28 March 2010

Some Days It Saves Time Just to Hate Everybody

If I ever discard the mutant remnants of my christian faith, abjure my God and admit to the world "Yes, you were right, I've been following a stupid fairy story and what's more I knew that all along, I'm so sorry I wasted your time with it and incidentally I take full personal responsibility for such atrocities as the Inquisition, the Crusades and Godspell..."

(Deep breath...)

...it won't be because of a realisation that the Bible doesn't describe scientific fact, because that's very, very obvious and I assimilated it into my faith a long, long time ago. It won't be due to the fact that textual transmission simply doesn't allow for the Bible to be the inspired Word of God in any consistent sense, because although I came to this realisation a fair while later, it was still a good decade ago, and my faith appears to have evolved to fit the modified mental niche that it created. It won't be thanks to a fear that by professing a moderate christianity I'm somehow empowering those who profess more dogmatic, fundamentalist and oppressive forms of the faith, because it's obvious to me that pulling out and abandoning Jesus' legacy to such people would empower them far more.

No, if I ever do apostasise myself it'll be because I'm so bloody tired of being stuck in the middle between the aforesaid extremists who make absurd politically motivated claims in my name, and the mostly reasonable atheists and agnostics who think it's fair to look at the behaviour of said extremists and tar the rest of us with a brush of idiocy.

Consider the first letter here, for example. In it, some men who hold unelected seats in the upper chamber of the national legislature by virtue of their position in the hierarchy of the state-established church sponsored by the monarch, complain that society discriminates against them because of their faith. I'm aware that Anglican bishops aren't usually the kind who come to mind when talking of the lunatic fringe, but note that slily casual reference to "Christian beliefs on marriage, conscience and worship" -- they're talking about their "right" to institutionalised homophobia.

You might think christians would be reconciled to powerlessness, given how the faith started, but 2,000 years of history have had their effect. In the minds of some, it seems that any erosion of the traditional power of christian authority to dictate the lives of others counts as persecution, however ludicrous this may look to outsiders. (Jonathan Bartley of Ekklesia has described the historical and political basis of this far better than I can.)

Those outsiders, of course, then think it's reasonable to make comments along the lines of "Not so nice when the bigot-boot's on the other foot, is it, Jesus-boy, eh? Eh? Ah!" and "Goodness me, what a lot of silly people these christians obviously are." Which, for those moderate christians who can entirely see their point but would rather not be poked with it ourselves, is terribly wearying.

(The less moderate atheists and agnostics are less moderate in their responses, of course. This can be hurtful and annoying, but there's still a gap between "hurtful and annoying comments which nobody makes much of a fuss about" and "culturally sanctioned persecution" which many of the christians in the early Roman Empire or the People's Republic of China would be able to help us explore.)

Certain parts of mainstream culture in the UK are all too happy to pounce on any possible instance of anti-christian "discrimination", while studiously ignoring discrimination against other faiths (or worse, portraying other faith groups' calls for inclusion as being themselves a form of anti-christian persecution). It's all too easy to add the words "...in our own country" onto the end of such complains, thus playing directly into the hands of the BNP.

In the end, churches in the UK are rarely the targets of hate crimes, unlike the mosques, synagogues and gurdwaras which the aforementioned BNP target. (When they are it's either due to long-held sectarian divisions within christianity itself, or because some psycho parishioner has a grudge against the vicar.)

Until I see a smoke-damaged church with "XTIANS OUT 666" scrawled on it, I'll feel that these bishops, and other christians giving voice to this kind of politically naive and damaging rhetoric, lack a basic sense of proportion.


  1. Nicely put. You're still a delusional silly person, but nicely put. :)

  2. jenny5:32 pm

    It's hard not to appear silly when it comes to religion, whether you believe something or not. Is it possible to be neither end of the spectrum or in between? Are there ways to transcend the binaries?

  3. While 'discrimination' might be too strong a word for not being allowed to wear a cross, do you really think there's not a general trend (not an organised movement, but a general trend) towards secularism which inevitably involves restricting religious observance (both ritual and conscience) to the private sphere, in order to strengthen the idea (or, if we don't mince words, the 'lie') that liberal secular humanism provides a kind of 'neutral' public morality -- silencing criticism of it by simply not allowing anything other than l.s.h. to be used as a basis for action, legislation, or even thought or debate in the public arena?

  4. > there's [...] a general trend [...] towards secularism which inevitably involves restricting religious observance (both ritual and conscience) to the private sphere

    Well, I agree with that bit. I'd see said trend as largely a good thing, the private sphere being where such matters belong.

  5. the private sphere being where such matters belong

    That is one of the premises of the secular movement, yes, so if you agree with the movement it's to be expected you'd agree with that.

  6. Anonymous12:22 am

    "do you really think there's not a general trend towards secularism"

    I think there's a general trend of some religious activists claiming rights above and beyond those enjoyed by everyone else.

    The BA crucifix case was ineptly handled by BA, but no-one was allowed to wear necklaces, it was the exact opposite of discrimination. And, for that matter, since when has Christian faith been measured by the bling you wear?

    The woman in question had her test case funded by -


    - a right wing American evangelical group.

    They did the same later for a friend of that woman, a nurse who did the same thing:


    They were, in other words, paid by American evangelists to stir up trouble in the UK.

    'Secular' is a code word in right-wing religious circles, used to describe anyone who believes in multiculturalism. Anyone who thinks women should work, that gays shouldn't be persecuted, that religious authorities are subject to community standards and the law.

    Note that a couple of weeks back, the Pope said the child abuse scandal was due to 'increased secularization'.

    The people who use the phrase are, invariably, attempting to latch on to the sympathy of moderate Christians and other people of faith. But they are not moderate people themselves.

  7. Anonymous: you've said nothing I disagree with except "invariably". But if you're going to be confrontational towards another commenter, can you at least be Pseudonymous so it's clear who's being argued with? Thanks...

  8. Did I not make clear I wasn't talking about that particular case?

    Did I also not make clear that I was using the actual meaning of the word 'secular', and that I don't have much truck with 'codewords'?

    I thought I had, but perhaps I hadn't.

  9. Anonymous6:42 pm


    Interesting case here.

    We're at a point where Something Needs To Be Done, but you don't have to dig very deep to see that what the church wants here is the right to be homophobic.

    What's to be done? All branches of the Christian faith seem to be backing themselves into a position where they're actively intolerant and unethical, by community standards.

    The big selling point of a lot of religions now is tradition and certainty ... but isn't that stifling the evolution and innovation churches have needed?

  10. 'You mean you're deliberately choosing to go against the community standards of the wider world, in a rackety old church?'

    'Why not? After all, that's how it all started.'


(Please sign comments -- it helps keep track of things. Offensive comments may occasionally be deleted, and spam definitely will be.)