Sunday, April 22, 2007

WASP Summary of the speech of noble Lord Lord Carey of Clifton in the House of Lords 19th April 2007

WASP Summary of the speech of noble Lord Lord Carey of Clifton (aka Archbishop of Canterbury 1991-2002) in the House of Lords 19th April 2007. Full text of speech here in Hansard (or with WASP highlights here).
WASP highlights Main Points & Key Points.

TheyWorkForYou & Wikipedia entries.

Action: WASP to Send a message to Lord Carey of Clifton re: "atheists are not renowned throughout the world for their commitment to the very poor, the starving and the needy."

12.44 pm

Lord Carey of Clifton:

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Harrison in finding common ground between us, and I hope that my contribution will help towards that end.

For me, the issue is largely about the kind of society that we all aim to create and how responsible listening and arguments might strengthen the building up of community. The debate hangs on the word “religion”, and thereby also hangs a problem. We simply cannot lump religions together in that way as though they mean the same thing; they do not. What is common to most religions is an acceptance of a creator who brought all things into existence and that this creator gives meaning, hope and life to everyone.

If those two opinions separate the believer from the unbeliever, we should not then assume that religion is necessarily the place of superstition, credulity and ignorance. Both the unbeliever and the believer are essentially handling the same data—the same raw material, of which Professor Brian Hebblethwaite posed the question: how do we best account for the data all around us? That is, how do we best account for the existence of a universe endowed with powers and laws when apparently none of this has to be? How do we account for the capacity of the fundamental stuff of the universe to evolve not only life and consciousness but also mind, intelligence and personality? I find that some atheists seem to be unaware that their beliefs, too, are at best a faith. Indeed, it seemed to me to be a lot to swallow that from absolute chaos, confusion, chance and futility have emerged intelligence, moral awareness, beauty and purpose.

I make those points to underline the fact that many intelligent believers are anxious to relate their beliefs to truths of different kinds. We are not all obscurantists or flat-Earthers. From these observations flow my concern that, in building a good, strong, free and secure society in which truth and beauty exist, we need to co-operate more—I think that that is the purpose of the noble Lord’s Motion—and to find ways to overcome barriers to our working together. It is certainly untrue that the voice of the humanist is silenced in our land; indeed, these days it is often harder for the Christian believer to be heard.

The challenge breaks two ways. It is certainly true that those who profess a religion must realise their responsibility to contribute to the health of society. They must not impose barriers on freedom to think differently or compel their adherents to believe in set ways. That there is bad religion around cannot be doubted. We have only to consider what Sunni and Shi’ite believers are doing to each other in Iraq at the moment to see what evil can be done in the name of Allah Most Compassionate. The same could be said of Christianity in the past. But there is another side of religion: the vast majority of believers of all faiths are honourable, decent people who live by their creeds and want to make a better world.

By the same token, those who profess no faith or belief have a responsibility to put their own personal beliefs to work. If the profession of no faith simply leads people to assume that life is meaningless and ultimately purposeless, then its contribution to life is worthless and not worthy of debate in your Lordships’ House. But if the professing of no religion leads, as it often does, to humanism, it can make a great contribution to our world, and that should be encouraged. However, if I may be a little provocative, in my opinion, atheists are not renowned throughout the world for their commitment to the very poor, the starving and the needy. Whereas, as I have already indicated, believers have made and are making an effective contribution throughout the world, it will not do for others to rubbish that and then do little to make up for what they feel are its inadequacies. Those who have nothing but contempt for religion should heed the comments in the Guardian of 12 September 2005 by the noble Lord, Lord Hattersley. He is not known for his great belief in religion as such, but he says in the article that unbelievers are less likely to care for the poor or spend time with outcasts of society. He writes:

    “‘Good works’, John Wesley insisted, ‘are no guarantee of a place in heaven. But they are most likely to be performed by people who believe that heaven exists’”.

It is not my intention to score points. Our world has enough divisions without deepening controversy and taking attention off its serious problems. I believe that the Motion charges us all to move beyond using our freedom to disagree, to building a world where all believers and unbelievers may use their beliefs as building blocks to create a better society.

No comments:

Post a Comment