Thinking Anglicans

weekend opinion columns

Mark Vernon writes in the Guardian that seeing scientific knowledge as limitless erodes our capacity for contemplative wonder. Read Face to Faith.

Christopher Howse writes in the Daily Telegraph about Women alone in Paris and Mecca.

Roderick Strange asks in The Times How many of us have given until we felt the pinch?.

And there is another article: Church’s historic home in the City.

In the Church Times Giles Fraser asks Is secularism neutral on faith or anti-religious?.

And there is a leader column: Unity agreeable to God’s will.

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Cheryl Va. CloughErika BakerFord ElmsSimon BarrowTerry Sanderson Recent comment authors
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Pluralist
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I have no time for Giles Fraser’s argument. You can be secularist and argue for freedom of religion and none and argue against it, just as you can be in a religion and argue for freedom of religion and none. It is no different. I don’t know why he wants to keep making enemies of the secularists.

Giles Fraser
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Giles Fraser

Pluralist. You misunderstand me. I am a secularist. I have no interest in making enemies of them at all. Rather, I have no time for an organisation called the National Secular Society. They are mostly not secularists at all: they are agressive anti-religionists who sail under false colours.

JCF
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JCF

I understood Fraser differently, Pluralist. Fraser, IMO, is talking about the secular *project*. As such, it SHOULD welcome theists and atheists equally, to the task of the separation of Church and State (which is, of course, just as much about protecting the Church—ALL communities of faith—from the State, as the other way around). However, in Fraser’s view, *this* particular secularist project, the NSS, is no longer about secularism, per se. It has excluded the theist side of the equation, and has become ONLY about protecting the State from ALL forms of religious thought—while agitating a smear campaign against all religion… Read more »

Cheryl Va. Clough
Guest

Hi Pluralist Yes there can be broad brush stroking and over generalisations. Yet it doesn’t hurt to look at one particular group and pass comment on their models, but it is probably worth adding a caveat that this should not be overgeneralised. That is a trait that I’ve noticed Rabbi Sacks is quite good at doing. After I read Mark Vernon’s article, I couldn’t help contemplating that similar arguments can also apply to the religious. There are religious souls who can lose the sense of wonder at the complexity and majesty of this level of Creation. These are the kind… Read more »

Pluralist
Guest

I take all the particular points, and I’ve hardly any time for the National Secular Society either (more sympathy with the British Humanist Association). Nevertheless, presumably they are honourable when the Society calls for freedom of religion and none in wider society as well as being militant for their anti-religion. Are they arguing that the State should actively close down religious institutions or make it difficult for them to operate?

Simon Sarmiento
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Giles
I don’t see that the NSS is any less entitled to use that name and pursue its own agenda than the Christian Institute is to do the same kind of thing.

Terry Sanderson
Guest

Giles Freaser may not like the National Secular Society, but he has no right to misrepresent it. He makes several points in his article that are mre to do with his prejudices than the truth. And his final attempt to smear the NSS by its association with Pat Condell, who he says is the fvourite of the far-right, is deplorable. Pat Condell did not say that “Muslims have shit for brains” he said that murdering fanatics who happen to be Muslims do. Mr Condell may be vigoroous in his criticism of religion, and I understand why religious people don’t like… Read more »

Ford Elms
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Ford Elms

“Let us not forget that the BNP likes to describe itself as a Christina party.” Do you really need it pointed out how many atrocities have been committed by avowed athiests? Come on, the implication that the BNP is in any way an example of Christianity is like calling Pol Pot a good example of secularism! I think a problem with secularism is that it tacitly believes evolution to be a steady advancement. Thus, society must go from strength to strength, and the next bit of societal evolution is to get rid of the whole God superstition. That just denies… Read more »

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

“I can’t think of one way in which, overall, our society is better than anything that has gone before” Equality before the law, humane punishments for crimes, equality for women, workers and family no longer being physically and legally owned by patriarchs, education, humane working conditions……I can think of loads! And those countries who do not yet have those aspire to them. Human nature doesn’t change overall, but it’s trying hard to tame itself and to put modifying structures around it. Certainly, as an LGBT woman with a sick child and a resultingly very reduced income I would not chose… Read more »

