Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Something wicked this way comes

This month's Investigate has a lead story about some particularly mad mullahs coming to New Zealand to spread the word. It is unfortunate that Ian Wishart's credibility is somewhat strained by his previous stories about soy milk and Intelligent Design, because he might be on to something here.

I am always reluctant to get involved in these arguments about the clash of civilisations because Western Values are nearly always represented by people who are fundamentally uncivilised: crazed rightists, Christian soldiers and outright racists. On the other hand, I am not given to liberal hand-wringing about respecting other people's beliefs and seeing everything in context. The people Wishart writes about should not be able to come to our country. If we can keep Ahmed Zaoui locked up we ought to be able to keep this lot out.

Fortunately, we have a draft statement on religious diversity to protect us from the hooded claw. Less than fortunately the 'evangelical community' is represented on the interfaith statement working group by Glyn Carpenter of the Vision Network. He is not very keen on diversity: "words like 'tolerance' and 'reasonable' can be very problematic." Tolerance and reasonableness towards the unfaith community is particularly difficult for him:
Education – some responses (from atheists/humanists) saying there was absolutely no place for religion/belief systems in schools, showed “special pleading” – without (probably) being aware that they were doing it.  Atheism, humanism, and secularism, are themselves “belief systems”.  Why should they automatically have priority place in state education when the largest belief system in the country is Christian? I said it would not be unreasonable to adopt something like the UK model (mentioned in one of the responses) which allocated a significantly larger portion of time in education to teaching Christianity compared to other religions. The notion of “impartial teaching” was also problematic. 
Of course, the cause of secularism is hardly assisted by the New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists (Inc) insisting, in its own submission to the religious diversity debate, that Rationalism and Humanism are belief systems. In doing so, the NZARH fell into a trap set long ago by the fundies. Now they have it on record that ours is just another belief, a religion without a god. Some of the more happy-clappy Humanists at the NZARH would like nothing more than to be thought of as high priests; for the rest of us, the NZARH position is disastrous: the fundies will point and say that we are just another competing religion.

So there we have it; clowns to the left of us and jokers to the right. I am not sure of the value of interfaith dialogue but at least it keeps them busy. Still, we can be sure of one truth: however much the People of the Book disagree with each other, they are united when it comes to despising us.


Anonymous said...

Herr Wishart is frothing at the mouth a little lately it would seem

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Inter faith dialogue, you may know that the Anglicans and Roman Catholics have been at it for some years, with view to return of Anglicans to the fold.

They have developed a position on the place of Mary, that took about 5 years I think. Here is a link to the agreement


Amazing stuff

stephen said...

Apropos of Wishart: a stopped clock is right twice a day.

Anonymous said...

That whole 'secularism is a religion too' thing is too stupid for words. What I can't believe is that when it is raised in official forums it doesn't get laughed at.

It is obviously wrong. Me not playing cricket does not make me a sportsman.

Secularism does not even equal atheism. The atheist equivalent of opening parliament with a prayer, would not be in fact, not saying a prayer but actually saying something like:

"Given that there is no god, and that there is no divine purpose or teleological imperative to protect or further our people and our nation, let us as representatives of those people and this nation solemly vow to act only in the interests of those who have given us such great responsibility. God wont save them if we don't."

Secularism merely says that your government should be as religious as your computer technician. Whatever they get up to in private is their own business, but if your IT guru starts sprinkling holy water on your server and mumbling about transubstantiation you need a new IT guy. It's the same thing with Governments and for the same reasons.

Religions are about what should be done, Governments are about what can be done given that folk have a well known tendancy to differ in their opinions about what should be done. It's also been fairly well shown that governments that tell people what to think don't work out that well, and telling people what to think is the thing religions seem to be best at doing.

Paul said...

I couldn't have put it better myself, although once I raised from the dead a hard drive (containing a substantial chunk of unedited film footage which, incidentally, was about Mormons) by laying hands on it.

Anonymous said...

My nephew has learned a great deal from the UK's compulsory religious diversity education. He's now a devout member of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. So I say, bring it on!

Anonymous said...

I prefer to think of Wishart in terms of the infinite number of monkeys working on their Hamlet

Craig Y.