Jedi Religion
Ecumenism

The Woolf Institute is wrong: Christianity is needed in public life now more than ever

This is a guest post by Will Jones who holds a PhD in Political Philosophy from the University of Reading and a diploma in Biblical Studies from Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. He currently works for the Church of England in diocesan administration in Coventry.

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The Woolf Institute’s commission on religion in British public life released its report Living with Difference last week, to a general chorus of criticism, despite being two years in the making.

His Grace did not think the report worthy of engagement, and I am sympathetic to that response – I almost didn’t write one myself. But the truth is this has been a major undertaking by ‘the great and the good’ and will, in some quarters, be taken very seriously indeed. Not everyone, after all, is a right-thinking conservative content to accept the ‘received revelation’ of British nationhood. I therefore pray His Grace will forgive my indiscretion in offering a more substantial response.

To me, perhaps the most notable feature of the Woolf Institute report is the arguments it doesn’t advance. It doesn’t simply try to argue that Britain is a secular country with a secular state, and that religion is inherently unsuited to public life. Such arguments are very popular in ideologically secular states like France and America, where the legacy of Enlightenment thinking still holds sway over the ruling elite. But in Britain, where the Anglican establishment (while much diminished in influence and role) remains a present reality, more subtle arguments are required. Arguments about changing times and the significance for public life of the recent decline in religious belief and practice, alongside increasing pluralism. That the report sees the need to engage these more subtle arguments, and not just fall back on the ideological staples of Enlightenment secularism, shows that the tide, as Justin Welby this week is reported as saying, really is turning.

This more nuanced style of argument presents Christians with new opportunities for defending the public role of their religion: with the secularist trump card off the table, there is everything to play for in engaging the actual debates about religion and public life in Britain. That’s why it is important to engage with this report, however wrongheaded its methods, reasoning and conclusions, because unlike so much on this topic it is actually approaching the questions within the right framework, since it assumes there is a proper role for religion in British public life and government, and we just need to work out what that is. We can work with that.

The central claim of the report concerns diversity, and in particular that in recent decades the growth in British society of diversity, especially the number of people identifying as non-religious, has major implications for the role of religion in public life.

Now diversity is a challenge for any community – much more of a challenge than is commonly acknowledged in these days when it is such a big social fact and the received response is to celebrate it. But it is a challenge, especially diversity in values and beliefs, particularly as they impinge on the public realm. That’s why there is so much current talk about the common good and social cohesion and British values. Communities are bound together fundamentally by what they have in common, not by what differentiates them, and there is only so much diversity of different kinds they can accommodate. Citizens can learn to live with difference up to a point, but at bottom a community is defined and animated by what it shares, not by what it doesn’t.

Historically, British, or at least English, society has accommodated diversity within a state that is institutionally Protestant and Anglican. That settlement has for obvious reasons been subject since the beginning to constant pressure from those dissatisfied with the privileges of a church they do not belong to or agree with. Over the course of time the position of the Established Church has been eroded, first of all by the objections of Christian Nonconformists, then through the growth of atheism and agnosticism amongst the cultural and intellectual elite, and now through increasing religious diversity coinciding with a steep drop in nominal affiliation to Christianity and Anglicanism.

It is in this sociological context that the report proposes a new religious settlement – one which reflects the diversity of British society as it stands today. It seeks to redefine Britain as a pluralist state rather than a Protestant Anglican state, and calls for a “national conversation” spearheaded by “the leaders of faith communities and ethical traditions”, the aim of which is nothing less than to create “a shared understanding of the fundamental values underlying public life”, the most visible and immediate product of which will be a Magna Carta-style “statement of the principles and values which foster the common good, and which should underpin and guide public life”.

The clear problem with this, of course, is its naïve belief in the idea that there are in fact some underlying common values that can be distilled from the diverse religious and ethical traditions of contemporary British society. Even if this ‘conversation’ excludes (as it surely will) the usual suspects, it is pie-in-the-sky to believe that a true consensus on concrete public values will emerge genuinely embraced and supported by all traditions.

So what is plan B – what do we do in the inevitable event that we cannot all agree? Staggeringly, the report fails to consider this eventuality, so confident is it in achieving the looked-for agreement. Though you can bet that at the back of the commissioners’ minds is some kind of Rawls-style ‘consensus’ on liberal values among narrowly-defined ‘reasonable’ people.

Beyond this starry-eyed hope for a grand pluralist consensus, many of the report’s recommendations boil down essentially to promoting greater ‘literacy’ in religion and belief through, among other means, religious education, inter-religious dialogue and personal interaction. Which is fine as far as it goes, but also totally inadequate to address the central problem of pluralist society, which is community and the need for a robust basis for social solidarity and common life.

For surely it is obvious that awareness of and understanding of one another’s differences can only take you so far in establishing bonds of solidarity, which are ultimately grounded in what you have in common not in what sets you apart. People want and need to live in a community with a shared public life which helps them to feel part of it, which makes them feel like they belong to and are caught up in something great and good. This common life can’t simply be replaced by learning about, and learning to live with, difference. You can’t build a community out of curiosity; you can’t replace shared life and traditions with learning about one another’s. At some point you actually have to have something which is what we do, which binds us together as a community, as a nation. You need a basis for cohesion, not just an aspiration for it, and that has to be more than just a commitment to respecting and tolerating difference.

This is the role, in part, that Christianity has played in this country, as long as this country has been this country, at least as far as the religious dimension of public life is concerned. The Christian religion has provided a solid and coherent basis for a religious dimension to public life, one which is also affirming of freedom and accommodating of dissent and difference, so that it does not insist on adherence even while it carries out its public role. Other beliefs are respected and accommodated within bounds set by the common good, and a widespread lack of religious practice and affiliation is also taken into account (though, as others have pointed out, lack of religious affiliation should not be mistaken for straightforward lack of belief).

But the truth is, if we decide to depart from this basic Christian framework for the religious dimension to our public life then we have nowhere else to turn. As Malcolm Brown at the Archbishop’s Council points out, there is no neutral basis we can look to to ground our public life. Christianity is our public religion, for good reason.

Specific practical measures recommended in the report, with some remarks of my own, include:

  • A nationally agreed curriculum in religion, philosophy and ethics mandatory for every publicly-funded school. This surely goes against the heart of what religious freedom in education requires.
  • Reducing religious-based selection and employment in state schools. Again, clearly contrary to religious freedom in education, and also at odds with respecting religious diversity in society, which the report itself advocates.
  • Acts of collective worship in schools should be replaced with inclusive times of reflection. These sound incredibly dull and vacuous, and will inevitably end up being inclusive in the sense of adhering to the current prevailing secular creed rather than accommodating a true diversity of points of view, out of fear of being offensive.
  • Reducing the number of bishops and including other faith leaders in the House of Lords. There is nothing presently preventing governments from appointing faith leaders to the Upper House on an individual basis, but doing so on the basis of office would be highly controversial, not least because of the current low public perceptions of the country’s second largest religion, Islam. Church of England bishops sit on account of establishment, which is a longstanding mutual relationship between a particular institutional church which serves various public functions and the state. That arrangement makes sense. Nothing else on the table does.
  • Humanist contributions to Thought for the Day. You might have thought that non-religious perspectives already received enough of an airing on the BBC and in the media generally, without needing also to encroach on perhaps the only specifically religious spot in the Radio 4 schedule.
  • Not disadvantaging religious organisations in delivering social goods via public funding decisions provided they do not aim at seeking converts. The first part is welcome, but the proviso is another of those rules that is applied asymmetrically to religion. We are after all perfectly happy for agencies providing social goods to promote any of their other services and meetings, and also to educate people in their philosophies about how to think and treat others – respect, equality and diversity, safeguarding and the like – but suddenly not if we call it religious. And this despite the fact that the benefits to individuals and society of faith and church involvement have been demonstrated in countless studies. Why not just embrace religious freedom, and allow religious organisations to promote a religious way of life in the context of supplying public goods? If there are certain forms of religion we are worried about then we can apply carefully targeted restrictions. But let us not unnecessarily constrict Anglicans and Catholics, for example, in making the most of their opportunities to increase their membership in the context of social action, which is of course a basic part of Christian mission. We need to remember the benefits to individuals and society of church involvement, and stop treating it like a danger or a problem from which people need protecting.
  • Set the Law Commission to the task of ensuring all religions are treated equally. The idea of treating all religions equally needs to be handled with great care. While in certain senses and contexts it is entirely appropriate, in many areas different religions need to be carefully distinguished according to criteria of cultural and social significance. Otherwise we risk creating a false and iniquitous obligation to treat Christianity in exactly the same way as any other religion, despite Christianity being much more significant to British society than, say, Jainism. Any idea of treating religions equally must ensure that there is ample scope for reflecting the very different relationships between our society and the different religions practised within it.

