Keep your religion out of my politics…

Alex Kane is a unionist, and a committed atheist. In his column this week he makes it clear that he doesn’t think politics and religion mix. There’s a lot of it about. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Billwas the partial subject of a sermon in the local parish church this Sunday. Northern Ireland’s science education policy has a strange abivalence within it, presumably because of some internal lobbying in the Executive. Yet is it always true that the kind of moral rigour that church influence can bring to the secular democratic feast is always negative? For instance, what of Denis Faul’s famous line there is either law, or no law?

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  • Harry Flashman

    And can the secularists, moral relativists and atheists keep their politics out of other people’s religion?

    So, you know if a person doesn’t wish to get involved in something which he finds morally repugnant and contrary to his sincere religious faith he shouldn’t be punished by the state for refusing to doing so?

    Like endorsing gay marriage and adoption, that sort of thing?

    Because I don’t actually see religion being forced on anyone in the UK but I do see a lot of religious people being forced by the state to adopt positions they fundamentally disagree with.

  • PeaceandJustice

    That great institution, the Roman Catholic church. They’re very concerned about the beginning of life but don’t seem to have a problem with some Priests who supported the murder of human beings as long as they were Protestants.

  • Dec

    Actually Harry the cCommon law system practised in Britain and Ireland were developed in the context of ‘Christian values’. That’s why women didn’t have equal rights, homosexuality was illegal, feral urchins went up chimneys (hmm, now there’s a thought). Thankfully, the days of the minority imposing their version of a moral compass on everyone else are, mostly, behind us.

  • “So, you know if a person doesn’t wish to get involved in something which he finds morally repugnant and contrary to his sincere religious faith he shouldn’t be punished by the state for refusing to doing so? “

    As a unionist, and a committed agnostic (if that’s not an oxymoron) I totally agree with you actually.

    “I don’t actually see religion being forced on anyone in the UK “

    Really? Sunday trading hours? Not being able to buy a 6-pack in a corner shop? The IFA’s recently rescinded ban on competitive matches on a Sunday? Prayers in school? That’s just from Northern Ireland. Slightly further afield we have a religious leader saying that it would be “immoral” for Wales not to have full law-making powers.

  • Garibaldy

    Not just prayers in school, but having to take religion as a GCSE. Then there is the fact that the UK has an established church, with certain bishops ex officio legislators etc etc.

  • Ulsters my homeland

    As a Protestant I agree wholeheartedly with Kane that politics and religion don’t mix. The Christian Religion (in it’s purest form) can never be political. When it mixes with politics to gain an earthly advantage, it starts to corrupt it’s true spiritual message.

    Romans 13v1 was written by Apostile Paul, when Christians were being tortured under a non-Christian government, and he stated, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil.

    The message is simple, if you’re a Christian you shouldn’t resist the power of your government.

  • I don’t actually see religion being forced on anyone in the UK

    Actually, thants to the Act of Settlement, it is pretty much forced on everyone in the UK!

  • Frustrated Democrat

    What concerns me are the world leaders who talk to gods of various hues, that I don’t believe exist, and then use them to justify their actions.

    Either I’m mad or they are………..maybe even both?

  • Ulsters my homeland

    [i]Actually, thants to the Act of Settlement, it is pretty much forced on everyone in the UK![/i]

    Not quite true Horseman. The Act of Settlement gave anyone the right to thier own religion. Unfortunately many innocent people perished when the Act of Settlement came into action as the situation in Britian was extremely hostile, between those working for the Vatican (who wanted a Roman Catholic Religion installed) and Protestants (many of whom would also be willing to carry out murder against those who supported the Pope)

    The Act of Settlement did not force religion onto anyone, it gave people their freedom.

  • Oh dear, I think Alex is about to be deluged by gospel tracts.

    As to his substantive point, although he doesn’t think that politics and religion should mix, it’s inevitable that they will, given that Christians are obliged to be salt and light in the world, which means upholding Biblical beliefs in the public sphere. I believe that, on balance, this is good for society. Others do not and, as Harry Flashman states, try to curtail the free expression of Christian opinions and lifestyle choices that conflict with the secularist agenda.

    I also believe that religious belief, regardless of theological truthfulness, has been a restraining force for social good in the UK. Sadly it is now a diminishing force, as we can see through family breakdown or even on the streets on weekend evenings.

