Wednesday, 24 January 2007

Conscience Rules OK?

In their letter to the Prime Minister, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York make the following remarkable assertion:


“The rights of conscience cannot be made subject to legislation, however well meaning.”


One wonders whether the worthy prelates have really thought this issue through. Presumably it means that:


Islamic suicide bombers whose consciences tell them that they are fulfilling the will of Allah cannot be the subjects of anti-terrorist legislation;


Christians who starve, torture and murder small children because their consciences tell them that the children are possessed by the Devil cannot be prosecuted;


It was right for those Christians who worked for the Nazis in concentration camps to do so because their consciences told them it was alright;


Anthony Blunt and other Cold War traitors should have been excused because their consciences told them to spy for the USSR;


The British in India were wrong to suppress the Hindu custom of Suttee - the burning alive of a widow on her husband's funeral pyre;


It was right for the Christian churches in past times to torture and burn to death “heretics” and “witches”, because their consciences told them to do it;


The Roman Catholic Church was right to condone slavery until the middle of the twentieth century because their Christian “consciences” sanctioned it.


These are just the first few examples of the novel doctrine that the rights of conscience override the law which spring to mind.


Doubtless others will occur to those who read this post.

34 comments:

Jose said...

Why, then, didn't they condemn the imprisonment of the British author because of his alleged "anti-semite" statement?

When churchmen get embroiled in politics, alas!

tyger said...

In the main, this is one that troubles me.

My libertarian tendencies suggest that people should be free to associate and disassociate with whoever they please. Homophobia, like racism, is moronic, but sadly it's part of the [albeit socially constructed] human condition.

I can see the point you are making with your (harsh) analogies, but really this is about freedom of association, and therefore, is not comparable to slavery or suicide bombers.

On the point of public funds, which of course is at the root of the current furor, then that's different. Public funds should not go to any organisation that is prejudiced against any legitimate section of society.

anticant said...

NEWSFLASH!

Has anybody here seen Kelly?

Tony Blair's own website is currently running a petition calling for him to remove Ruth Kelly from her role as Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and Minister for Women and Equality.

The Petition at pm.gov.uk asks members of the public to support the motion that "Ruth Kelly is incompatible with this position as she holds views about homosexuality (and other issues) which are contrary to the equality agenda which it is her ministerial duty to promote. She has voted for motions to deny homosexuals rights to adoption, hurting chances of equality for homosexuality."

There are already around 600 signatures.

anticant said...

With respect, Tyger, I don't agree that this is about freedom of association, or public money. It is about the Churches pushing for more influence over government policy as part of an accelerating drive to roll back the secular nature of the modern state [an enterprise in which they are allies of Islam].

It is also yet another manifestation of the Churches' obsession with homosexuality, which to outsiders appears increasingly to be the only topic which nowadays arouses Christians to crusade about their version of morality.

Reading the threads in the "Guardian", the "Telegraph", and other sites, it is clear that the relationships between adoption agencies and the social services are much more complex than I had previously realised. There is a stringent vetting system, which doesn't seem always to work very well, and instances are quoted of highly eligible [heterosexual] couples who have acted as satisfactory foster parents being rejected as adopters. Adopting is by no means an automatic process, and it is inconceivable that a gay couple who were deemed to be unsuitable by the statutory authorities would be permitted to approach a Catholic, or any other, adoption agency.

What beats me is why a gay couple would WISH to approach a Catholic adoption agency anyway. The numher doing so must be tiny, and this fact alone leads me to think that this is in reality a bogus non-issue that has been blown up out of all proportion by the Catholic Church for its own nefarious homophobic purposes.

As for "Conscience overriding legislation", these Anglican Primates [what an appropriate title!] have forgotten their own Church's history, if they ever knew it. The Church of England was a legislative construction of Henry VIII created with the precise object of overriding the consciences of Roman Catholics to suit the monarch's convenience.

Richard W. Symonds said...

"Tyger ! Tyger ! burning bright...

tyger said...

I don't think the Catholic church can really be any sort of moral authority on the subject of homosexuality or the wellbeing of children.

anticant said...

I don't think the Catholic church is a convincing moral authority on any subject.

Richard W. Symonds said...

And so, Anticant, it appears you think any Catholic is not "a convincing moral authority on any subject" ?

Interesting...

Who is then ?

anticant said...

Oh Richard, you rise like a fish, don't you?

Richard W. Symonds said...

Oh Anticant, so that is your way of not answering the question, is it ?

Or are you just another fish who swims in the shallow water :)

anticant said...