Overall the report has the feel and look of an opportunistic move by humanists, secularists and representatives of other faiths, abetted by some complaisant Anglicans, to capitalise on the current predicament of our society after 50 years of cultural revolution and social fragmentation. The aim has been further to erode the role of one of our great historic sources of social cohesion, our background Christian religion and the religious establishment which represents it. That is hardly what our society, suffering with historically high levels of fragmentation and listlessness, needs right now.

No wonder Ruth Gledhill, like His Grace, has delivered such a damning verdict on the report. Certainly, it is a substantial contribution to the conversation, but with so many august voices and so many resources behind it it should have been so much better. What is needed now is something similarly grand to deliver the alternative narrative, one in which we confidently re-affirm the welcome public role of our historic faith.

 

  • len

    Secularism is based on the false assumption that mankind has within himself the abilities with’ reason’ and ‘science’ the capability to solve all his problems with no divine assistance.This assumption is based on the fact that secular man has no knowledge of the way man was Created.Mankind was created to derive his moral and many other abilities from a spiritual source and with free will to decide to either reject or accept this.But denial of the Creator God does not mean that mankind became ‘neutral’ in a spiritual sense but became (by default) open towards ‘other’ spiritual sources opposed to the God of the Bible. One has only to look at the comments from supposed ‘atheists to see they are not ‘neutral’ towards the God of the bible but in direct rebellion against Him.
    But it seems that secularism will persist in its assumption that mankind does not need God despite all the evidence to the contrary…..

    • sarky

      Len, please explain how you can be in rebellion against something you don’t believe in?? Bit like saying we are in rebellion against unicorns and fairies.

      • Sam

        Dude

        It’s been explained to I , that I’m spiritually blinded by Satan for not accepting Jesus . I guess the same applies to you?

        • sarky

          Sooooo, I don’t believe because im spiritually blinded by something I don’t believe in???

          Makes sense 🙂

          • Sam

            Dude

            Sorry I got it totally balls up wrong. A messianic Jewish acquaintance corrected me . I’m spiritually blinded by God because I’m an orthodox Jew as per Paul’s second Corinthian and Romans says I’m made jealous because gentiles are loved by God more than Jews which is why I reject Jesus or Joshua . I don’t know about gentiles who don’t believe in Jesus. Looks like our Christian friends are on the case to explain to you. It is most illuminating.

          • len

            More a dud than a dude?
            Don`t worry you’ll get there in the end Jesus`s waiting for you….Probably sarky too if he unplugs his ears?

          • Sam

            Having read through the new testament several times I’d say it ain’t kosher for Jews. But Preach away, it’s a free country. You’ll have better luck converting sarky.

          • sarky

            Doubt it 🙂

          • chiefofsinners

            What do you boys make of the 300 or so prophecies fulfilled in Jesus? Isaiah 53 for example? That stuff seems so obvious to us Christians.
            And what do you do with your guilt?

          • sarky

            The bible was written by man. It’s easy to fulfil prophesies in the old if you are making it up in the new.

          • sarky

            As for guilt, I never do anything to feel guilty 🙂

          • William Lewis

            Well quite. If your choice is whether to conform to a randomly evolved moral framework or not, then what is there to feel guilty about?

          • chiefofsinners

            But would the apostles die for a story they had made up? And wouldn’t contemporary witnesses have testified against the lies they were spreading? And would uneducated men have the wit or imagination to create such unanticipated forms of fulfilment?

          • sarky

            Your making the assumption its true.

          • With guilt? Yom Kippur, daily prayer, Torah study, good conduct and generous charity.

            Speaking of charity and Isaiah 53, the couter-missionary org, Jews for Judaism, where some of my charity goes, has summarized the proper interpretation: http://jewsforjudaism.org/knowledge/articles/answers/jewish-polemics/texts/isaiah-53-a-jewish-perspective/

          • chiefofsinners

            Interesting article. It says Jesus’ disciples didn’t see Isaiah 53 as messianic. They did. It’s in Acts chapter 8.
            It says the chapter only describes Jesus if you accept that He died for people’s sins and claims this is circular reasoning. In that sense it is circular reasoning either way, whether used to support or deny that the passage is messianic.
            Then the article asks where the Torah says you must believe in the messiah to get the benefits? Well, everywhere. Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness.

            On the question of guilt, do you not feel that the lack of a sacrifice is a problem? Or that Yom Kippur might point to a truly effective sacrifice to come? Likewise the Passover?

          • Anna

            The Torah clearly requires sacrifice for the atonement of sin. All the rest – prayer, Torah study, good conduct, generosity, etc – are good and profitable, but they are not the means by which sins are forgiven. And when sin is not forgiven, the guilt remains.

            The Israelites had sacrifices even before the first Temple was built, so the destruction of the Temple was not a reason to stop.

          • Sam

            Sounds like a competition…..

          • Anton

            Messiah had to have come before AD70 because the genealogies went up in smoke with the Temple yet the Messiah’s lineage was prophesied and had to be provable.

          • Sam

            Dude

            My sister put this informative video up in respect of the Jewish response to that –

            http://allmydeamsarejellybeans.blogspot.co.uk/2015/12/jewish-genealogies-and-temple.html?m=1

          • Anton

            Hannah Out Loud is your sister? I didn’t realise that!

            Sure it’s true that the Jews in Alexandria and Babylon would not have lodged their genealogies in the Temple, but those living in the Holy Land would, and Messiah is prophesied by Micah to come from Bethlehem.

            Both the authorities and a family need to know that family’s genealogy; the family for reasons of identity, and the authorities in case legal claims involving adultery, paternity, inheritance etc arise. I don’t think the speaker is disputing that the authorities’ central records of Jews resident in the Holy Land went up in smoke in AD70, leaving only unverifiable private assertions?

          • Sam

            You’ll have to re read the video. The rav specifically calls the idea an urban myth.

          • Anton

            What he calls an urban myth is the claim that genealogical information – births, marriages (and deaths) – was stored in the Temple at all, even for Jews living in the Holy Land. But he gives no evidence from ancient documents for his assertion. I assert that the Jewish authorities would have such a database, because of their legitimate role in administering laws relating to adultery, paternity, inheritance etc; and where else to store such information but the Temple?

            I think we would both do well to check up what ancient documents say about this.

          • sarky

            Or baffling!!!

          • Anna

            I would like to comment on 2 points you raise:

            1) “…as per Paul’s second Corinthian and Romans says I’m made jealous…”

            Actually Paul is drawing on the words spoken by Moses and Isaiah regarding God’s dealings with the Jews, specifically how in the latter days He would draw the Gentiles and then use them to draw the Jews back to Himself.

            “They have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God; they have provoked me to anger with their vanities: and I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation.”
            Deut. 31: 21 (KJV)

            “I gave access to them that asked not for Me, I was at hand to them that sought Me not; I said: ‘Behold Me, behold Me’, Unto a nation that was not called by My name.”
            Isaiah 65:1 (JPS Tanakh 1971)

            2. “…I’m made jealous because gentiles are loved by God more than Jews…”

            a. As Peter discovered in Cornelius’ house when God first poured out His Holy Spirit on the Gentiles, He shows no favouritism. Israel was God’s firstborn and they are special to Him for that reason. But He does love the Gentiles too, just as a Father loves all His children and would not be happy to see some of them perish. So He longs to draw all to Himself, both Jew and Gentiles.

            b. An Israeli Messianic Jew once explained to me that his (Christian) neighbour’s devotion to God so surpassed his own, that he grew ‘jealous’ of her relationship with his God and was ‘provoked’ to seek God. I think is what is meant here.

          • Sam

            To clarify , I was passing on what I’ve been told by Christians. I don’t claim myself to be spiritually blinded or jealous of Christianity or Jesus.

          • Anna

            Isaiah 42:19

          • Sam

            I’m not quite sure what you’re trying to achieve. Quoting bible passages at me is being done because ??

          • Anna

            Just to make it clear that nothing we say or believe really matters, only what God says in the scriptures. Our vision and understanding of God will always be limited in this age. None of us can claim to have full understanding, so we must look to the scriptures and only to the scriptures. Religious teachers, like us, have only partial insight and could misinterpret the scripture.

            If I had to quote the NT, then it would have been 1 Corinthians 13:12: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” (ESV).

      • Malcolm Smith

        It’s quite simple. You refuse to believe in it because you are in rebellion against it. The mere fact that sarky doesn’t believe in something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

        • sarky

          No I refuse to believe it due to lack of evidence and judging by the decline im not the only one.

          • Martin

            Sarky

            Ypur knowledge that God exists is perfectly adequate evidence.

          • sarky

            Yawn.

          • Martin

            Sarky

            I see you do not wish to be educated.

          • sarky

            Not by you!!!!

