Sunday, December 14, 2008

A private eccentricity?

OK I figure this post is likely to be a real “hard hat” post. Maybe I ought to get me a pic wearing a yellow hard hat for these, my friend P has one. I really don't intend anyone should take offence ok?

Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor, who is arguably, (along with the Arch Bishop of York) one of the two most respected and influential Christians in the UK is concerned that the UK has become an 'unfriendly' place for religious people to live in.

He thinks that rise of secularism has led to a society, hostile to Christian morals and values, where religious belief is viewed as "a private eccentricity".

I figure he may have a point... to some extent. But I don’t think he is seeing the big picture, or understanding it.

It is natural enough he interprets what he sees as a Christian, but I don't think it's about Christianity as such.

He may be seeing it as society in the UK has become, shall we say.. "Stonier soil" for Christians than it used to be, but I figure this is just a part of the picture, a by-product.

I have chatted to friends about this. The feeling is there are still underlying Christian based morals and values in the UK, but they are deeper and generic, not knee jerk ones.

Here is what I figure. It is obvious signs of strong faith that is coming to disturb the people of the UK these days.

There is a sort of underlying awareness of what religious conflict and intolerance can do. The reformation and the subsequent problems it caused left it a sort of background idea. Eventually things settled.

Then in recent memory the IRA waged a campaign of terrorism. They were strongly Identified with Roman Catholicism. Then in what looked like a reaction there was a counter movement that was identified with Northern Irish Protestantism.

For most of us it looked like crazy killing that probably didn’t really achieve anything that might not have been got by ordinary political process. As you can see with the Scottish and Welsh Parliaments.

A plague on both their houses?

Also the problems in Northern Ireland don’t seem to have entirely gone away, just become less large scale red handed.

These problems made it unfashionable to make overt religious displays, except in a very generic sense.

Meanwhile, all this time the politically correct have been busy ensuring that we are aware that "All faiths are equally valid". Being aware of that is something that is important in getting a job, or promotion, or pay rises in the UK. Including for Teachers.

Next came the matter of Islamism and its associated Terrorists. They clearly identify themselves with the religion Islam. They use religion to justify the evil they do, plus we hear every now and again when preachers talk Jihad. The UK has a significant Islamic minority.

So the UK has experienced another wave of what is clearly seen by the public as religiously inspired terrorism, evil and indiscriminate murder.

This is not something, the US for instance, has had to contend with. Many of its original settlers came to get away from exactly that sort of thing. Its constitution was, amongst other things, wisely designed to prevent it, with its separation of church and state.

It has been repeatedly said that the recent terrorists were often pious model citizens. Their relatives could not believe they would do such a thing. Teaching Assistants, even Doctors!

To put it bluntly and in its harshest light, small wonder that the public perception in the UK is beginning to look at evidence of strong religious belief, even in the respectable, in the same light as early signs of rabies in dogs.

We hear the religious promoting faith based schools, but many feel they can't trust the state school inspectors to spot evidence of indoctrination, we see that when the police finally track down leads and raid places. The public also see that these schools get public funds.

Maybe it is that people in the UK are starting to think of strongly religious people as being susceptible to some sort of an “invasion of the body snatchers” type religious mania reprogramming. They don't feel they can legitimately oppose one sort of faith, or faith based education, so some become increasingly wary of, even hostile to, all forms.

Basically they worry who might have been bitten by a zombie and will suddenly go berserk and start eating random people's flesh.


Lakeland Jo said...

for someone doing an MA in Religious studies I really enjoyed reading this post, and found the views interesting.

Dr.John said...

I agree with you that is the perception of many but it doesn't make the perceptions correct. Much of what has been blamed on religion have very complicated interacting forces economic , ethnic, social. A great man s once said " Very little is as it seems in life".

Crushed said...

The Sic Counties isn't quite as simple as saying it's about religion.

Yes, the Prots hate the idea of a united Ireland because of its Catholic majority.

But the IRa aren't fighting for religion, they're fighting for Ireland.

But as to your main point, yes, I think western sociery mat have rejected religion, but on the whole, Christian ethics are the basis of the underlying mores, deep down. Christians won the war in that sense.

Bengbeng said...

religious freedonm is one matter many people take for granted. but religion will always be with us. stonier soil? i dont think so :)

Moggs Tigerpaw said...

Lakeland Jo. Thank you. Do you think it is on target though?

Dr John and to some extent Crushed. I am not arguing the correctness of the perception.

Just that it is the perception and I figure that is what is driving the what the cardinal commented on and that what he commented on is just a part of the whole thing.

Crushed, I was not even arguing that the case in NI was completely about religion, though it has to be a factor, it is at least as much tribal. I was saying it's about how it is seen in the UK in general contributes to the perception concerning religion in general.

BengBeng, I guess I just miss your point.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

It is an interesting perception and the way you have linked terrorism and violence with religion (and hence the backlash of distancing from religion) is worthy of some deeper study. I however feel that Christianity in UK for the most part has become a fuddy-duddy institution and has lost the vibrancy of being relevant to a people who feel generally self sufficient. I think the cardinal was speaking of a society increasingly abandoning Christian morals for self gratification. But that's my perception.

Moggs Tigerpaw said...

Lone Grey Squirrel, I think you make a great point about fuddyduddy-ness of, particularly, the Anglican Church. But I don't figure that is the whole story, more like an assisting factor.

The Cardinal was speaking in terms about a developing resistance/hostility to Christianity (religion). Not just indifference to something they see as irrelevant to them.

I guess people who get less exposure to religion are less likely to have experience of a less threatening more benign more tolerant side to religion, So only see the "mad bad and dangerous to know" side and nothing to hold it up against.

jmb said...

I'm sure this would be an interesting book to read in the whole instead of just the snippets chosen for this article.

Of course the Cardinal, as a Catholic in a nominally Protestant society, sees the rejection of his faith's values even more keenly.

I think that the British see all fervent belief as suspect, religious or secular. Well I certainly don't see them as being impassioned about things on the whole, with some exceptions.

However society is faced these days with scientific and technological advances which challenge religious values formed in a simpler time. A confusing time for many.

Still an interesting point of view of the UK for those of us outside it.

Sean Jeating said...

... to cut a long com(pli)ment short: Interesting.

Ian Lidster said...

I've always fancied the saying: Religion is for those who are afraid of Hell; spirituality is for those who have been there. In my esteem no denominational body can evoke an individual's spirituality.

Moggs Tigerpaw said...

JMB, Maybe be it is a tendency in much of Britain. If so maybe it is because of a long term conciousness of the bad stuff that can come from fervent, but mutually exclusive views.

I figure if you want to be able to live peacefully with your neighbour you had best avoid stuff like that ^_^

Especially so in the UK as I think if Brits do get going then things can get pretty fierce.

Sean, TY.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Interesting post. I think really most UK citizens would identify themselves as Christians or "Cultural Christians". The British don't like extremism of any sort and they fail to see how people can take despots or doctrine seriously. I must correct you on one thing: Scotland has a Parliament whilst Wales has an Assembly.

Anonymous said...

A lot of good points here...

Liz said...

Fundamentalists of any religion have very little to do with God, hope and faith, love and trust.