  • Ulsters my homeland,

    … The Act of Settlement did not force religion onto anyone

    It forced everyone in the UK to accept a head of state whose religion was defined and restricted. It that sense, it removed freedom of religion from the most important position in the land, one that has a hugely symbolic importance, not least to unionists. The Act of Settlement thus forced a particular religion on a whole country, and provided the framework for a system of discrimination and unequal treatment, that still exists. Anyone who claims to truly believe in religious freedom should be outraged by the Act of Settlement.

  • Martin

    Guys guys guys….

    Eh, Mick? – ‘the kind of moral rigour that church influence can bring to the secular democratic feast’? Not much in display either here or in human history.

    And as for ‘secularists, moral relativists and atheists keep[ing] their politics out of other people’s religion’, this atheist certainly doesn’t seek to interfere in anyone’s superstitious practices, or lifestyle choices, or sincerely-held beliefs. But I’d prefer the state (and the society) I lived in to be neutral on metaphysical questions.

  • sammaguire

    As a southerner I would be extremely embarrassed to say the least if the Constitution dictated that the Head of State had to of one particular religion or if unelected Catholic bishops were granted seats in the Seanad. In fact there would be outrage here. Doesn’t seem to be the same outrage in the UK for some reason. Maybe Mr Kane and his secularist pals will begin a crusade (sorry for the religious pun!) on the matter.

  • Ulsters my homeland

    [i]”It forced everyone in the UK to accept a head of state whose religion was defined and restricted. It that sense, it removed freedom of religion from the most important position in the land, one that has a hugely symbolic importance, not least to unionists. The Act of Settlement thus forced a particular religion on a whole country, and provided the framework for a system of discrimination and unequal treatment, that still exists. Anyone who claims to truly believe in religious freedom should be outraged by the Act of Settlement.” [/i]

    You’ve gone from saying the Act of Settlement forced a certain religion onto everyone to saying the head of state was forced upon everyone. Which issue is it, religion or the head of state? Just because the head of state in the UK is a Protestant does not mean the head has to force the protestant religion onto his/her citizens, in the same way the Pope expects his citizens to be Roman Catholic. That’s where the Act of Settlement comes into it’s own, it doesn’t link the monarchs religion with his/her citizens, even although she is head of the church of England. If that were the case there would not be any other religions or churches in the land.

    When you mentioned about the most important position in the land having influence over citizens you may have hit upon a grander issue, in that all heads of states (everywhere across the world) should not be required to be of a particular religion and should not have influence over their citizens’ religion.

    Surely if you’re after ‘religious freedom’ as you claim, you should support some type of international law (not subject to the UK alone), where heads of states aren’t required to be a certain religion?

  • Ulsters my homeland

    The head of state is forced on everyone, particularly in the semi-democratic United Kingdom. When is the next election for Queen?

    The issue of requiring the head of state to be protestant is largely symbolic, but important nonetheless. It demonstrates the existence of a state religion, which has repercussions all the way down the line.

    I’m not really ‘after religious freedom’ – I would prefer that religion was simply absent from all political discourse and appointment. On a personal level, I am also a militant atheist.

  • I am sympathetic to Kane’s premise. But as far as religion’s pernicious influence per se goes, it is harder to disentangle secular and religious influences in the development of western society (and indeed the development of the UK) than he allows. If we condone extensive elements of the constitutional, political and cultural ethos of a society, is it fair to unequivocally dismiss something as elemental as the religion of that society as a positive shaper of the same values? I can’t see that it is, although I agree that in modern politics religion should not be a privileged factor.

  • Ulsters my homeland

    [i]”The head of state is forced on everyone, particularly in the semi-democratic United Kingdom. When is the next election for Queen?”[/i]

    The head of state isn’t forced on everyone, only in your head it is. Under the 1998 human rights act UK citizens can be British Republicans, without becoming guilty of treason. When Republicans outnumber monarchists, they can demand removal of the Monarchy. That’s democracy!

    [i]”The issue of requiring the head of state to be protestant is largely symbolic, but important nonetheless. It demonstrates the existence of a state religion, which has repercussions all the way down the line.”[/i]

    If there’s ‘repercussions down the line’ about the head of state being Protestant, why am I not Church of Ireland (the Queens’ Anglican sister church)? Why is Alex Kane atheist? why is there more religions in the UK that any other country in the world?