          • Martin

            Sarky

            And there is the problem, your pride will only allow you to be educated by one you you consider your better.

          • sarky

            No, only one I consider worth listening to (thats not you by the way)

          • Martin

            Sarky

            As I said, your pride.

          • alternative_perspective

            I’ve posted dozens of links to evidence and argumentation for your direct perusal. You never engage, therefore you don’t have the right to claim such demonstrably false propositions.

            Moreover you claim, in a sideways fashion, to be an atheist. But what do you even mean by that? A psychological state shared with fish and stones or an intellectual one. The former is pretty trivial but the latter IS a claim to truth. And ALL claims to truth require evidence.

            You falsely claim, likely out of a pre-chosen ignorance, there is no evidence for God or Christianity whilst never advancing any evidence for atheism.

            Your sarky little comments are but tales of sound and fury that signify nothing. For an intelligent person how can you hold to such an intellectually deficient position? Why don’t you just engage with the arguments rather than perpetually attempting to justify your opinions with tangential references to peculiar arguments posted by Jon or oblique quotations from random passages of the old testament?

            Why not follow the actual evidence and decide openmindedly on it rather than prejudging the evidence in order to confirm your priori biases?

            I just don’t understand how you can honestly make the claims you do.

          • sarky

            Right, first off, if you take the trouble to post links I take the trouble to read them. The problem is I have read hundreds and hundreds of similar over the years, I wasnt convinced then and I am not convinced now. I always thought that finding the truth in christianity was deeper than just winning an argument. I did the whole church thing until I was about 18 and….nothing. I have read the arguments for and…..nothing. The atheistic view is the only thing that makes sense of ‘my’ world. You are welcome to your god and your faith, but I tried it and…….nothing.

      • Little Black Censored

        Ah, the fairies have arrived earlier than usual.

      • The Explorer

        Do fairies and unicorns claim to have created us?

        • sarky

          Irrelevant.

          • The Explorer

            I disagree. How can you be in rebellion against something that doesn’t claim authority over you?

          • sarky

            Thats the point. I’m not in rebellion.

          • Martin

            Sarky

            Of course you are, your claim that there is no God proves it.

          • sarky

            Yawn yawn.

          • The Explorer

            That’s not the point. A unicorn doesn’t claim to have made the Universe; God does. Even if neither exists, it’s a different type of non-existence.

            If a unicorn exists, you aren’t in rebellion against it. If God exists, you are.

            Agreed, if God doesn’t exist you can’t be in rebellion even if you wanted to be, but that’s the only basis on which you aren’t.
            If you’re right, when you die you won’t have the satisfaction of knowing you were right. If you’re wrong you’ll have to argue it out with God that God screwed up by not providing enough evidence, and hope to awaken contrition in the divine mind. Good luck with that.

      • Martin

        Sarky

        You know God exists. That you believe you can pretend He does not is of no relevance.

        • sarky

          Yawn again.

      • cybervicar

        I would have thought that was obvious but maybe the word ‘rejection’ is more accurate and less emotive than ‘rebellion’. I think the point Len and the author of the article are making is that not about the belief as such but that values are by their nature derivations of metaphysical propositions. (Like for instance the concept that human rights in the Bill of Independence comes from the idea that it to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.) Without the later the former has no meaning apart from short-lived sentiment (or what McIntyre called ’emotivism’.) Therefore we end up with a culture that cannot understand or argue as to why it cares except that maybe it feels nice to care from time to time. From that the moral climate is swayed by who can make the loudest noise, or what cause or group fashionable.

        • sarky

          Sorry but I believe morality evolved and is not god given. Caring etc can be explained in purely evolutionary terms.

          • bluedog

            If morality evolved, how do you explain the emergence of two completely separate and antipathetic moral codes such as that embodied in Islam and our own Judeo-Christian heritage? Do you see this competition of different moral codes as an evolutionary process in which the fittest will survive and dominate? Care to pick the winner in this race to a higher plane of consciousness?

          • sarky

            Evolved moral codes and ‘religious’ moral codes are different. Evolved moral codes helped us survive, religious moral codes control us.
            personally, I hope we get to the point where religious codes are redundant..

          • bluedog

            As most religious moral codes contain a fair degree of folk wisdom and can therefore be said to have evolved, quite apart from being carved in stone, it is not obvious how an evolved moral code and a religious moral code can avoid overlap. The wistful ”I hope we get to a point where religious codes are redundant” is at least a polite admission of defeat. What is so interesting about Islam is that unlike Judaism and Christianity, despite claiming to be an Abrahamic faith, Islam does not incorporate the Ten Commandments. Indeed Islam specifically validates killing and deceit, possibly theft too, while the idea of adultery is negated by the creation of the harem of four wives. Islam therefore represents a diametrically opposed societal model to the previously dominant societal models of Judaism and Christianity in the Middle East. You talk about survival. So why did two completely different societal models based on incompatible moral codes emerge in such a small geographic space?

          • sarky

            Why did sikhism and hinduism emerge in asia? And more recently mormonism and scientology in the states?

          • bluedog

            You tell me.

          • sarky

            With regards to islam and christianity. Christianity is the religion of the oppressed, islam the religion of the warrior. You just have to look at the historical formation to see why they are so different. At the end of the day religion is man made and the rules are made by man as a form of control, it’s the same for every religion no matter where.

          • bluedog

            This communicant holds to a slightly different view. The key difference is that between Judaism and Islam. Christianity is a derivation of Judaism so if we want to understand the source code of Christianity, as it were, we need to look at the origins of Judaism. Israel was biblically described as a land of milk and honey, suggesting a largely fertile farming province. Some herding would have taken place on the hills and in poorer semi-arid areas, but in the valleys crops, vines and orchards would have grown. In this sort of enterprise a man and a woman are the perfect economic unit with a natural division of labour that flows through into the nuclear family. Hence the idea of marriage between a man and a woman for life. Significantly, this type of settler community, that also requires defined land title, is not in any way equestrian. Compare that with the origins of Islam in the much poorer Arabian peninsular. Farming areas were relatively small and herding in rangeland conditions would have been the principal economic enterprise outside the towns. Herding from horse-back or camel back is a largely male activity as a woman with children is unable to participate. Hence the masculinity of Islam and its essentially cowboy (or warrior) culture. Good herdsmen select a few bulls as sires for their herds, in effect the harem system. Hence the Islamic approach to male-female relations may have its sociological origins in animal husbandry!

          • Sam

            Dude

            I know the answer about our Mormons , as there’s an old Jewish joke that says Mormonism was created to allow Christians to understand how Jews feel…

          • sarky

            Lol!!

          • Anna

            Sikhism is essentially a syncretism of Hinduism and Islam (and incorporates ideas from both religions) following Muslim conquest of parts of India.

          • Anton

            Sociobiology is highly speculative.

          • sarky

            Maybe, but it explains why human populations with little outside contact live to a similar moral framework.

          • Anton

            How?

      • The Explorer

        There was an interesting example a few years back when British troops returned from Iraq and were marching through Luton. Some Luton Muslims held up placards calling them child murderers.

        When the Muslims appeared in court, they refused to stand for the Judge. They were not doing this because they accepted the authority of the court, and were rebelling against it. They were not in rebellion because they were in obedience to a higher law and simply did not recognise the authority of the court. If anything was in rebellion, it was the British court for its rebellion against the will of Allah.

        How can you be in rebellion against something you don’t believe in? The Judge did not treat their disbelief in the British legal system as an excuse. As British citizens resident in Britain, they were found guilty of contempt of court.

      • The Explorer

        In the film ‘Witness’ the Amish woman says to the Detective, “We do not recognise your laws.” The Detective replies that prison is full of people who hold that view.

        Criminals may sincerely disbelieve in the laws of the State, but the State does not regard that as an excuse. Most unfairly, it regards criminals as rebels against its laws about theft, rape, murder etc.

        • sarky

          Yes, but at least they can prove the judge exists.

          • The Explorer

            Prove justice exists.

          • sarky

            Obviously justice is an opinion. However, case law is a pretty good start.

  • Anton

    Great sermon on Mark 3:24 !

  • Sam

    Dude

    Well outside of the bubble that is the c of e, to those of us watching this it’s the church of England which is “suffering with historically high levels of fragmentation and listlessness”. I mean how can you expect us to take the church of England seriously when it lost its own internal coherence and trashed its own tradition and belief to ram through women vicar and bishops and is now going on about gay marriages etc?

    • Pubcrawler

      Quite a few still (just about clinging on) within it feel the same.

  • Sam

    Also, the article makes more sense if you delete the word Christian and substitute Anglican. This is more a defence of the church of England than Christianity overall. Except the c of e has been a wilful accomplice in the social and moral changed of the past 50 years….

