUGH! ….. Deal with it!”

  • Oconnord

    If you’re referring to the Localism Act, as mentioned by Eric Pickles, I’m afraid it will only muddy the waters further not reverse the decision. No where in the act does it make reference to prayer or indeed religion. It mentions a  “general power of competence”  and gives a council the ability to “do anything an individual can do that is not illegal.”

    Most likely it will just lead to another court case. 

  • Anonymous

    So well informed for someone up the Wicklow hills. Lucklily this time you are wrong and the, always optional,prayers will be reinstated.

  • Anonymous

    Fairly militant in my book.

  • Alexander Lucie-Smith

    “Thinking atheism and secularism the same is just wrong.” I agree.

  • Oconnord

    I totally agree with your position on burqas and niqabs but include a reason often ignored. They give the impression that men are animals incapable of self control. As if the sight of a female elbow or knee turns men into raging lustful creatures unable to prevent themselves from raping a woman. As such it removes the responsibility for self control from the man.

  • Oconnord

    So in your book the Christian Legal Centre must be very militant. It has far more cases going to court then the NSS. And four of those to the European level.

  • Oconnord

    Digital age… even for us mountain folk!

    Not sure where I was wrong, I drew two conclusions, it will muddy the waters, quite possible and that it may well end up back in court, quite probable.

    If you look at the act, it says nothing about prayers or their legality. The “do anything an individual can do that is not illegal” does not help as recent court case found the prayers to be unlawful. So whether the council acts as a council or as an individual the prayers are still unlawful.


  • Alexander Lucie-Smith

    I agree with that too…. it is very insulting to men to suggest that the slightest glimpse of female flesh will tunr them into ravening beasts.

  • Isaac

    And, apart from being insulting, it is (more importantly) blatantly false. Millions of men interact with non-veiled women daily without losing control of themselves.

    My own view is that a face veil is contrary to the dignity of women and (contrary to Parasum’s post above) is contrary to chastity. In fact it views a women solely as the potential object of a man’s lustful gaze and thus objectifies her.

  • Alexander Lucie-Smith


  • Oconnord

    Prostitution is perfectly legal in Shia Islamic Jurisprudence. It’s called nikah mut’ah, marriage of pleasure. Simply put a man can pay a dowry to marry a woman on a temporary basis, be it a day, week or year. The marriage is dissolved at the end of the contract period and the woman walks away with the money, free to do exactly the same thing the next day.
    So if you walked the streets of Tehran those veiled women may not be as chaste as you so innocently presume.

    To be fair it is not solely a Shia practice, the Sunni ruling says the practice was abrogated by a hadith. But as there is about 250,000 hadiths to pick and choose many Sunni will just ignore this one. So in practice you have Sunni men holidaying in a resort in Indonesia, for example, who meet a woman, have a muk’ah contract drawn up for the period of their stay. Then they are free to have sex as long as they pay the dowry.

    Just because a religion likes to veil the truth doesn’t make it demure or chaste. So it’s a bit unfair to say “unlike the Christian “street-walkers” who are available to any man with the money to pay for them.”

  • Oconnord

    Sorry I forgot to mention it’s perfectly legal to have a mut’ah second marriage! So of course a man can have a one day contract then go back home to his wife and kids.
    Although most imams say you need your wife’s permission. But again that’s based on another hadith which might be convieniently forgotten.

  • Oconnord


  • Anonymous

    Well as ever, time will tell. Mr Pickles seems quite determined.Watch this space.

  • Anonymous

    Not half militant enough in my book!

  • Jonathan West

    There is a great deal of obfuscation going on about secularism, mainly from religious anti-secularists. Giles Fraser ( is quite right when he says “the secular is not some political space that has been wiped clean of religious influence”.
    The religious are as welcome as anybody else to participate in public and political life. They are welcome to put their ideas out into the public domain and try to get others to agree with them.
    What the religious anti-secularists fail to understand (and one can never be quite sure whether this failure is deliberate or not) is that there is a distinction between them having a right to publicly present their ideas, and the rest of us having a duty to give those ideas special respect and consideration because the religious believe their ideas come from God.
    I will defend absolutely the right of the religious to present their ideas in public, subject to the same rules that apply to the rest of us concerning hate speech and incitement to violence.
    I will also defend the right of everybody to choose to accept or not the ideas the religious put forward.
    I will accept ideas from the religious if they have a sound basis in fact. I will not accept any religious idea whose sole justification is faith.
    And for anybody who doesn’t get this, I think it is about time that people start labelling you a “militant theocrat”, and see how you like it.

