Over on The Spectator blog Michael Gove, the Conservative Party’s answer to the Tea Party, is having a pop at people who are disdainful of Christians.
In the article Gove chooses Tony Blair as a role model example for Christian virtue. He refers to Jeremy Paxman’s disdainful interview of Blair where he implies that Blair’s tendency to pray indicated potentially deviant behaviour.
Within a paragraph of mentioning Blair, Gove refers to Christians as, “the kind of people who built our civilisation, founded our democracies, developed our modern ideas of rights and justice, ended slavery, established universal education and who are, even as I write, in the forefront of the fight against poverty, prejudice and ignorance.” Just as Tony Blair wasn’t one of “that kind of people” it is ridiculous to suggest that people of one faith, whose faith is simply an accident of birth location, have some type of monopoly on morality and social justice.
There would be little point me listing those of no faith who exemplified all of those virtues that Gove bestows only on Christians. Gove overlooks those who predate Christianity who also had virtue. He overlooks those of other faiths who fought for social justice. His logic is that of the tribe: “my tribe is better than yours because I say so.”
But let me list some of the people on the libertarian right who would take issue with his puerile argument. Hayek was an Agnostic. Adam Smith was a pillar of the Scottish enlightenment and there is evidence that he questioned his faith. Milton Friedman had no belief in a god or gods. Many Conservative MPs have no religious faith. Indeed when I organised a fringe meeting at the Conservative Party conference a few years ago – the meeting addressed by Professor Richard Dawkins – we had a packed house and loud cheering from the packed room as Dawkins made his unarguable case for disestablishment of the Anglican Church and the removal of Anglican bishops from the House of Lords.
Christians are, indeed, losing their privileged position in UK society – and that’s a good thing. No group should claim a monopoly on virtue. Each has to win respect based on force of argument and winning hearts and minds. Liberal democracy has a tendency to move away from closed shops – that’s why we broke the stranglehold of the trade Unions. It’s also why we need to remove religion from education – because it isn’t educational. It simply presents an unquestioning world view on malleable minds. Our children should be taught to think, not simply accept.
Gove seems uncomfortable in a world that’s moving away from his world view. That’s a good thing, for all of us – those of us of faith and those of us with none.