  • Orwell Ian

    So the great and the good of a society that champions diversity find themselves alarmed by lack of cohesion and inability to coalesce around shared values.
    That might have something to do with diverse being the opposite of cohesive.
    The former being divergent and disparate while the latter is integrated and unified.
    The likely way of holding competing and increasingly intolerant worldviews together
    will be enforced compliance to whatever orthodoxy the State chooses to impose on the multicultural mess we inhabit.

  • The aim has been further to erode the role of one of our great historic sources of social cohesion, our background Christian religion and the religious establishment which represents it

    Social cohesion is vital for the well-being of a country. Because Man is ethnocentric—placing most trust in his own group and distrusting outsiders—countries with racial and cultural homogeneity have the best chance of thriving. In the words of this paper, ‘To survive and prosper, individuals need groups whose members contribute information and resources. Because contributing resources and information makes oneself vulnerable to exploitation by others, group members need to know who to trust or to distrust’; ethnocentrism ‘facilitates within-group trust, cooperation, and coordination’.

    The more outsiders there are living in a country—as we say, the more diverse the country—the less socially cohesive it is and the less likely to survive and prosper. The question then is: Why has Europe been subjected to more than half a century of Third World immigration and ‘cultural revolution’, resulting in ‘social fragmentation’, the decline of Christianity and the growth of Islam? Who sees Christianity and Europeans as threats to be neutralized?

    Christianity: ‘hypocritical’, ‘fundamentally corrupt’, idolatrous, impure, blood-stained.

    Europeans: Anti-semitism is ‘a European problem, a stain, a disease of which Europe is congenitally unable to rid itself.’

    As Europeans can never rid themselves of anti-Semitism, they must become powerless minorities. The Woolf Institute report is all part of the effort.

    • Uncle Brian

      Social cohesion is vital for the well-being of a country.

      Is it safe to assume that “cohesion” is invariably a good thing? The local authority officials in Rotherham who enforced the cover-up of the sexual abuse of young girls, threatening would-be whistleblowers with sanctions, claimed to be acting in the name of “community cohesion”.

      • IanCad

        Excellent point UB.
        Good to see you back.

        • Uncle Brian

          Thank you, Ian. Cranmer’s is a good place to be. No doubt about it.

      • @ Uncle Brian—Good point. I think what happened in Rotherham shows that white social cohesion, like white ethnocentrism, is relatively weak. In Rotherham, that weakness allowed white local authority officials, councillors and police to turn a blind eye to criminality against young white girls. They did so because they lived in fear of being accused of racism, a career-ending accusation. The dictates of diversity, political correctness and multiculturalism caused the officials and police to care more for their jobs than for the girls. The lesson is that white societies are the least able to withstand destruction by multiculturalism. Those who wish us harm, our own ruling classes included, understand that very well.

        • John Moore.

          May I suggest regular following of the ‘Rotten Boroughs’ column in Private Eye.

      • Dreadnaught

        What you don’t get to see in the news is the ethnic mix that are the actual ‘local authority officials’: all they ever show on news items are the white Brits, which gives the impression of us and them, when in reality half the unseen ‘officials’ are Muslims themselves.

  • carl jacobs

    I enjoyed this article immensely.

    The clear problem with this, of course, is its naïve belief in the idea that there are in fact some underlying common values that can be distilled

    But what other choice do they have? When the West as a collective followed after Nietzsche and declared God dead, it crested for itself the very crisis of authority that is at the root of disintegrating social cohesion. The worldview behind this report demands the existence of some common ethic within man. They have no where else to look for it. If it cannot be found within man, then it can never be found and there is no alternative but despair. The Progress of Man is revealed as a foolish act of self-deception.

    But Christian nominalism cannot fill the vacuum of moral authority. People must believe the Christian message for it to have any cohesive force. Form will not produce authority in the absence of substance. And public Anglicanism represents nothing but the form of religion. Clinging to historic notions of Settlement and Nationhood will not change this. People will not follow after the form of God once they have rejected God.

    Something will arise to fill the void of authority created by the collapse of Christianity. Secularism is not strong enough to maintain the vacuum. But that new authority will be sourced in something substantial. People will fight for it because they believe it. But what is it they will believe? It will not be Christian. Neither will it be Liberal. What then will it be?

    Aye, there’s the rub.

    • cybervicar

      Well – I would have thought the answer to your question is an easy one – it will be Islam. I say that without any menace but simply working through as you have, to the logical natural conclusions. Secular liberalism cannot hold the fort in the West and Christianity is in retreat, the only other culture in the West is Islam.

      • carl jacobs

        No, I believe it will be a reaction to Islam.

        Secularists want to maintain basic Christian concepts and ideas but without the metaphysics. They just assume that all rational people will eventually follow this course much as water must flow down hill. But Islam challenges this understanding. Secularists don’t have any solution to Islam other than secularizing it. What if they can’t? What if Islam becomes dominant and decides to change the social contract?. How does Secularism prevent this outcome when it begins with the idea that religion is incidental and private?

        The inability of Secularism to answer this challenge will cause it to fail. Existential fear will drive it out, and something will emerge that is capable of confronting Islam on a religious level. But that something will be malignant. That will be the judgment to fall upon a stiff-necked people. They will raise up their own oppressor and he will oblige them.

        • alternative_perspective

          I very much agree with this analysis. It will be the iron with which the clay is mingled.

          The totalitarianism of Nietzsche enforcing a libertarian pantheism. The pantheistic doctrine will provide the metaphysical foundation for meta-objective values (ie everything within the pantheism ) whilst it’s pantheistic nature will permit those with power to decide what are the meta-objective values.

          The world is already moving in this direction, it just needs distillation into a form more conducive to the western mindset and a rallying cry, a false prophet if you will, for the masses to get behind and identify with.

          • chiefofsinners

            The Bible describes what will come. The false prophet, the Beast and the Man of Sin. It will not be atheism that finally unites mankind, it will be false religion.

        • Dreadnaught

          Secularism in my experience does not exist a cohesive unit as do a particular sets of ‘truths’ organised into faiths. We in this corner of Europe have seen the best and worst of man when competing Christian States used to vie with each other for dominance. I think very much of what you say is on the money; but it won’t be Secularism as such, that challenges the growth of Islam, it will be the ‘natives’; the Christians, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, atheists and agnostics come together ones, who resent the invasive oppression from an overbearing alien culture dressed up as a faith.
          Only time will tell, how and when the clash of civiisations that the politicians refuse to recognise today becomes the reality of tomorrow.

        • bluedog

          “…something will emerge that is capable of confronting Islam on a religious level. But that something will be malignant.”

          Were the Crusades malignant? What if the successful contestant to Islam is a return to the muscular and self-confident Christianity that kept Islam at bay for 500 years after the fall of Constantinople? It’s only in the past fifty years that the West has lost its self-confidence and succumbed to the introspection and negativity of the Frankfurt School. A society that has lost confidence in itself is vulnerable to opportunists of every stripe, including Islamists.

          But the pressure from Islam could lead to a Christian re-awakening in the West, just as the fall of the Soviet Union saw a resurgent Orthodox Church in Russia. The confusing thing about Islamic immigration to the West is that as yet there is no publically declared state backer, although the persistence of the infiltration points so clearly in this direction. Once Western governments identify the state backer, and Germany is coming close, the dynamics of the situation will change overnight.

          As the state backer of this infiltration prefers not to disclose itself, it is very much incumbent on Western powers to take that step. Once the infiltrators are publically branded as a fifth column, financed by foreign governments culturally hostile to the West, the legitimacy of these demographic claimants to a Western lifestyle on Islamic terms evaporates. Their subsequent repatriation to a safe haven in their country of origin becomes a legitimate goal in itself.

          Can hardly wait for The Donald to say what needs to be said. One can confidently predict that the clean-cut GOP alternatives will not break ranks and depart from the PC script. Then there is Hilary. It is very surprising to see the US emerge as the centre of the popular resistance to Islamic dominance. The French seemed to be the natural front runners.

        • Anton

          No sign of any religious alternative to Islam rising in the West and time is short.

  • cybervicar

    This is a superb article. It reminds me of Alisadair Mcintyre’s seminal ‘After Virtue’. Thank you for this article which I think many of us can use without having to trawl through what sounds like a terrible piece of government sponsored second rate liberal wishy-washy theology. It’s rather funny how everyone is groping around trying to define ‘British values’ without any acknowledgement that values have to have foundational doctrines – otherwise we might as well believe in fairies at the bottom of the garden.

    • Sam

      Dude

      How do you reconcile this with the reality. The church of England isn’t the moral or social clue that holds this country together, given it is a compromise of the three strands of Christian thought, evangelical and Catholic and Liberal .

      You Anglican guys are happiest debating women bishops and kicking your own theology in the nuts at the same time. You’re dying as a church and float because of the billions of investment incomes you’ve got from funds .

