Friday, October 23, 2009

The British speak openly of religion.

The British speak openly of religion.

British politicians have much the same problem as American politicians - they have to soft-shoe dance around the touchy subject of belief - yet not quit as much. The subject of faith and its usefulness to society is on the lips of British politicians with much greater ease than it is here in the states. They're way ahead of the US on this set of issues.

Recently, John Denham, the British Minister for Communities, met before a gathering of his countries religious leaders and he spoke generous toward religion, saying that it had merit in society. What Mr. Denham neglected to say, however, was his real message. He didn't, and likely would not ever, imply that religion had any right to think itself worthy of speaking from society's center stage, i.e., he did not clothe religion as a close adviser to or as a worthy arm of the official government.

Here's an excerpt form The British National Secular Society newsletter:

Mr Denham may be a "secular humanist" but, like the Government he represents, he is not prepared to utter the truth that often religion is the problem, not the answer. In fact he said that society should "welcome and celebrate the expression of faith in the public sphere". He denied that the Government has a secularist agenda. He assured the "faith leaders" that there was no intention to sideline believers – a claim that had been made by his Tory shadow, Baroness Warsi.

She said that there was a "growing intolerance and illiberal attitude towards those who believe in God".

Of these two Brits, I'd say Ms. Warsi has the correct measure of things and, too, Mr Denham is speaking appropriately and honestly. Both are right. Religion is a worthy component within society, as Mr. Denham and Ms. Warsi might agree. But it is also finally being recognized, intolerantly, just as Ms. Warsi says, as being an institution without a rightful place for doing the business of governing.

I'd say, all's well in the Isles... And our American politicians might do well to keep their ears turned across the sea. There are a few good lessons to be learned there.

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