    [i]”I’m not really ‘after religious freedom’ – I would prefer that religion was simply absent from all political discourse and appointment. On a personal level, I am also a militant atheist.

    I would also like religion to be absent from politics and government, but unless it happens as international law, I will never support it being forced on the UK only.

  • overhere

    umh

    you really need to sit down and have a think about what you said.

    1 The Christian Religion (in it’s purest form) can never be political.
    I believe you need to sit down and really read you New Testament

    2 The message is simple, if you’re a Christian you shouldn’t resist the power of your government.

    And if your government voted to (say here in England) ethnically cleanse England, invade France or forceible steralise all those on social security you would sit there and say nothing. Who was the German pastor during the war who said

    They came for the jews and I said nothing,
    then came for the gypsies and I said nothing,
    They came for the Christians and there was no one to speak for me

    (I know I have paraphrased that a lot, but you get me message)

    So thought I do not agree with religion having an undue influence, unless I am some sort of robot where I can seperate how I feel about Moral values and not in a tory party sound bite way I cannot seperate my religion from how I see the world not how I would like to see the world and will vote for the party that most closely is on the same wave length as myself.

    Having been a labour supporter and voter since coming of age, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill is the one thing that has helped me finally decide not to vote Labour next time round.

    What with Gordon floundering round like a fish on Kilkeel harbour wall, going from one disaster to the next looks like that will not be to long in coming.

  • Ulsters my homeland

    “[i]I believe you need to sit down and really read you New Testament “[/i]

    and do what? read it like a humanist?

    “[i]And if your government voted to (say here in England) ethnically cleanse England, invade France or forceible steralise all those on social security you would sit there and say nothing.”[/i]

    “Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God:…..For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil.”

    How can any Christian misunderstand that verse? If you choose to ignore it, I dare say you ain’t Christian.

  • Harry Flashman

    *this atheist certainly doesn’t seek to interfere in anyone’s superstitious practices, or lifestyle choices, or sincerely-held beliefs.*

    That’s excellent, that’s my libertarian viewpoint also.

    So you would have no objection to Catholic adoption agencies declining to give babies for adoption by gay couples or Muslim business owners not wishing to allow their premises to be used to celebrate gay weddings for example.

    You don’t believe the state should use the full rigours of the law to force these groups to do things against their religious beliefs.

    Me too, I’m glad we’re in agreement.

  • Was about to launch into a rant, but rather will simply correct Garibaldi’s assertion that one must do Religion Education/Studies to GCSE level. Yes, it is on the curriculum, but under the Education Order 2003 any parent can ask for their child to be withdrawn from RE at any stage in their school career (also not to attend religious assemblies). Naturally schools don’t tend to promote this out of fear of soaring unemployment among RE teachers.

  • Harry Flashman

    [/i]Can whoever left the lid off the italic jar put it back on please.

    Ulsters my homeland you appear to be the guilty culprit.

  • Harry Flashman

    Ok, fixed it now.

  • Quizdaemon

    I find myself in agreement with Kane, politics and religion should not mix. But in my opinion it goes deeper than politics. I would like to see religion removed from the school. I’m an athiest, a choice I made from a young age because my parents chose not to send me to sunday school and that it had to be my own choice, perhaps this choice came from them being more agnostic than anything even if they don’t realise what an agnostic is. Anyway I digress. The point is I had to fight long and hard just to be excluded from RE classes which in my opinion should be at very least opt in rather than opt out. I also believe that clergy of any kind have no place on the board of governors on any school. Don’t get me started on CCMS.

  • Garibaldy

    Belfast Metal,

    I left school before 2003 so hadn’t realised that. Although I wonder what would happen if someone at a religious school did that. Could they be legitimately expelled?

  • nmc

    I refused to partake in RE at school, and that was 15 years ago now.

  • I refused to partake in RE at school …

    Curiously, in my school it was the RE teacher who refused to partake in RE, even though he was an ordained Methodist Minister. He used to read us Sherlock Holmes stories in class. I suppose the school knew, but were too embarrassed to do anything about it. That was in the old days, though. I guess such a thing would be unthinkable in our newer, more tolerant world.

  • Ulsters my homeland

    Can you realy keep religion out of the school?