      I’m not an Anglican or a Christian and I’ve got a moral compass without the c of e telling me. I’m British and a Jew and I don’t need the c of e to confirm my patriotism or loyalty to this country.. I will say the idea that British = Anglican to be somewhat fantastical or Britain 1900.

      • Darter Noster

        Here, here!

        The CoE’s moral compass is spinning wildly.

        • Darter Noster

          That said, the usefulness of Establishment transcends the uselessness of the CoE.

          I shudder to think what ludicrous multi-culti mishmash would be contrived to replace it.

  • The Explorer

    We could do with a Japanese perspective on this. I hope Taikan will comment.

    • Pubcrawler

      I think that persona is on hold. I reckon I see another one…

      • The Explorer

        Interesting. I think I may know who you mean, but I’ll reserve judgement.

        • Pubcrawler

          Let’s just say for now that I spotted a certain solecism that Linus also committed.

          • CliveM

            Certainly verbose enough

  • IanCad

    “—is its naïve belief in the idea that there are in fact some underlying common values that can be distilled from the diverse religious and ethical traditions of contemporary British society.—“

    So very well stated Dr. Will. But, there again, to the irreligious, or the nominally so, such tripe makes abundant sense. So much so that, to them, only the most obstinate or primitive fundamentalists could possibly oppose moves to criminalize overly sturdy professions of our Christian faith.

  • Inspector General

    Chaps. When faced with academic troublemakers seeking to undermine us, we can do worse than bare our teeth and go for them…

    So with our faith in abundance, and God on our side, let us with holy vigour pick up a piece of four by two and sing with all our voice…

    ♫ Fight the good fight with all thy might;
    Christ is thy Strength, and Christ thy Right;
    Lay hold on life, and it shall be
    Thy joy and crown eternally.

    “Hey you, this is from Jesus…” {WHACK!}. “Watch out, behind you!, {CRUNCH!}.….”Arghhh!!!”….”Stretcher bearers, here, now”….{BANG!}…{WALLOP!}…”Oh, well aimed, Mrs Proudie”….{HOWL!}….

    {WAAAAAAAIL!!} ”Everybody scarper, the police are coming…” “Come on!” “Leave him, reverend. He’s had enough”…Back to the hymn everybody, back to the hymn…

    ♫ Run the straight race through God’s good grace
    Lift up thine eyes, and seek His face;
    Life with its way before us lies,
    Christ is the Path, and Christ the Prize.

    “Hello Hello Hello. What’s all this then? Ouch, that’s my foot…”

    ♫ Cast care aside, upon thy Guide,
    Lean, and His mercy will provide;
    Lean, and the trusting soul shall prove
    Christ is its Life, and Christ its Love.

    “Hello Sergeant. We need the dog down here, and another van…”

    ♫ Faint not nor fear, His arms are near,
    He changeth not, and thou art dear.
    Only believe, and thou shalt see
    That Christ is all in all to thee.

    “Right you lot. Either you come peacefully or we’ll baton charge you” {THUMP!}

    • IanCad

      Two by four please Inspector.

      • carl jacobs

        The Inspector is entertaining, but … his post was predicated upon dreadfully bad Theology. You can chuckle at what he wrote, but you need also to rebuke him for his lack of understanding.

        • Inspector General

          Carl: What do you know about malice?

          “Nothing much, other than Christopher Robin went down with it.”

          • carl jacobs

            Is this more in inscrutable British humor? I do not understand.

          • The Explorer

            The Inspector is quoting from (or amending) a children’s poem by A. A. Milne. Alice is C R’s nurse.
            They’re changing the guard at Buckingham Palace
            Christopher Robin went down with Alice.
            Alice is marrying one of the guard,
            “A soldier’s life is awful hard,”
            Says Alice.

          • Inspector General

            “A soldier’s thing” wasn’t it?

          • The Explorer

            That would be an adult version. Another variation would be,
            They’re changing the guard at Buckingham Palace
            Christopher Robin went down on Alice.

          • Pubcrawler

            Hush! hush! Listen who swears.
            Christopher Robin has fallen down the stairs.

          • The Explorer

            Good. I always detested the little brat. And the works of A. A. Milne, apart from ‘The King’s Breakfast’.

          • CliveM

            Blasphemer!!

          • Uncle Brian

            You’re not alone, Explorer. See the link in my comment addressed to Carl Jacobs, a little way up from this one.

          • The Explorer

            Love it!

          • Bwahahahaha!

            For mor laughs, hete’s the Winnie intro song in Hebrew:

            https://youtu.be/dMbo93MWBOI

          • Pubcrawler

            Bleurghhhh! As if the Disneyfied version wasn’t sickly enough! Pass me an emetic, pronto.

          • Uncle Brian

            Another variant, though I suspect I’m probably the only one here old enough to remember it:

            Hush, hush, whisper who dares,
            Christopher Mayhew in splitting some hairs.

            Mayhew was a long-serving Labour MP who was on TV quite a lot, and who ended up defecting to the Liberals.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Mayhew

          • Inspector General

            “Winked Alice”

          • dannybhoy

            Especially if his surname’s Blackman…

          • Uncle Brian

            Carl, the Christopher Robin stories were sufficiently well known in the United States, when they were new, for Dorothy
            Parker to have reviewed them quite cruelly in the New Yorker:

            http://www.todayinliterature.com/stories.asp?Event_Date=10/20/1928

          • carl jacobs

            WtP always seemed to me the officially approved story of mothers who on principle wouldn’t let their sons play with toy guns. I never liked it. Never watched it. Never read it.

            Except for Eeyore of course. He was cool. The world could learn a lot from Eeyore.

          • CliveM

            Loved it. When your the right age.

          • Pubcrawler

            At any age. Though I abhor the Disney version.

          • The Explorer

            ‘Winnie ille Pu’ was quite a fun way of learning Latin, and I enjoyed the illustrations. The only version I found tolerable.

          • Pubcrawler

            Yes, the original Latin is much better.

          • CliveM

            Show offs :0)

          • CliveM

            Hmm yes Disney!

            Right age 0 to 8 and then 18 to 80!

            The bit in between, the average person is to self conscious.

            Sadly.

          • Anton

            PG Wodehouse mocked them far more effectively after Milne was rash enough to criticise Wodehouse’s war.

          • Uncle Brian

            Yes! Thank you for reminding me of that.

            Timothy Bobbin has ten little toes.
            He takes them out walking wherever he goes,
            And if Timothy gets a cold in the head,
            His ten little toes stay with him in bed.

  • len

    The mystery to me is why God bothers with us at all ..really..sigh
    Some seem to think that Christianity is ‘the Church’ and point to the errors of the church to ‘disprove’ Christianity.This is quite obviously either misguided or deliberately looking for a scapegoat to enforce a preconceived prejudice.
    Christianity IS Christ !.
    When Jesus asked “Who do you say I am?” It is a question we all have to answer.He was either the Messiah, a madman or a liar.
    So the question is Who do you say Jesus Christ is?.

  • IrishNeanderthal

    You might have thought that non-religious perspectives already received enough of an airing on the BBC and in the media generally, without needing also to encroach on perhaps the only specifically religious spot in the Radio 4 schedule.

    Indeed. It seems that the collective thought processes of the BBC proceed from some sort of “sceptic tank”.

    Muslims jealously guard the concept of the oneness of God (tawḥīd). Subtly, in documentaries ranging from one end of the Dewey Decimal System to the other, the BBC drip-feeds their audience with their belief in the none-ness of God.
     

  • len

    Christian moral values are the mortar that holds society together.One man one woman joined together in marriage are the biblical ideal for the family unit. I know this sometimes fails but that is because of the fallen nature of us beings not the biblical model.
    But there are those who seem to had a vested interest in breaking up this biblical model family because this destabilised family unit breaks down many elements in society and devalues moral attitudes.
    I have witnessed this happening in my lifetime through the 1960’s up to and until this present time.
    The evidence of society breaking down is all around worldwide as each moral barrier is broken through on the downward path to goodness knows where. The secularists have no answer to this downward slide only more laws and an ever stretched police force….
    The brakes are off and the vehicle is gaining speed and rapidly becoming out of control.

    • David

      Nicely put.

  • David

    An excellent post here with a sound, comprehensive analysis, well argued reasoning and conclusions that are effectively supported. More of this author please.

    My personal view is that to push Christianity out of the public square now, would send a strong signal to our far less “inclusive” religious practitioners, that the undeniable spiritual and moral vacuum in our country was deepening, thus encouraging, them to step up their extremism and violence. It would be a move of enormous folly. But then one would never accuse aggressive atheists and their fellow travellers of having much basic human wisdom.