Richard, I'm not bound to answer every question you choose to put to me. I said, and I repeat, that I do not think the Catholic Church is a credible moral authority about anything.

After a lifetime's thinking, reading, and interacting with hundreds of people many of whom were professionally concerned with religion and ethics, I rely primarily on my own conscience, formed in the light of what I have learned and experienced.

You seem to have led a very sheltered life if you have never encountered a rational freethinking humanist who does not accept the claims of the "supernatural" before. I am not all that rare and curious a creature, but you quaintly seem to find me not only incredible, but ludicrous, and keep on and on worrying at me like a dog with a bone. Can't you give it a rest?

Richard W. Symonds said...

Well, anticant, if you just want a blog with only "rational freethinking humanists", or others who just agree with you enough for you to feel comfortable, then you will get what you want.

It's becoming very clear to me that you don't want rigorous debate...but, as you say, perhaps we have different notions of what we mean by "debate".

I will return to the depths...

anticant said...

Constructive debate sometimes involves agreeing to disagree about some topics, and moving on to others where we might find some useful common ground.

You are not going to change my 'take' on religion and religious people by constantly twitting me with what you regard - wrongly, in my view - as absurdity. I hope you have noticed that I do not reciprocate by seeking to get you to abandon your own beliefs. You are welcome to them. I just think mine are more reasonable, that's all.

Richard W. Symonds said...

I am not "seeking to get you to abandon your own beliefs". Period.

Opinion and prejudice are not cherished beliefs.

You appear over-prejudiced against people who have a religious bent, and share with us your opinions on the subject.

Great - and very interesting - but they are prejudiced opinions, not cherished beliefs...and somebody else has a perfect right to counteract such prejudiced opinions with their own.

Orwell, it seems, was a "rational free-thinking humanist", but he didn't appear to embrace his humanism with a Dawkins-like fanaticism, akin to a religious belief.

anticant said...

Times have changed since Orwell's day. The old Labour party of the early and mid-20th century had a long and honourable connection with Christian Socialist and Nonconformist thought which was socially benign and progressive. Whether for good or ill that tradition is now virtually dead, and the only religious influences active in society today are strident, extreme, politically reactionary ones.

I respect anyone's sincerity in believing whatever they do. But if their beliefs are retrograde and harmful, I am in duty bound to express opposition to them. I have seen too many lives grievously damaged, and some ruined, by such boneheaded bigotry and narrow-mindedness.

Dawkins, by the way, isn't 'fanatical' at all except that he is maybe over-convinced about evolution. Have you actually read 'The God Delusion? If not, please do so before you criticise Dawkins again.

Richard W. Symonds said...

"The old Labour party...had a long and honourable connection with Christian Socialist and Nonconformist thought which was socially benign and progressive...that tradition is now virtually dead."

But not yet "dead".

Neither should we kill it off.

Richard W. Symonds said...

By the way, I have read more Richard Dawkin than I think you know...so much so that I was thinking of writing "The God Fixation".

anticant said...

Richard, I obviously don't know how much of Dawkins - or of anyone else - you have read. But have you read "The God Delusion"?

Whether a God, or gods, actually exist will never be known for sure. What those of us who lack "faith" in gods object to is not that others do have such faith, but that their faith all too often impels them to behave towards other human beings in wicked, cruel, violent and deceitful ways.

Surely this is obvious even to a five-year-old?

Richard W. Symonds said...

Would anyone else care to join in here - age no barrier - please ?

Jose said...

I boringly insist in my opinion, Anticant, that it is not the faith that impels people it is those who use that particular faith that do. There are scores of thousands of Catholics in Spain who are against any war against anybody, they still believe in God and stick to the principles of their faith and do not obey their Hierarchies in everything these say.

anticant said...

Of course there are, Jose. There are good, peaceful people of every race and creed. But there are also many "believers" who are spurred on to do acts of cruelty and aggression by their interpretation of religion. Imagining that God talks to you is a dangerous mental aberration.

Richard W. Symonds said...

I sense, Anticant, you see the main threat of danger coming from the Islamic extremists/terrorists (eg 'Eurabia').

This is where we might differ...

I see the main threat of danger coming from across the Atlantic - JudaeoChristian extremists/terrorists (eg U.S.K.)...

anticant said...