    I went to a state school which was mainly Protestant because there was a Roman Catholic grammer just up the road. I can’t really imagine any subject (apart from RE) or any practices which may take on a religious tinge. Not sure about Roman Catholic schools, are there any practices or subjects other than RE which may take on a religious element?

  • Garibaldy

    Sex education for a start.

  • nmc

    Certainly UMH. Non stop it was in my old school, occasionally praying before classes, mass every first Friday of the month, fish only in the canteen every Friday. But then we were run by the priests, having priests for several subjects and a priest for a head master. Not the case in the majority of CCMS.

  • Redman

    @beano

    “I don’t actually see religion being forced on anyone in the UK”

    Really? Sunday trading hours? Not being able to buy a 6-pack in a corner shop? The IFA’s recently rescinded ban on competitive matches on a Sunday? Prayers in school?

    I’m an atheist and I support all of those except the last one, or at the very least I would be open to persuasion on all of them but the last one.

    Basically unless it’s a personal matter and therefore not in the domain of public policy put it to the vote and whether someone votes for religious or other reasons should be irrelevant. For example, there are a lot more atheists that oppose abortion than many people think, or that would at least (in a GB context anyway) support it being more restricted and the time limit reduced. If people are not allowed to vote on things where there is a public interest according to religious beliefs it would never work. How could we do otherwise? Have a referendum on abortion with a lie detector at the polling station so that they can test to see if you are a genuine atheist or agnostic before you are allowed to vote? It would be absurd. Religion should be allowed to influence politics so long as it goes through the democratic process rather than bypassing it.

  • Ulsters my homeland

    [b]Can you realy keep religion out of the school?[/b]

    [i]”Certainly UMH. Non stop it was in my old school, occasionally praying before classes, mass every first Friday of the month, fish only in the canteen every Friday. But then we were run by the priests, having priests for several subjects and a priest for a head master. Not the case in the majority of CCMS.”[/i]

    I went to college with a fella who lived like you, he was from Dunloy and made it known he was involved with the protests against the Orangemen and local bands. I liked him because he was a funny character, but when he found out I was a Protestant, he was stunned and admitted he never thought Protestants were like me (ie- actually didn’t want to kill Catholics) and that he could make friends with a Prod. He admitted to me he had lead so sheltered a life in pre-school, public school and grammer that he had no other experience of mingling with Protestants.

  • NP

    “Render unto Caesar……”

  • Two points to make rather than belabouring any points… Firstly, there are more atheists than currently counted, as the census and equality employment forms do not recognise atheists as a group (you can be a protestant atheist or a catholic atheist though). An historical hangover it may be, but still blatantly unfair (not going to say unjust as lawyers may see an opportunity)

    Secondly, while you can withdraw a child from RE legally, you have to have a determined child and be a committed parent. In my own case I asked my daughter to stick at it til 3rd form, and if she still felt that way I would back it (though I’m an atheist I wasn’t going to stop her from making at least a relatively informed choice). When she said no more sky fairy education it took, two formal letters to the school, two meetings and increasingly desperate attempts from the school to offer alternative examining boards RE-type examinations…ironically her marks in triple science award tests have increased steadily since quitting RE….though she was totally pissed off to find ID creeping into the curriculum.

    Sorry I may have belaboured that a bit!

  • sammaguire

    He admitted to me he had lead so sheltered a life in pre-school, public school and grammer that he had no other experience of mingling with Protestants.

    Posted by Ulsters my homeland on Apr 22, 2008 @ 10:22 PM

    UMH, you didn’t balance this by stating the obvious that there are Protestants too who have never mixed with Catholics and consequently have also built up prejudices.

    Think it was you that was enquiring about a Catholic school education. I attended a Christan Brothers Secondary in the Republic in the 80s.

    No witchcraft or anything like that!! Boys only. A short prayer at the start of each class. A crucifix in each class. Just one or two school masses each year. Four half hour RE classes per week. No RE exams. Evolution taught in Biology..no cover ups there.

    Even then the vast majority of the teachers were lay teachers. Sex education by a lay teacher was very open and liberal. The Brothers were decent human beings. A few were a bit eccentric but by and large we got a good and affordable education out of them (the “voluntary subscription” was a bargain 15 to 25 pounds per annumn).

    Perhaps we got too good an education out of them : 90% of us are now “pagans”.

  • Dewi

    He talks about atheism and you talk about religion. Hmm – starting to lose fascination – you make no sense.