  • bluedog

    Encouraging to read that the CofE still attracts individuals capable of clear-sighted analysis and criticism. Let’s hope that we hear a great deal more from Will Jones.

  • chiefofsinners

    Society is slowly realising that it has got itself into a deep hole over the past 50 years by abandoning Christianity and by encouraging such rapid immigration from such a range of cultures. So now the wisdom of the wise is that we need less religion and more diversity; Just keep digging.
    The Woolf is at the door, huffing and puffing. But do not evacuate the back passage. God’s church will stand firm, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.

  • “ People want and need to live in a community with a shared public life which helps them to feel part of it, which makes them feel like they belong to and are caught up in something great and good.”

    Yes, and they can do this by all recognising Christ and that they are living in a Christian country and by adopting our Christian values. We just need leaders that
    support this. All this pluralism is modern Marxist nonsense designed to divide and cause chaos.

    Of course this report is an opportunistic move by those wishing to assert their influence against what we have left of our Christian culture, and that’s why HG has not given it the time you have. It’s a threat to peace and it belongs
    on the bonfire.

  • Darter Noster

    This article grasps the point which the luminaries of the Commission have missed; that if Anglicanism is expunged from national life, it will not be replaced by the sort of robust secular humanism found in France and the United States.

    All it will do is create a massive vacuum at the heart of our society, which any and every faith group will compete to fill on the basis of who can shout loudest about their rights.

    The rampant gormlessness of the Established Church of England is the best defence that a roughly unified but religiously tolerant society has against becoming the plaything of every minority religious interest group demanding its own share of the pie, if only the hubristic humanists of this Commission had the wit to realise it.

  • Rasher Bacon

    Thanks for this, Yer Grace & Mr Jones. The suggestion of humanist contributions to Thought for the Day is revealing. John Lennox did a fairly good pre report warm up a while ago in Gunning for God. His example of an SS soldier being told of the God who could see him by the Jew he then shot helpfully illustrates the vapid folly of assuming that lack of belief makes people any less dangerous.

    “Provided they do not aim at seeking converts”? Is this a report written by adults?How is that ever going to be measurable? This is a clear attempt at exclusion and promoting the primacy of a secularist world view.

  • The Explorer

    Beware of a woolf in sheep’s clothing

  • Bob

    British values should not include religious belief. The State most certainly should not be promoting one form of religion over another. Neutrality should be exercised by the removal of all references to all religions from the exercise of government.

    To do so would not be to promote humanism or atheism or any other kind of non-religious belief. The State simply would not comment on matters of religion, or non religion. In doing so it would recognise that in matters of religion, each individual conscience is free to believe what it likes.

    Other countries manage this quite easily, so there’s no reason we wouldn’t be able to. The opposition it generates has nothing to do with the feasibility of such a system. It’s been tried and tested for over 200 years in countries like France and the US. It has more to do with vested interests not wanting to let go of the privilege and position that having their religion at the heart of government gives.

    • Anton

      I do not seek a privileged position for Christianity but you had better define “religion” (eg, does Buddhism qualify despite having no god; if so, why not humanism?) And what if the sacred texts of a religion have explicitly political commands in them to coerce others?

    • dannybhoy

      The reality is that religions would always impact on the State, by virtue of organised numbers and for some, the use of ‘energetic means’ to secure their goals.
      That is the reality.
      Islam for example would never recognise the authority of any kind of State -secular or religious, over Islam and Islamic laws.
      Take a look around the world Bob. Religion binds people together in a way that secularism never could.

      • Bob

        Religion only binds like-minded people together. It forces those who don’t believe in the same gods apart.

        The best basis for national unity is a shared sense of identity. Calling on a God that many if not most of us do not believe in does not foster such a sense. Appealing to principles that we can all share does. Truth, justice and equality before the law are values common to the vast majority of us, and it’s only by appealing to that majority that the nation state can hope to maintain unity.

        State religions are a thing of the past. You can’t enforce adherence to a particular belief system in a democracy unless that belief system commands clear majority support. Christianity does not, but even if it did, forcing it on the nation is a betrayal of one of its most basic concepts: free will. No faith that preaches free will should force itself on anyone who does not choose to embrace it.

        • carl jacobs

          “Truth, justice and equality” are all fundamentally religious concepts. They do not have a neutral form.

          • Bob

            Truth, justice and equality are fundamentally human concepts. Some religions incorporate them. Some not so much.

            Of course adherents of the various religions claim these concepts for their own god or deity or power. But which came first? The chicken or the egg? Did God create truth, justice and (maybe not the Christian God) equality, or did we create God to personify them?

            I don’t know the answer to that question. But others believe they do. Some say it all comes from God. Others say they’re just abstract concepts we’ve invented for ourselves. All we really know for sure is that most of us acknowledge these concepts as valid. Where they come from is a secondary issue.

            Being that government can only rule via either main force or consensus, it makes sense in a consensus-based system to govern in the name of concepts we all agree upon. That way the religious can comfort themselves with the thought that, even if the government doesn’t acknowledge God, it is still governing according to the basic principles He devised for us. And the non-religious can comfort themselves with the idea that we’re not being governed in the name of false gods and fairytale characters.

            The trouble starts when staunch believers in whatever religion or philosophy demand that their beliefs be given primacy, and that everyone else must bow to them. This just can’t be allowed in a consensus-based system. It engenders resistance that puts an end to consensus, creating a climate in which government can only be carried out by main force.

          • carl jacobs

            Truth, justice and equality are fundamentally human concepts.

            They are, huh? Then answer Pilate’s question for me, and tell me the binding authority by which you give your answer. You are a finite limited creature. You cannot begin with yourself and arrive at binding universals. Truth is by definition a binding universal. This is the epistemological crisis that is dissolving the West in the solvent if Libertine antinomianism.

            Justice assumes the application of a prior standard, and therefore stands upon a foundation of truth. Without truth, there cannot be justice because there cannot exist any objective standard. You can’t assume the standard and say “Humans all want Justice.” In the first place, that statement is demonstrably false. All humans do not want Justice n all cases. In the second place, different people will seek different and mutually exclusive concepts of justice. So it matters very much where it comes from. The concept is meaningless until it is operationalized by moral content.

            Human equality is also not universally recognized as even a cursory review of history will reveal. And for good reason. Human equality is empirically refuted by every single observable. Without exception. Men are by every rational observation decidedly unequal. There is one and only one basis for human equality – moral equidistance from God. This is why atheists simply assert the concept of human equality. They have no way to establish it.

            You can toss around abstract words like truth and justice and equality. But until you can find some authority to establish the content of those words, you haven’t said anything useful.

          • Bob

            You can toss around phrases like “binding authority” all you like. Just because you require an authority on which you can base your rigid and immovable standards of morality, doesn’t mean that such an authority exists.

            It may exist, but where’s your proof? That it has to exist in order to validate your rigid and immovable idea of morality? But who says your morality has any kind of validity? God? And round and round the self-validating merry-go-round we go…

          • Anna

            I agree that “men are by every rational observation decidedly unequal”, but about the basis for our equality being ‘moral equidistance from God’, I am not sure if this is true. All have ‘fallen short’, but some are more corrupt and vile than others; and the Bible seems to suggest that some will be more harshly judged than others.

            I believe our equality rests on the fact that we are of equal value in God’s eyes – Psalm 145:9 and 2 Peter 3:9.

        • dannybhoy

          “No faith that preaches free will should force itself on anyone who does not choose to embrace it.”
          The Christian concept of free will is built on the precept that

          ” For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

          Man is under God’s judgement, and God has provided a solution by coming to earth as a man to save us from ourselves and from His judgement.
          Christians share their faith because they believe John 3:16 is true. They share their faith, they don’t force it on people.

    • The Explorer

      Bob is a good choice of identity. Stick with it.

      • Uncle Brian

        I’m not so sure. We have a dog called Bob and I wouldn’t want the squarepants one to give our Bob a bad name.

        • The Explorer

          See conversation with Pubcrawler and Clive M lower down on thread. (Not the one about WtP).

          • Uncle Brian

            I’ve had a look, thanks. I wonder what the solecism
            was that Pubcrawler spotted. In my last comment, by the way, I didn’t mean to cast
            doubt on the identity behind the persona. I was just quibbling with the choice
            of name “Bob”. Perhaps I ought to have written “the half-French, half-spongy one.”

          • Pubcrawler

            “I wonder what the solecism was”

            All in good time… 🙂

      • William Lewis

        I always start by agreeing with Bob, until he starts talking pants.

      • No, no, he’s got a way to go yet; Kim Noble holds the record at about a 100 personalities. Imagine what this would do for this blog’s hit count if Linus and Kim, and their minions, battled out a few disagreements here.

        • The Explorer

          Just so long as he doesn’t transmute into Bob the Buddhist. Remember him? I’d rather have Linus any day.