  • m francis

    I am sorry but as a practicing Catholic I feel that your article above is very naieve.   Quoting Polly Toynbee is something I never thought any priest would do.   She is a rampant atheist who like most of the media pursue a pro gay, anti Christian agenda.    It is time to wake up and smell the coffee and not act as an apologist for such people.   We live in a world where media organisations recruit religious correspondents who arent even religious and have never stepped into a mosque/temple or church in their lives, where religious symbols are replaced at Christmas  with messages  such as “seasons greetings” and where it is very often Muslims themselves who observe the weakness of our church leaders to defend our faith, defend it on our behalf, in newspaper articles etc.  Remember in todays society it is those those shout loudest get what they want.   Where are our twelve disciples that spread the word with such courage, with all the risks that entailed. They werent scared about offending people or that they might get a slap on the wrist if they were politically incorrect.   The truth is our church might as well be private because there is no-one to speak out on behalf of Christians.   It will be a bit late when the secularists(sorry atheists) come to our churches and rip down our symbols of faith for you to say sorry I was wrong.  After all they are already taking down any religious symbolism off the top of Christmas trees in some American states because they MAY ‘offend’ some people.    When I read your article the name Neville Chamberlain came to mind, well meaning yes, accommodating yes, but in effect working in the interests of others whose aim is to destroy us.  

  • m francis

    so you are not one of those aggressive atheists that would stop a council from observing its traditions and say prayers

  • Jonathan West

    I wonder why you would want councillors to say public prayers in the first place. Matthew 6: 5-6.

  • m francis

    As a Catholic I can sort of see where you are coming from although your way of saying it needs considerable adjustment.   I think you are correct that religious symbolism is very important (and you may wish to read my comments above).   I think my faith is hiding in its shell and has allowed the secularists(or atheists) to get away with eroding our freedoms.  Many tribunal decisions against Christians illustrate just how infected with atheism/secularism the judiciary has become.   Nobody appears able to stick up for our rights and ironically certain Muslim academics have spoken out on our behalf, effectively filling some of the void left by our own inert and ineffectual church leaders.   It probably is time for well meaning grassroots Catholics and Muslims to stand together and fight against this secularist/atheist plague, but thats for another time.

  • m francis

    The reference made is to synagogues and street corners and a particular shallow type of person that uses religion to their own ends.   In an increasingly secular Britain I dont think you could argue it is particularly self promoting to pray in a council chamber, when so many aggressive secularists/atheists such as yourself are there to put them down at each and every turn.   I have never heard of ‘positive discrimination ‘ being used to hire Christians

  • Jonathan West

    Don’t conflate secularism with atheism. 

    Recently, within Europe, we’ve had a rather nasty three-way war, between three groups who were essentially the same people, they had intermarried to a great extent, they all spoke the same language. About the only thing that distinguished them from each other was their religion. It sustained a degree of separate identity over centuries. It gave them enough of a separate identity to go to war with each other.I’m talking of course of the wars that followed the breakup of Yugoslavia, which became particularly nasty in Bosnia between Catholic Christians, Orthodox Christians and Muslims, involving mass rapes and civilian massacres. Within Europe, this is merely the most recent of countless wars where religious identity has formed at least part of the national identity that was used to justify a war and all its horrors.I think we would be better without such wars.So, we need either to find some objective means by which we can decide which one of all the religions is true and that all the others are false, one which is sufficiently decisive that everybody will peacefully accept the outcome, or we need to take such questions out of the realm of statecraft, agree to disagree, and have a secular state which treats all religions equally and privileges none.Which of these two options do you think is more practicable?

  • Jonathan West

    I disagree. Having public as part of the official business of a public body is entirely self-promoting and using religion to your own ends.

    If councillors want to be Christian about their prayers, they should pray at home at the start of the day, asking for the wisdom to conduct the day’s council business well.

  • Jonathan West

    With regard to pluralism being a fact of life, does that mean you wish it were not and that everyone was a catholic?

  • Oconnord

    That made me chuckle! Excellent reply.

  • theroadmaster

    This innocuous practice of saying a brief prayer at the start of meetings in some councils has been in existence since the time of Elizabeth 1 and has not raised the hackles of any body since then.  All it takes is someone with a miserly outlook in life and a very narrow understanding of what secularism means, to raise a hullabaloo about an inoffensive age-old tradition.  Whether you like or not, Religion has been deeply embedded in the fabric of British life for more than 1,500 years and atheists are now looking for the slightest confirmation of this in signs or symbols in government buildings and elsewhere in the public domain, to show faux outrage and seek court action.  Christianity is responsible for so much that is taken for granted in British life, i.e parliamentary system, university system, Common Law regulations, that it would take be churlish of anyone not to recognize that.  A little public attestation to this in a moment of prayer, should not be be beyond reasonable person’s toleration level.

