I have to say I am very cross at the reaction of some British pollies and religites to a High Court decision that judged Council prayers to be not part of normal council business papers.
Well, of course they aren’t! What on earth have prayers to invisible gods got to do with the normal, practical and very mundane business of roads and fisheries, sewerage and housing estate planning, road maintenance and play parks?
Answer – nothing. When I look at overblown multiple-chinned politician fat-cats declaiming about religion in public life, I seriously go puce in colour.
It is all very well for Eric Pickles:
to talk about tradition and its longevity in this country. It was Henry VIII who inaugurated the Church of England – that’s only about 500 years ago. Long before electricity and other trappings of modern life. I also watched Michael Langrish, Bishop of Exeter in which the Council of Bideford in Devon languishes talk about the Christian tradition that underpinned this country. What! Since Henry or long before – around Boadicea’s time.
What about Hypatia of Alexandria, about 1,500 years ago who was obviously much smarter than either Pickles or the Bishop of Exeter? She is quoted as saying:
No triple chin on this woman – she was brutally murdered by Christian fanatics in March 415. Yes, religious murders have been going on a long time. We seem not to have changed much in 10,000 years or so. There is a movie – Agora (2009). I haven’t seen it but it traces Hypatia’s life and death.
On Friday 10th February 2012, the British papers and the BBC TV news ran headlines because the High Court in Britain declared, in the person of The Hon. Mr Justice Ouseley, that there was no lawful place for prayer during formal proceedings of councils – that includes England and Wales. The rational amongst us were delighted as we belatedly ushered in the 21st Century. The churches, some pollies and the bishops spat chips. You would think that the world had come to an end. Talk about inappropriate reactions.
I was reminded of Cordelia Fine’s book – A Mind of its Own. This is a quote:
‘We can’t allow everyone with a common or garden belief to be defined into madness – there simply aren’t enough psychiatrists to cope.’
The word Ouseley used was ‘formal’ after all. That was all. It wasn’t as though councils were barred on pain of death from saying prayers. Those who wanted to commune with their invisible friend could easily go into a committee room and partake of their rites prior to the serious business of running the local area which is what they were elected to do.
But, no, the good Bishop and the Secretary plus others want the non-religious to be left out in the cold while they warmly look for non-existent guidance from above to help them know where to plant a new housing estate or where the sewerage should be routed.
So we have to deal with the religious so long as they don’t get too much out of hand. But I have to say that these guys are looking decidedly wonky at this stage of the proceedings. I will wait but will guess that Secretary Pickles will have his way.
One day we hope to usher the 21st Century in for good. Then maybe grown men and women will have eschewed fantasies and myths and embraced a potent and obvious reality that may allow our continued tenure on this earth. Religious beliefs certainly won’t.