          • There was a Bob the Buddhist? I miss out on some of the best acts! But yeah, when Linus was Linus, he was quite creative, especially with his florid book-length insults. I used to stoke him up now and then just to watch him go nuclear. As Sponge Bob he restrains himself admirably well….but fear not, one day, as the PSI mounts and when the bilge hoops can’t hold the staves no more: KABOOM! And we get ole Linus back.

          • The Explorer

            You remember Bob. Obnoxiously cheerful. You offered to sell him to the highest bidder, along with a prayer mat and a year’s supply of celery juice. There were no takers.

          • Gosh, my memory is going…I vaguely remember something like that, but didn’t know I was involved. That must’ve been long, long ago…like maybe a month ago?

          • The Explorer

            It was ages ago, back on the old-style blog, before HG moved to WordPress and Disqus.

          • O, well, you’re talking prehistory, antediluvian stuff that my brain’s OS protocol moved to the Delete folder or the Recovered Files after my periodic crashes. Hard to diss a guy who likes Reggae, though.

          • The Explorer

            Not hard to diss a guy who gave daily advice along the lines of, “Smile, the Sun is shining”, or “It gets dark at night”.

          • dannybhoy

            There is a “Leonard the Buddhist”…..

    • carl jacobs

      Is a state being religiously neutral if it outlaws bigamy?

      • Bob

        Reasons for banning bigamy don’t have to be religious in nature. If the law states that marriage is an exclusive contract between two people, any attempt to marry again while the first marriage is still in effect would be illegal and subject to whatever penalties were deemed appropriate.

        • Always enjoyed your comically circular arguments, Linus. I suppose the Japanese version of your persona missed this one.

          • carl jacobs

            Bob does not seem to be Linus to me.

          • The Explorer

            Give him time.

          • carl jacobs

            The voice is different. The arguments are different. We need to be careful about making these judgments lest we just start shooting people in the head.

          • The Explorer

            Don’t forget you initially said Tutanekai wasn’t Linus either. And I’m giving him time: to show me I’m wrong.

          • Pubcrawler

            Today’s screeds are more in keeping with our absent friend than yesterday’s first contributions. But I’m still at the ‘hunch’ stage until there are a few more linguistic ‘tells’.

          • CliveM

            Sort of reverse “I’m Sparticus” where instead it becomes “he’s Sparticus”?

            I agree we need a bit more evidence yet.

          • Pubcrawler

            Could just ask him 🙂

          • CliveM

            We could and whether he was or not, we’d get the same answer I think. He’s never admitted it in the past.

          • The Explorer

            I love that question asked by US immigration: “Are you a terrorist?” I suspect that some who are say no.

          • Pubcrawler

            I doubt they take the Gilbert Harding approach:

            Asked on a US visa application “Do you intend to undermine the Constitution of the United States of America” he replied “Sole purpose of visit”.

          • Hahaha!

          • Darter Noster

            Agreed. Linus was much more confrontational and much less rational, as well as being pleasingly easy to wind up by pointing out that his condemnations of Britain and America could also be applied to France.

            Bob L’Eponge…? Je crois que non

          • The Explorer

            I’m less and less convinced that Linus was actually half French and married his male partner. As In Perfect Ignorance he claimed to be a married heterosexual, and as Tutanekai he appeared to be resident in Britain. As Linus he spoke quite a lot about his parents, but as Taikan he says his parents both died when he was young. They can’t all be true, and they might all be false.

          • Anton

            And they might not all be the same person!

          • The Explorer

            Yes, His Grace might be having many a quiet smile. And, of course, Linus’ disappearance from the Blog was pure self-banishment. He has as much right to visit and call himself Sponge Bob as I have to visit and call myself The Explorer. If he’d been banned by HG, that would be different.

          • You always doubt in the beginning until the evidence builds up.

            So was I right or was I right that Cruz would eventually float to the top? I hope Fiorina and Carson get good postings. I have faith in the American public…surely they can’t be stupid for the 3rd time in a row by electing the Butcher of Benghazi and her tag-along Muslim Brotherhood second daughter, Huma?

          • Sam

            Dude

            On Ted Cruz. I’m confused , as I I thought you had to be born on American soil “natural born ” to be president, but wiki says he was born in Canada?

          • He was born to American citizen parents, which appears to be ok. If anyone gets disaquilified it’ll be Hillary, who should be doing time for mishandling of highly secret info and lying like a cheap rig about it…assuming anyone in Justice has the balls to take on a Clinton.

          • carl jacobs

            Of course I doubt. That’s because I am a rationalist who is possessed of skepticism, cynicism, suspicion, and many other virtuous qualities associated with a healthy distrust of human nature. I think the best way to handle this is to engage and observe. The initial uncertainty is too high to make judgments at first. You must allow the filter to reach steady state. No association of any commenter with Linus should be made before that condition is met. That way we won’t unfairly accuse the innocent.

            I’m looking for two things in the Caucus come January. A Cruz victory and Trump’s political future buried in an unmarked grave. It’s gonna be interesting this year.

          • Ah, that would be the long form of explaining why you don’t want to go out on a limb and be, gulp, wrong. Again. Fair enough.

            I like Fiorina and Carson, but they are too weak for a presidency in these rough times. Bush and Christie are too establishment (as is Rubio somewhat) for the Tea Party and the energised GOP crowd and gives me hope for the world…if you guys would let me vote just for being a good egg. But I do fret about Cruz losing the Hispanics to Billary for being too hard-assed on illegals’…oops, the undocumenteds.

            Having that ludicrous lunatic and know-nothing Trump at the top of the list boggles my mind. I still think he is running on a dare or a bet, it’s so bizarre. Almost as frightening as the possibility of an ageing, corrupt serial liar who bills herself as Obama v2.0. What’s going on over there with you guys? Our Trudeau may be a vapid liberal fluff who is about to indebt us to the end of this century, but at least he gets the ladies hot, his wife’s a looker and he promised to legalize pot.

          • carl jacobs

            Me? Wrong? In what parallel universe would that ever happen?

          • It was just a suggestion for your consideration, but if it causes distress…

          • carl jacobs

            No, not distress. You have simply confused uncertainty with error. I could certainly be uncertain prior to an adequate collection of data. But an error on my part? Inconceivable!

          • No, I suggested that the basis of your uncertainty, your fear…terror, one might even venture to say… may be over your however theoretical or unlikely, but mathematical plausibility of committing an, um, error.

            I hate to be the bearer
            Of the distressing news
            That your terror
            Is a teller
            Of your fear of committing
            A blunder, a little error.

          • And while you scratch your head as you wonder how to respond, a silly, but a more formal quatrain in the ABBA rhyming pattern before I turn in:

            Walking merrily along, (A)
            Through a throng of adoring
            Mountain Hmong,(A)
            Our Carl came to think, (B)
            Whilst imbibing a bit in drink, (B)
            That he could never, ever…
            be wrong.
            (A)

          • Phil R

            My wife likes Trump.

            She says he speaks to what everyone else is thinking. Surprisingly from Trump it seems, she does not mind the sexist comment to the female contender (what is her name again?).

            Everyday there is more evidence to prove I don’t understand women.

            Whatever the outcome Trump has moved the debate on and to the right. He will I think be remembered in history as a politician of influence. He already has had far more long term influence than most Presidents or our PMs.

          • William Lewis

            One wonders if he does not know that he has made a circular argument or if he thinks religionists too stupid to notice.

          • Sam

            Dude

            Glad you got through Hanukkah. No more doughnuts for this dude for a long time…

          • O, we were “lucky,” the kosher bakery near us always ran out by noon, or never had custard-filled, the only kind I can stomacj, so I only wolfed down two on the first night. I lit for nine nights, btw. Did you know about the 9th night? Neither does anyone else; I don’t count too well.

          • Sam

            Dude

            Ah, Im privileged in that most of my family is into home cooking . I’m a chef , of course, courtesy of burger king, ahem.

            Re the nine days. No I didn’t !(o.k. , Jewish worker blog aside).

          • Ah, how I miss BK’s double burger with cheese and bacon in the pre-kosher days in my teens…still remember the taste.

            I keep a hannukia in my studio down tbe street and forgot that we lit the eighth the night before. Apart from my general confusion ehenever counting’s involved, I think the shemesh candle messed me up.

          • Sam

            Ah Dude,

            It was either BK or the dole office , but I wasn’t religious at all when I did that job … in respect of the candles for Hanukkah, I’m waiting for an Hanukkah app to come out. I’m too traditional for that though.

          • I worked for the competion after school; Mickey Dee’s, the Golden arches, in the days when the fries tasted devine…thanks to the lard or beef tallow they fried them in back then.

