Cameron Fuelling Division?

So apparently Cameron is being divisive.

UK Flag MapThe signatories accused Mr Cameron of “mischaracterising” Britain with “negative consequences for our politics and society”.

They said they had decided to speak out because of what they see as increasingly common incursions of religion into politics.

The lead signatory Prof Jim Al-Khalili, the Iraqi born physicist and author – who is the current president of the British Humanist Association – said Mr Cameron’s intervention was just part of a “disturbing trend”.

They wrote: “We respect the Prime Minister’s right to his religious beliefs and the fact that they affect his own life as a politician.

“However, we wish to object to his repeated mischaracterising of our country as a ‘Christian country’ and the negative consequences for our politics and society that this view engenders.”

They argued that, apart from a “narrow constitutional sense”, there is no evidence to justify describing Britain as Christian.

“To constantly claim otherwise fosters alienation and division in our society,” they wrote.

“Although it is right to recognise the contribution made by many Christians to social action, it is wrong to try to exceptionalise their contribution when it is equalled by British people of different beliefs.

“It needlessly fuels enervating sectarian debates that are by and large absent from the lives of most British people, who – as polls show – do not want religions or religious identities to be actively prioritised by their elected Government.”

So let’s get this straight. Cameron’s causing division and it will have negative consequences?

That must be why since the Prime Minister’s interview was published, not one single faith leader from the Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Animist, Rastafarian or any other community has complained.

In fact, the only religion to complain are the atheist humanists. Funny that.

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  • James Byron

    “In fact, the only religion to complain are the atheist humanists. Funny that.”

    Not really. Leaving aside your decision to describe humanism as a religion, humanists tend to be secularists, and oppose the influence of theistic religion in general. Other faiths apparently believe they benefit from an established church, humanists don’t.

    I’d expect some opposition from Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, since only England has an established church.

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      I said atheistic humanism.

      And yes, it is a religion. It involves a leap of faith that there is no God. The only way you would know there is no God is by knowing absolutely everything (omnipotence) and that would itself make you God (or as good as). So in reality atheistic humanism is a faith position as much as other non-theistic/deistic religions are.

      • James Byron

        That’s hard atheism (certainty there’s no god). Soft atheism just declines to believe in the absence of evidence.

        • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

          Unless soft atheism is agnosticism it’s a faith position.

          • James Byron

            It is agnosticism — even Dawkins labels himself technically agnostic. Not all agnosticism is equal. Atheists make a probability judgment from the available evidence.

          • Xaipe

            Nothing substantive. Just a terminological query.

            I think your point is that there is no neutral view of ultimate reality and I agree. However when Christians talk of “faith” they often intend a reality that only comes through grace. Insofar as “faith position” refers at all to this kind of “faith” I wonder if it may not refer with clarity to metaphysical views that deny any such reality?

        • wondering_soul

          Depends what you mean by evidence. There’s evidence. But in the absence of the physical presence of the risen Christ post his Ascension what there isn’t is absolute proof in the sense that would be understood by a contemporary court of law. But then, absolute proof/knowledge makes belief irrelevant. Personally I choose to try and have faith. Others don’t. That’s our respective prerogatives. But both are statements of belief. Agnosticism is, at its logical core, a faith position, even if ‘soft atheists’/agnostics don’t generally analyse it that way or feel inclined to make a song and dance about it. But I’d agree it isn’t a religion as I’d understand the term.
          And I don’t think the England vs the other parts of the UK point holds true in this instance. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland may not have an established church or be predominantly Anglican, but they are all at least as intrinsically Christian (or not) in their different ways as is England.

      • mattwardman

        The “soft atheism” stuff is just a recent humanist/Dawkinsite tick to pretend that they repesent agnostics.

        The BHA have long demanded that churches only represent churchgoers not the “Christian adherent population”, while insisting that they themselves represent everybody in the country who is not aligned, including the vast numbers who have never heard of them.

        Hypocrisy is as hypocrisy does.