Ford Elms
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Ford Elms

Erika, You come up with isolated examples of “good”(quotes to isolate ‘goodness’ as a thing). I see more an overall balance that hasn’t changed. We still go to war, more “effectively” now than ever before. The reasons are still the same. The left knew Bush was lying long before he went into Iraq, that the war would lead to a long costly involvement, weakening America’s economy, yet it all happened anyway. Why? Because people in power will pursue power, regardless. That’s the Fall, and it hasn’t changed one iota since the first monarch decided to atatck an enemy. I can… Read more »

Simon Barrow
Guest

“Ekklesia is a Christian organisation arguing for a secular state. We [NSS] want a different kind of secular state, that’s all.” Where, I wonder, is the difference – and is it as inconsequential as this “that’s all” might suggest? Ekklesia does not think that religious bodies/representatives should hold state or legislative power or special privileges in public institutions or the tax regime; we agree with NSS on that. But we very much believe in a plural civil society, open to contributions from the religious and non-religious alike. The NSS, as far as I can see, does not. It wishes to… Read more »

Cheryl Va. Clough
Guest

Erika I applaud your sentiments, do not give up the good fight. Ford I can understand your comments – is it cynism, depression? I don’t think you want those violent manifestations. I love the tikkun olam model which advocates that we have to take responsibility for making the world a better place. In the fight against good and evil, evil tries to do is to tell us it’s not worth it, it’s all too hard, you’ll never solve all the world’s problems, every thing you make will be broken later, everything holy will be desecrated. Evil wins when we listen… Read more »

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

Ford “I can find a negative balancer for evey one of the advances you cite.” So can I. But that doesn’t negate the good. Every so often society is swept to new shores by the emergence of new ideas of what might be good. That that good doesn’t always win and not in every part of the world is true. And yet, today we fight slavery knowing it to be wrong. Then it was accepted as right. Today we know that equal rights ought to be achieved, then it was crystal clear that some people had more God given rights… Read more »

Ford Elms
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Ford Elms

“today we fight slavery knowing it to be wrong” I’m not saying slavery is right, but societies always believe that their values are inherently right. It was once thought to be horribly dangerous to society to allow individuals to choose their governments, as an example. My point is that, in their day they believed it to be right. The Victorians thought they were at the peak of enlightenment, just like we do of ourselves, yet we look at them as at best quaint. One obvious thing is that the Victorians shared the same horror of sex that we do of… Read more »

Terry Sanderson
Guest

Simon Barrow of Ekklesia likes to paint himself as Mr Reasonable, Mr Moderate, but goodness me he sure likes to dish out the bile on those who don’t support his view of the world. I admit that I don’t think religion is a good thing. Its history speaks for itself. I have, on the other hand, no desire to interfere with the rights and practices of individual believers. Once religion is organised, it becomes unpleasant and then it become sdangerous and oppressive. Tell me a religion whose history does not follow this pattern. Mr Barrow will say – ah, yes,… Read more »

Pluralist
Guest

As I say I prefer the British Humanist Association to the National Secular Society, and some people make a distinction between secularisation and secularism. A secularist can just argue for both, and a religious person for the religion and secularisation. What about improvement. I’m unemployed, and the money received for basic benefits is derisory. Yet, for the time being, I am reasonably comfortable and the juggling would be to make that so. Not everyone is, of course, and I may not be. When I get interviews, they are carried out both according to rules and hidden practices, and when in… Read more »

Cheryl Va. Clough
Guest

Ford Yes it is true that “Every society that ever existed has believed its values to be right.” However, my observations are that some societies are worth emulating and some are not. Similarly, even within one nation there are golden times and there are dark times. My love and respect is towards those nations that actually have a bit of humility in their psyche. The ones that can imagine that God wants them to have neighbors, so they don’t go off on invading their neighbors or depriving them of the necessities for life so that they can be comfortable in… Read more »

Simon Barrow
Guest

Terry: I’m genuinely baffled that you can read what I have written and say that it is “nasty” or contains “bile”. I’m citing things you or the NSS have said and done, and specifying where I agree and where I disagree or have doubts. I’m also suggesting that tarring all religious people with the same brush (or all non-religious people for that matter) is an ideological not an evidential position, and that disagreements about beliefs need not necessarily be a barrier to working together for a world in which the religious and non-religious can co-exist without fear or favour in… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Ford,
of course societies have different ways of doing things, and the pendulum will swing back and forwards.

