While in transit through Heathrow I happened to pick up a copy of the New Statesman that had caught my eye. Because it had “God” plastered all over the front cover, I was curious to see what this was all about, so grabbed it.
It was in fact Cristina Odone, a lady who has at times been rather vocal about her beliefs, arguing that liberalism has become the new orthodoxy, and so claimed that “belief” was in effect being pushed to one side. The title was “The new intolerance: will we regret pushing Christians out of public life?”
Well, that’s a rather easy question, …the answer is “No”.
She basically starts off on a bit of a rant about not being permitted to express her homophobic bigotry, and recounts how several venues refused the idea of a conference that conflicted with their well published diversity policy against the promotion of discrimination, and felt that her “rights as a taxpayer, citizen and Christian had been trampled“.
It is nonsense of course, and having read it all, I did not find any compelling reasons to regret pushing religious lunatics to one side when they attempt to discriminate.
As you read, you will find that the essence of it all is that it is intolerant to not tolerate her right to be intolerant.
OK, that’s my summary, but it really is that crazy. We get the usual examples, the B&B couple who got into a spot of bother for not accepting a gay couple (she appears to be quite concerned about the “rights” of the B&B owners to be intolerant bigots, and does not give a toss about the rights of the gay couple they booted out simply because they were gay). She also touts the registrar who refused to marry a gay couple, and bangs on about religious liberty being suppressed.
In the end this is all really very simple, so here is a quick summary …
Point 1. Religious liberty thrives and prevails, nobody is suppressing anybody’s right to believe whatever they wish, even if it is clearly all complete nonsense.
Point 2. Open discrimination against people simply because they are different is not a “religious liberty” but is instead bigotry … period.
If you have a hard time getting your head around that second point, well consider this, what if it was discrimination against people who were black or asian or jewish, would that be an acceptable “religious liberty”? People should of course be free to believe nonsense, what they do not get to do is to impose that belief upon others and then claim it is all fine because they have some special entitlement to do so – irrational beliefs do not trump basic civil liberties. There are some beliefs that feel that women should be silent, and much as we might like to see it in this case, should we permit them to impose that upon Ms Odone in the name of religious liberty? There are some beliefs that feel that women should be covered in a burka and not drive a car, should we permit them to impose that upon Ms Odone in the name of religious liberty?
So what does it actually mean to have Christianity in public life?
Today in practise it means that discrimination and intolerance are permitted to prevail and that one specific belief is empowered to hold a very special position of privilege and influence:
- The UK’s House of Lords is populated with Bishops that nobody elected. The only reason there are there is because they have an imaginary friend, and so this permits them to interfere in the law-making process – reform is very badly needed.
- The publicly funded BBC has a daily “Thought for the day” that welcomes any religious belief, but bans non-believers.
- When it comes to laying a wreath at the annual remembrance ceremony, religion is permitted without question, but if you are a humanist, then forget it, you are not permitted.
- The secondary school near where I live is funded by my tax money, yet they will not accept my children. Why? The school is associated with a church and so they are permitted to discriminate in favour of those that are religious. – This also screams out for reform. In fact many parents play the game of suddenly finding god a few months before the start of term, and so this discrimination will naturally lead to the selection of the children of mostly dishonest parents.
So will I miss all this “loving” christian “tolerance” in the public square when it finally passes away?
I think you can guess the answer.
Ms Odone is free to live by whatever religious rules she wishes to embrace, but belief, any belief and all beliefs, should never be permitted to discriminate and impose. We are not there yet and still have some way to go, but things are indeed going in the right direction, one that in the end will lead to a far better more tolerance less oppressive culture.