I don't just think it Richard - I'm deeply convinced of it. The blindness of so many Europeans to what is happening to us is terrifying. The situation is far worse than the threat of Hitler - there are already many millions of Muslims settled throughout Europe; maybe 3 millions in the UK alone, and steadily adding to their numbers - a huge fifth column. Have you studied the totally theocratic nature of Islam? There is no such thing as a 'moderate' Muslim. Islam and pluralist democracy are as incompatible as oil and water or chalk and cheese. Muslims want no truck with our secular society, even as they benefit from it.

Christian fundamentalists are dangerous, yes, and there are far too many barmy religious nutcases in the USA. But that country, for all its glaring faults and current aberrations, is a democracy of sorts and there is always the prospect that communal sanity will prevail there as has already started happening after the mid-term elections.

lavenderblue said...

http://www.sweetness-light.com/archive
/in-new-british-cemetery-even-christians-will-face-mecca

Well,well,there is a less than 55 Muslim population here..........and now we have to face mecca.
I think not.

lavenderblue said...

5%, sori.

Jose said...

I must say, friends, that if it were not religions it would be another motivation. We have for instance ecologists. They are capable of organising real melees with violent methods to defend their beliefs.

I am inclined to think that the human being is an animal moved by motivations, that they need to give vent to their frustrations and their whims and their whatever.

The real problem is how to control those setbacks.

On the good side of it, I have known true saints among human beings, more saintly than those who because of one thing or the other were raised to the altars by other human beings.

I must say, though too, that I've never raised anybody to the altars, God forbid...

anticant said...

Yes, it would be something else, Jose. But if it were not supposedly 'God-driven' it would be less virulent and more controllable than supernaturally inspired fanaticism.

I think not either, lavender, and so do the vast majority of non-Muslims in this country. But who is going to say an effective 'No!' to these people? Certainly not this government - all that NuLab cares about is getting the Muslim vote at the next election.

And did you notice that a leading Muslim doctor - the head of the Islamic Medical Association - is urging British Muslims not to vaccinate their children against measles, mumps, diphtheria, tetanus and meningitis because the vaccines used, such as MMR, are produced from products which Muslims regard as 'unclean'? He maintains that leading "Islamically healthy lives" is sufficient to ward off disease. Where is this madness going to stop?

Richard W. Symonds said...

I'm uneasy...and detect an irrationality, but can't quite put my finger on it...

Perhaps it's the absence of "most", "some", or "many" in your statements.

Muslims this, Muslims that...implying ALL Muslims.

It's like saying : "Hetrosexuals hate 'gay' people", implying ALL hetrosexuals hate ALL 'gay' people.

That's nonsense - some do, many don't...

Jose said...

We may also criticise Jeowah's Witnesses for not permitting their children to be given blood transfusions or some other physically beneficial treatments.

What must always prevail is the law of a country over any attempts at infringing it.

And...yes! governments have sworn to respect laws and make them respected.

anticant said...

Study Islam, Richard. The doctrines of world conquest are chillingly clear. The Sharia punishment for apostasy is death. How can any Muslims, even quiet, peaceable ones, come out and say "we don't believe in all of this stuff"? They would be dead ducks.

As I keep on saying, the premise that there are 'moderate' Muslims who don't sympathise with the militant ones and are prepared to take a vocal stand against them is still unproven. Even the spokesmen for bodies approved of by the government, such as the MCB, always qualify their condemnation of terrorism with the rider "but we can understand why they do it", or "change your foreign policy if you want them to stop". Looking for a moderate Muslim is like seeking a snowman in the Sahara.

Jose said...

Ah, I forgot, Anticant. There is another motivation to make people kill and be virulent and that is the name of the country, the urge to be patriot. It seems to kill in the name of one's country makes one clean and wise.

Richard W. Symonds said...

I try to be extreme as possible...especially when it comes to tolerance, understanding and respect. If not, you might kill me, and I might kill you.

On reading that back, the above sounds very conceited. It's not meant to be. If it seems so to you...T.S.

anticant said...

Agreed, Jose. The underlying motives for patriotism are tribalism and fear. Dr Johnson said that patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. That does not mean that one should despise or belittle one's own country.

Richard, however exteme your tolerance is, your adversary's intolerance only has to be sufficient to impel him to attack and if possible conquer you. The liberal's dilemma is when to cease being tolerant of the intolerant. Remember I was growing up during the 1930s and WW2. We experienced then where the follies of too prolonged appeasement led us. I have no wish to be anyone's enemy, but there are plenty of people in the world who regard me as their enemy simply because of who am and where I am. The same is true of you, whether you like it or not.

What's "T.S."?

Richard W. Symonds said...

Don't confuse Nationalism with Patriotism..the two are not the same.

"T.S" - ummmm...I forgot ;)