  • Oconnord

    As you quoted the recent Mori poll in your article, have you read the latest YouGov poll? It finds that 55% think councils should not hold prayer in meetings but that 55% of people think they should be allowed to do so.

    Interestingly it also finds 34% of people you claim no religion think that Britain should be a “Christain Country”. I’ve barely scanned the poll but it’s seem pretty interesting.

  • theroadmaster

    But for many atheists, it has gone beyond a simple separation of Church and State.  In many cases in GB and across Europe, it means the marginalization of people of Faith to the outer margins of public discourse and toleration is only extended to them as long as they agree to stay mute and not display too much resistance to the meaningless jumble of non-values which constitutes the soulless liberalism of so many administrations.  The trouble is that without any objective values detectable in this brew of multi-culturism and subjective individualism, a state soon becomes rudderless in terms of moral direction  This was exhibited big-time during the inner city riots which scared so many British cities.  Other indicators are depressing social realities like the soaring rate of teenage pregnancies, abortions and STDs.  There must come a point when anyone who is of a reflective mind-set, takes stock of such a situation and starts looking looking for solutions which encompass objective, moral values.

  • Honeybadger

    Oh, sorry for the late reply, sunshine!

    I have been too busy stitching up my sides from laughing at your reply to my post.

    Firstly, a couple of years ago, there was the ludicrous case of a non-Christian policeman who objected to the heraldic crown on his badge… because it has a CROSS on it!

    And you think I’ve been talking about, quote: ‘… imagined scenarios as flights of fancy.’

    I’ve heard of daisy-cutter bombs, nail bombs but… never defaced dime bombs! Huh! Times are tough enough, even for suicide bombers… so, who is having ‘flights of fancy’ and ‘imagined scenarios’?

    Not me, bub!

    The issues concerning the UK National Anthem, the Royal motto and coronation vows etc. etc. etc. are being discussed in the wake of a whingey atheist who complains about prayers before a meeting!!! Well, would he be as quick or as passionate about issues with council business concerning social services, potholes in the road, inadequate public toilets and painful cuts to essential services etc. etc. etc?

    And as for you trumpeting divorce, contraception, abortion, civil partnerships and Tesco sponsoring Gay Pride as if they are the best thing civilisation and the legal systems of this country – amongst others – since jelly pickaxes with shortcake handles …

    Boy oh boy oh boy, chum, you are seriously blind and seriously in need of a humanity transplant!

    We Roman Catholics ARE dealing with it. For a kick-off, in the USA, we are showing our teeth against the destructive influence of Obama; the new Spanish government are promising to reverse the destructive legislation that Zapatero shoved through that were against Church teaching.

    We are dealing with it, Oconnord! We are sure as heck dealing with it… and how!

  • Jonathan West

    Merely saying that something is an “objective” moral value does not make it so. There are many ways in which moral values have changed over the centuries, and I don’t doubt that some things we regard as acceptable today will be regarded as unspeakable barbarities a century or two hence.

    So I’ve come to have a great distrust of those who believe that they know what moral values are objective, they always seem to be the moral values which they themselves happen to hold, and any conflicting moral values held by anybody else are always wrong or transient.

    As for the marginalization of faith, I think that you need to distinguish between you right to say what you believe and the obligation of others to listen. I’ll defend your right to say whatever you believe, but don’t expect me to agree the content of it, if all you have to justify it is a claim that you are basing your ideas on objective moral values.

    As for your suggestions that (to paraphrase you) society is going to the dogs, I’d point out people have been saying that sort of thing at regular intervals for several thousand years. But society usually seems to muddle through somehow.

  • Oconnord

    Sunshine? Bub? Chum?
    Ever heard of the term passive aggressive?

    Firstly, if you are going to use something as evidence to back up your point you might try using actual facts. It was a muslim traffic warden in 2002 that objected to the cross on his badge.
    So not a couple of years ago, not a policeman and not a secular case. Just another religious believer looking for special treatment. 
    But I do agree ludicrous.

    Secondly, my point about defaced coins as shrapnel was an imagined scenario,” .. well that would be militant.” pretty much made that clear. It was just as much a flight of fantasy as your defacing passports example.

    Thirdly, who is discussing the national anthem, etc? Besides those headless chickens in The Mail and Telegraph? Please show me where there is a serious political discussion about change to any of your examples. As to councils spending time on council issues rather than wasting time… well if you can’t see how you undercut your point you’re blind.

    Fourthly, I did not trumpet anything. I pointed out things that were current and legal which I guessed you might not agree with. Then i advised you to follow your own advice. But “jelly pickaxes with shortcake handles … ” sounds yummy!

    And last if I am in need of a humanity transplant then I would advise you to get both a brain and humanity implant!
    You seem to sadly lacking both.