But whether we correct a child’s spelling or not is surely on a different level from whether we see the inherent value in all people or whether we believe we have the right to buy and sell them?

Equating the undeniable progress of equal rights before the law with the fashion of talking or not talking about death or sex is a category error.

Terry Sanderson
Guest

Simon, Alright, now you’ve calmed down perhaps we can talk properly. I think one of the problems with this “tarring all Christians with the same brush” argument is the very thing that I wrote about in the Comment is Free article that so upset you. If the NSS is vigorous in its criticism of what it sees as religious privilege, then you say it is illegitimate because “we’re not all like that”. That lets the extremists off the hook. Any criticism of them is taken personally by you. And yes, I personally don’t like the idea of “faith”. When “people… Read more »

Cheryl Va. Clough
Guest

Thanks for your posting Terry, and the examples you put forward. It highlights that there is a role for people “outside the system” to look at how “the system” is implemented and whether there are any casualities. For example, the raped girl who is deprived the morning after pill and given no other avenue to protect herself. They might make us wince and some of what they advocate we might not like, but they are acting in the interests of more than just Christian sensibilities. They won’t be right on every point, but then neither will we. The dialogues are… Read more »

Simon Barrow
Guest

Terry:

Distinguishing clearly between people who espouse extremism and people whose outlook is opposed to extremism (and who are also religious, or not, as the case may be) doesn’t let extremists off the hook. Failing to do so does.

As for comedians, Eddie Izzard is a comedian who challenges dehumanization. Pat Condell is a man who calls people “pigs”, which other people who hate or fear them think is funny. Big difference.

Hugs, S

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“the undeniable progress of equal rights before the law” But this progress has come with an ever growing number of groups “fighting” for their civil rights. People are further and further dividing themselves in the search for a minority definition, “my oppression is more valid than your oppression”. People are no longer African-American, now there are those who identify as “Blacktino”, having one parent who is African-American, one who is Latino. Such a person is not recognized, therefor is more oppressed than someone who is just black. Some people here in Newfoundland are upset because retailers haven’t dropped their prices… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Ford, I don’t think I ever said that there is nothing wrong in our societies, or even that human nature has changed. There will always be those who exploit the system, those who don’t play fair. The system will be faulty and in constant need of repair. I’m an optimist at heart. I believe, maybe wrongly, that the liberalisation we have seen in Europe, the US and Canada in the last few centuries brought with it a multitude of benefits. It has also brought new problems – we’re really not used to being responsible for ourselves yet, and it often… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

Well, I was being a bit extreme to make a point, but that was not that in any one area things haven’t improved, though that is precisely what I said, sorry to be obtuse. I may be more free than a gay person 100 years ago, but somewhere there is a wrong that balances it out, that’s my point. The part of the world I grew up in has undergone huge societal changes in the past 50 years, more than a lot of North Americans would have experienced. My life is materially far better than my grandparents. Yet, the changes… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

What an interesting question, Ford. Is all perception of what is good culturally conditioned? I read somewhere that there is a level of abstract “good” that all societies recognise, at least in theory. And all major religions have the sanctity of life and being considerate towards each other at their core. The way we construct our societies then reflects the regional and cultural different interpretations on how to achieve those core goods (and I know the death penalty is an odd way of achieving those, but Christians grapple with this too!). I think I’m more concerned about your comment that… Read more »

Cheryl Va. Clough
Guest

From Ford’s comments, there arises a concern that whining martyr’s are not necessarily concerned with the broader communities’ best interests but rather pushing their own barrow, possibly at the expense of the broader commnity or its neighbors. Erika’s comments remind us that reforms do not happen by passively acquiesing to existing paradigms and that societies improve by people listening to their small voices of conscience and trying to find ways to solve things. Jesus’ victory has led to two paths (well more than two, but we’ll simplify for the sake of this posting). One way infers that grace comes in… Read more »