            No problem with a Hannukkah app I can see; it’s not a hol hamo’ed and lots of people read the brukhas, even weekly shahrit and minkha-maariv off their devices. A daily email reminder about from when to when to light, how many candles or oil and wick thingies to put up, the order of installation and lighting and transliterated brukhas for the Hebraically challenged or slow-poke readers like me.

    • William Lewis

      British values should not include religious belief.

      Says who?

      Many British values are derived from theistic and Christian beliefs about the nature of man and his relationship with his creator. Remove the belief and there may be no need for the value.

      • BaronHardup

        But over the last hundred and fifty years, people have realised that it was the imposition of christianity on the lives of ordinary people for over a thousand years that kept men and women in serfdom and as factory fodder; the king was on his throne and god was in heaven so everyone had their place in the poetical and financial hierarchy. Gay men were burned alive for even daring to express themselves as were women as witches) who dared to think independently; anyone who just piped up that they thought the bible didn’t ring true was also burned alive. And then there were the untold millions across the world who were forcibly made to leave their own religious beliefs (no religious freedom for them, of course, as christianity was the one true religion) and if they objected they were murdered. I think the ‘christian base; of our society needs a lot of explaining because it wasn’t very healthy. Thank goodness we live in more enlightened times

        • William Lewis

          The imposition of religion is not the same as basing values on religious assumptions. The true value of Christianity at a national level is the assumption of all being equal before God. Indeed many of the injustices of the past can be argued against on that basis. Listing a set of mediaeval punishments, sometimes carried out under religious authorities, doesn’t really add anything here. No one is arguing for a theocracy.

        • The Explorer

          Was Christianity responsible for keeping people in serfdom? I remember seeing ‘The Seven Samurai’ about medieval Japan. The peasants in that were like serfs. The situation in China seemed similar. In neither country was the agricultural situation the result of Christianity: more like that until agriculture became more mechanised there wasn’t really an alternative to mass human labour.

          Was Christianity responsible for the Industrial Revolution in Britain, or was it Britain’s compact size, and the proximity of iron and coal to one another in the North? Did Christianity drive agricultural workers into the factories, or was it the prospect of higher wages?

          • Anton

            It is absolutely true that “until agriculture became more mechanised there wasn’t really an alternative to mass human labour.” But there was no necessity for an inequitable distribution of land and an aristocracy based on it. See Mosaic Law.

        • The Explorer

          Your name suggests a certain regret for the passing of the Feudal Age: unless it is a reference to your sexual technique rather than your financial circumstances.

        • Anna

          Although Christianity was made the official religion of the Roman Empire by Constantine, most people in Europe had little knowledge of the Christian scriptures, and the unchristian practices you describe, flourished in that environment of ignorance.

          Serfdom, slavery and other forms oppression were not unique to Europe – people all over the world had similar practices – and it is wrong to criticise Christianity for things that have no basis in the NT.

          The European culture began to change and become more ‘Christian’ following the Reformation, albeit in slow stages; but as more people became literate and Bible more widely read in native languages, people’s outlook, attitudes and behaviour improved. That the ‘scientific’ component of Renaissance occurred concurrently was no accident. The Methodist revival was instrumental in changing people’s attitude towards slavery.

          The Christian faith, when practised in line with the scriptures, has invariably had a positive influence on society. Sadly, the forces of secular humanism and Islam are likely to drive Europe back to the Middle Ages.

  • Orwell Ian

    Be careful what you wish for. Belief-neutral government creates a vacuum that will be filled by shared belief in something, someone or some deity. Cultural Marxism currently reigns but faces challenge from Nationalism and Religious Fundamentalism. This clash of mutually exclusive idealism is likely to produce something very dark indeed.

    • BaronHardup

      Oh good grief. That catch-all of the dim-witted Right ‘cultural marxism’. Whatever you mean by this daft term it is a conspiracy theory that tries to make out that some form of unified political and sociological thinking has brought about the destruction of the religion-based society that some christians would prefer the rest of us to be living in if they had their way. Modern western politics, particularly since WW2, but the move had started earlier, has attempted to forge a society that can accommodate as wide a range of views as possible so that every person can live their lives freely according to their own conscience. I’m afraid much of christianity, along with parts of Islam, would prefer that human beings lived their lives according to religious diktat rather than being free to express their own personalities and humanity in society enriched by the flowering of human difference.

      • The Explorer

        The fact that you think cultural Marxism is just a conspiracy theory is an indication of Gramsci’s success. That people don’t realise it’s happening is a key part of its strategy.

      • Anton

        Cultural Marxism is not the best phrase for a process by which we end up with Marx’s aims achieved without a violent revolution, but that is what is happening and what Gramsci and the Frankfurt school retooled marxist thought towards.

      • Who says there has to be a conspiracy?

        The West chucked structured, traditional religion for good and bad resons and forgot to replace it with a viable ontological model and a unifying ideology.

        By virtue of its banal consistency and attraction by lazy mendicants and pampered half-wits like liberal arts students and academics, Marxism took the spot. And any government of any stripe loves anyone who wants to hand over more powers to it.

      • bluedog

        ”free to express their own personalities and humanity in society enriched by the flowering of human difference.” Doesn’t fit with the counter-narrative of equality, does it? What our society has done is to pretend that men and women are the same, thus denying the most important difference. By forcing women into the workforce and by declaring that raising children is an inferior role, a career being deemed the acme of feminine achievement rather than motherhood, we have laid the foundations of a contracting population. Of course, in the short term the net effect of this expanded workforce has been economic growth. But now that the human capital is fully deployed in the economy, and is not replacing itself, economic contraction looms.

        • Anton

          Although not necessarily per capita.

          • bluedog

            Your sample is one, Japan. Hardly representative of western democracies, being ethnically homogenous and with a theoretically even distribution of ability across all age groups. As you would be aware, it seems that maintaining aggregate GDP in Japan has only been possible by increasing indebtedness to astounding levels. The remaining economic option for the Japanese is inflation, the effect of which would almost certainly reduce nominal GDP growth to a negative figure. Of course, if output can be maintained, the faster the population dies, the higher the GDP per capita, where that is the preferred metric.

          • Anton

            Which of us mentioned Japan before your critique of it? All I was saying – perhaps too succinctly – is that with fewer people an economy gets smaller but the standard of living does not necessarily fall. Whether that happens depends on many other factors, including the distribution of ages in the population, which is presumably what you have in mind.

          • bluedog

            Japan seemed a handy example, and there is no suggestion that you mentioned it. Your comment prompted thoughts about other factors within an economy with a contracting population. I certainly agree with your overall point, but question the sustainability of this sort of rise in living standards. The Black Death could merit study; it certainly raised the wages of journeymen very considerably.

          • Anton

            Yes, the legislation to restrict wages and maintain serfdom after the Black Death was the usual depressing and corrupt abuse of power by landowners against the poor, and I’m not sorry that it proved unenforceable. John Ball forever!

      • Orwell Ian

        The secular movement that started earlier was overtaken by Gramscian Marxist infiltration. Gradually changing the culture of the host nation by worming its way into every institution including the
        Church. It grew by stealth and the cunning ability to hide in plain
        sight. After two generations had been “educated” under its all
        pervasive influence, Cultural Marxism achieved ideological dominance following the success of New Labour. It has become the status quo, all mainstream Parties being committed to its enforcement by Political Correctness. If you think Cultural Marxism is a fantasy you are not seeing the wood for the trees.

  • David

    Pointing out the flaws in this foolish report has not been so very difficult. But there’s a danger we’ll overlook the important concluding paragraph of this excellent article – the one that stresses an important future task.

    Clearly an equally glittering array of the great and good now needs to be assembled, but for a very different purpose. This will be to confidently set out the future public role of our historic faith in offering a shared space, to all the peoples who now share this island. I don’t see any other “movement” or set of values being able to deliver such a much needed accommodation. After all the base idea of democracy and the rule of law, which is equality before God, is itself a Christian one.

  • len

    Without knowledge of the spiritual dimension one is truly working in the dark(in every sense of the word) This is the main problem with secularists because by their denial of spiritual realities they are at the mercy of every deceptive and evil spiritual force that desires to deceive and destroy humanity. This very blindness of secularists is the cover that these destructive spiritual forces work under.
    It will be quite obvious to Christians that there is a rising tide of evil that is beginning to gain the upper hand because God who held back the tide of evil has all but been removed from the public sphere we can only watch on as this madcap experiment by secularists begins to affect us all….

    • Manfarang

      There are still a few Manicheans in China so maybe the force of light will prevail.

  • magnolia

    Perhaps they are thinking of Haeckel-type Monism as their overarching framework, with its social Darwinist credentials and its advocacy of late abortion and infanticide for the physically handicapped, termination of the sickly and old, advocacy of the law of the jungle, and population control. Minus the racism which mercifully still sticks in the craw many seem on board with these policies. Count most of us here right out.