        You might enjoy this demolition of BHA statistical credibiity by Jeremy Stangroom some time ago:

        http://blog.talkingphilosophy.com/?p=11

        They have not improved.

    • Andrew Carey

      I’d expect some opposition from the Church of Scotland to the claim that Scotland doesn’t have an established church.

      • James Byron

        Why? They don’t claim to be established; they’re “a national Church representative of the Christian Faith of the Scottish people.”

        • Andrew Carey

          Which is exactly the same thing as saying they’re established (by law). This is not just hair splitting because the authors of the letter show scant regard for the facts. I think we can do better.

          • James Byron

            The Kirk isn’t equivalent to the Church of England. It has no place in the Scottish Parliament, the Queen isn’t its Supreme Governor, and the British parliament has guaranteed its complete independence.

            • Andrew Carey

              I never said that the establishment of the Church of Scotland was the same as the Church of England’s. Nevertheless the Kirk is by law established (Church of Scotland Act 1921). The facts are against you.

              • James Byron

                The phrase “by law established” doesn’t show up in the 1921 Act. It lacks even a definite article: the Kirk is a national church.

                The Kirk has a unique place in Scotland, recognized in the 1921 Act, but in calling it an established church, you’re injecting a foreign category from south of the border.

                • Andrew Carey

                  This is getting increasingly absurd. You have your own definition of establishment. The normal definition of establishment recognises that Britain has two established churches. A quick web search has the BBC, the Royal website, and the Church of Scotland’s record office using the term ‘established’ to describe the Kirk.

  • http://u-church.blogspot.com/ David Shepherd

    ‘That must be why since the Prime Minister’s interview was published, not one single faith leader from the Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Animist, Rastafarian or any other community has complained’

    I’m sorry Peter, but does not Lord Indarjit Singh’s reported response on behalf of the Network of Sikh Organisations that:
    ‘Christianity is the religion of the majority. It is not the greatest sin to say this. What is of greater concern is the letter in response, which says we are not a religious country.’ underscore the inflammatory nature of Cameron’s remarks? No?

    Well, how about Anil Bhanot of the Hindu Council UK? He was so greatly incensed as to declare: ‘I attend the Commonwealth service at Westminster Abbey each year. I gave my nieces and family Easter eggs on Saturday. Many Hindus celebrate Christmas, although they do not go to church, because they are living in Britain. As long as religion is not imposed there is no problem.’

    Isn’t it clear that (to liberals) only conservative commentators have the corner on reckless scare-mongering? In any case, it doesn’t matter since the real point of debate here is whether soft atheism is agnosticism.

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      What’s interesting is that both of those statements contradict the Humanist statement.

  • mattwardman

    The gulliblity of the mainstream media to PR stunts never ceases to amaze me.

    This is almost entirely a rag bag of media figures who have agreed to promote the British Humanist Association and its opinions. These 50 or so will be those from the signed-up pool of 165 who ticked the tick box on a Bank Holiday weekend in time to meet the deadline.

    There are 56 names on the list in this letter. Two are Dr Simon Singh due perhaps to rushed editing, which makes 55. 54 are so-called “Distinguished Supporters” of the BHA.

    That leaves Derek McAuley.

    Derek McAuley is Chief Officer of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches.

    By failing to declare their affiliation they give us a measure of their honesty.

    I sympathise with the BHA. Being nothing except a few thousand members and a political/media infiltration setup they don’t have many options.

    But I’m interested that the even the BHA would have Ken Livingstone on their list, given his penchant for sharing platforms with Islamists.

    It’s enough to get one blogging again.

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      Oh please do get blogging again. We miss you!

  • MikeHomfray

    I regard myself as atheist and I couldn’t quite see the point in this statement either.
    But it seemed to me that Cameron was defending ‘Christendom’ rather than ‘Christianity’. Our laws have a range of influences, including Christianity and secular post-enlightenment thinking – but to call us a ‘Christian country’ when quite clearly the majority of people have no active faith at all is far from the definition I recall from my evangelical days

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