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Sunday, 18 January 2009

Not doing God

I feel sorry for the likes of the BBC’s Jeremy Vine. A committed Christian, he says he would feel uncomfortable about talking about that fact on air for fear of being labelled a nutter.

“You can’t express views that were common currency 30 or 40 years ago,” the 43-year-old Radio 2 presenter tells the Telegraph.

(Tony Blair, too, refrained to getting too religious in office for fear of the same, and his propaganda chief, Alastair Campbell, once famously said, “We don’t do God.”)

“Arguably,” says Vine, “the parameters of what you might call ‘right thinking’ are probably closing. Sadly, along with that has come the fact that it’s almost socially unacceptable to say you believe in God [. . .]

“Once I put my cards on the table about my faith in discussions, it becomes problematic.”

The Telegraph cites an interview Vine did with Reform magazine, published by the United Reformed Church, in which he says he’s forced to separate his personal beliefs from his role as a presenter.

But ’twas ever thus, wasn’t it? What’s he whining about? I’ve been a journo, and managed to resist going on about my addiction to Superman and Batman comics and my lack of Christian faith when I was on air or writing for a paper.

But it’s more than that. Vine, along with the leader of Roman Catholics in England and Wales, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, thinks the territory is hostile for believers now.

But are they right? Is it really seen as a nutty thing to be a Christian? I’d say not. What these people, I suspect, are perceiving is more open hostility to the rabid end of Christianity (and Islam, and Judaism, and the rest) that wants special privileges and special schools and to stick its oar into every corner of public life, instead of quietly getting on with its beliefs, its rituals and the companionship its adherents no doubt feel by belonging to an organisation.

People have begun to question publicly the existence of God and to wonder why religion has to be so prominent in public life. For this, they are often seen as “militant atheists”, instead of people who are reacting to organisations that have had it all their own way for centuries.

There’s also a decreasing belief in the supernatural, and a decrease in churchgoing. It’s a natural shift in the worldview – or, in the case of the UK, national view, because, as Blair is quoted as saying in the Telegraph story, “If you are in the American political system or others then you can talk about religious faith and people say ‘Yes, that’s fair enough,’ and it is something they respond to quite naturally.”

But if there’s no perceived need for something it tends to go out of fashion. Perhaps a critical number of people now don’t see the need for religion any more and are more vocal about it, but are quite happy (as I suspect most are) to let those who do believe get on with it.

But, quite rightly, they don’t want to hear it banged on about on a Radio 2 show that’s about playing music and having phone-ins on matters of the day.

Personally, I don’t consciously crave to see an end to religion or to see its continuance. I’m just not bothered either way. If it dies out it dies out. So did the burning of witches, hipster flares and rickets.

1 comment:

Barry Duke said...

I say, chaps, you're being a bit hasty, writing off witch-burnings, hipster flares and rickets.

People are still being murdered in India and Africa for witchcraft, hipster flares are making a come-back – at least in Brighton, where I live (aaargh!) – and rickets is back in the Midlands, partly as a result of Muslim women insisting on climbing into designer bin-bags called burqas, thereby depriving their unborn childen of vitamin D (see http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/1154211.stm)
Barry Duke