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Friday, 5 February 2010

George’s lesson in objectivity

There’s this bozo in Britain’s Daily Telegraph who thinks religious people “should know better” than nonbelievers when it comes to good behaviour.

George Pitcher, a religion editor attached to the paper, is also a priest. He’s been commenting on recent comments by Tony Blair’s wife Cherie, in her guise as a judge at the Inner London Crown Court.

She let a violent offender, a “devout Muslim”, go without a custodial sentence recently, telling him, “I am going to suspend this sentence for the period of two years based on the fact you are a religious person and have not been in trouble before.”

Her comments have rightly caused outrage. Not the “not been in trouble before” bit, because such things are often taken into consideration, but the “you are a religious person” bit.

Now here’s what Pitcher says: “At a huge risk of stating the bleedin’ obvious, Cherie Booth QC, as we must call her when she’s not trading on her married name, wasn’t saying that religious people are morally superior to others. She was saying that, as a religious man, he should know better.”

At a huge risk of stating the bleedin’ obvious, George, doesn’t “as a religious man, he should know better” also mean that, if he were not a religious man, he shouldn’t know better? That, because he’s a religious man, we would expect him to know better than we would a nonreligious person, and, if he were a nonreligious person, we would expect him to behave more shoddily?

Then this God-soaked moron refers to “the humourless and po-faced bozos of the BHA [British Humanist Association] and NSS [National Secular Society]”, who dared to criticise Booth (a self-confessed Catholic) for her asinine comments.

Religion (hardly a bundle of laughs itself) is obviously on the back foot – certainly as demonstrated by George Pitcher – and is coming out with the insults in order to make its case, it seems.

Insults, indeed, you say. But haven’t you just called him a “God-soaked moron”? Yes, I did say that, didn’t I? But, then, on this blog, anyway, I’m always insulting people, so nothing’s changed. It’s just the way I tell ’em. But when a sky pilot starts doing it you wonder whether he’s losing the will to argue.

And what is it that these “po-faced bozos” have to “get into their restricted imagination”? asks the Reverend George. Well, says he, it’s “the answer to this question: Do adherents to a major faith have demonstrable, objective and tangible standards of behaviour towards others enshrined in their religious traditions, to which they can and should be expected to aspire because they are accountable to their divine authority, that are not so prescribed by secular authorities?”

Come on, po-faced George, who, it seems, cannot argue himself out of a paper bag! You’ve just said that they are answerable to some “divine authority”, and that’s why they behave themselves (or should behave themselves). Not, then, because they have an inbuilt, human sense of ethical behaviour?

The atheist who behaves himself manages to do it in spite of not having an imaginary friend to obey. However, by implication, you are saying that atheists cannot be good (or we should not expect them to be good), because they don’t have the imaginary friend; religionists can be good, because they do have an imaginary friend (sorry, you call it a “divine authority”).

And how, anyway, can we trust a writer who talks of a “divine authority” and uses the word “objective” in the same sentence? Especially one who, believing himself to be objective, we must assume, thinks that you need to believe in the impossible in order to be good (or to be expected to be good). Is it also objective to believe that one who adheres to “a major faith” is more likely to be good than one who adheres to a minor one? Where does this objectivity come from, George? If it is truly objective, you will be able to prove it, no doubt.

And yet, George, there are people of religion – some in high places – who clearly do not demonstrate some higher ethical principle. Take Pope Ratzinger, for example. He tries to interfere in another country’s lawmaking so that his kind will be able to discriminate in employment law against gay people. And then there’s the organisation called Christian Concern for Our Nation. They sent out a “prayer alert” to try to persuade God to persuade the House of Lords to retain discriminatory parts of the Equality Bill. A bunch of loonies if ever I saw one.

Sorry, that wasn’t exactly objectively put, was it?

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