Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Denham's misplaced 'faith group' faith

source: Guardian

John Denham pours scorn on secularists with his plans for an advisory body which represents less than 10% of the population

Anthony uses his barbed wit to lampoon John Denham, our government's minister for communities.

53. Comment #432102 by Richard Dawkins on November 16, 2009 at 9:48 am
 avatarThe Times today ( has an article headed "Labour gives up on 60 vulnerable seats." The Labour Party has decided not to waste money on 60 seats that they have no hope of winning at the next election, in order to pour money into other seats, which would normally have been considered safe, but which have now become vulnerable. Among the 20 formerly safe seats that have now become most highly at risk is Southampton Itchen. That is John Denham's seat. In other words, there is a good chance that John Denham could be thrown out of Parliament at the next election.

I have never voted Tory in my life, and I don't think I could bring myself to, even if the opposing candidate were John Denham. But if you live in Southampton, or close enough to get there easily, please consider canvassing against John Denham, perhaps for the Lib Dems, or another party, or just to persuade Labour voters to refrain from supporting John Denham. This could be a real chance to get politicians to wake up to the fact that there is a secular interest out there, which might just be worth considering alongside their normal sucking up to the 'Communities' (code for 'Muslim') vote. And it is a real chance to get John Denham thrown out on his ear.


56. Comment #432107 by gcdavis on November 16, 2009 at 10:19 am
 avatarI have just created an e-petition, please take a moment to sign.

In the light of the announcement that Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government John Denham is setting up a new panel of religious “experts” to advise the Government on making public policy decisions I propose that for each faith group member there be an additional secular/humanist/atheist member.

To resist this proposal would leave the government open to the charge of ignoring balance and fairness and would also leave it open to challenge under the Equality and Human Rights legislation. 
Comments (167)

AC Grayling, Monday 16 November 2009 14.00 GMT

John Denham, our government's minister for communities, is going to have an advisory body made up of representatives of "faith" groups, further eroding the de facto secularism that has kept our society relatively stable and collegial, at least until recently. He pours scorn on secularists, which means the majority of the population who, whatever their faith or lack of it, are secularist in the sense that they do not wish religion, still less any one particular religion, to be in the driving seat of policymaking in this country.

Apart from the fact that the "faith groups" represent less than 10% of the population – namely, the less-than-10% who go to church, mosque, temple or synagogue regularly each week, and therefore represent no one but themselves and a tiny minority – what does Denham think he is going to learn from them? Are their points of view not extremely well-known and entirely predictable?

Evidently, Denham does not know enough about this. Let us therefore ask him a few questions about what he expects to hear from the faith groups on such matters as community cohesion, discrimination, the rule of law, the treatment of gay people, the rights of women – on all of which, of course, the faith groups have spectacularly marvellous attitudes calculated to maximise peace and inclusion across society.

So, Mr Denham, on community cohesion: do you take into account the fact that the major faiths officially blaspheme one another? For Christians, Muslims are followers of false prophets, and for Muslims, Christians repudiate the teachings of the Prophet. They once went to war with one another repeatedly and bloodily for centuries over these differences. Now – for the time being – they sit at the government's table side by side, their hands eagerly stretched out for our tax money for their faith-based schools and their "community initiatives".

And on the question of faith schools, Mr Denham, this oh-so-intelligent policy of government funding for division and ghettoisation of children into more entrenched versions of their communities, following the glowing example of Northern Ireland where this exact-same policy fostered mutual hostility and even murder. Is community cohesion to be achieved by separating children and teaching them fundamentally different outlooks on the world, in which all other communities are wrong and misguided in their metaphysical and ethical outlooks, needing conversion at least – or something worse if they refuse?

And what, Mr Denham, of the rule of law as this will be viewed by your faith advisers? Is each citizen of this country equal before the same law for all, or will injustice and discrimination thrive behind the closed doors of faith-based courts? Are each of the faiths to be allowed exceptions and exemptions – for example, so that any faith school can exclude well-qualified teachers because they do not share the ancient superstition with which a particular school seeks to brainwash small children's minds?

Also Mr Denham, why is your policy so discriminatory in itself? What of the Buddhists, the Zoroastrians, the Mother Goddess worshippers? What of the Druids, the White Witches, the Pagans, the astrologers, the Satanists? Are these not "faith groups" whose outlooks have precisely as much credibility and evidence-base as the Christians and Muslims? Are you going to include them and give them some of our tax money too? Can I start an "I Believe in Fairies" church and can I come to your meetings and get some government hand-outs too? If not, why not?

What is the difference, in your mature, rational, evidence-based and carefully thought-out view, between utterly spurious claims about the existence of supernatural entities requiring their votaries to indulge in irrational, discriminatory, divisive and sometimes violent behaviour, and those that putatively are not? Have you got an answer?

Somehow, Mr Denham, I doubt that you have an answer, because if you did, your actions would not be prompting these questions.

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