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Liberty and all this God business

Unsurprisingly, there is a lot of comment out there in dead-tree media and the electronic versions about religion and its relation vis a vis the state at the moment. (Full disclosure: I am a lapsed Anglican Christian who read a lot of David Hume, much to the annoyance of my old vicar, no doubt). There is a bracing essay in the Spectator this week about the nonsense spouted in the usual places about “moderate” Islam.

The blog Positive Liberty, which has become a group blog like this one – has an excellent piece looking at the religious, or in some cases, decidely lukewarm religious, views of the U.S. Founding Fathers. These men, to varying degrees, were acutely conscious of the dangers of religious fundamentalism, having seen within their lifetimes the human price of it. As we think about the dangers posed by Islam in our own time, the insights of Madison, Adams, Jefferson et al are needed more than ever. The linked-to article is fairly long but worth sitting back and sipping on a coffee for a good read, I think.

It is in my view essential for the west’s future that the benefits of separating what is God’s from what is Cesear’s is made as loudly and as often as possible. Muslims must be made abundantly aware of this point for if they do not, the consequences could be dire. Maybe because of the role played by the Church of England in our post-Reformation history, we don’t have the tradition, as in the States, of keeping a beady eye on the blurring of the edges of temporal and spiritual. Cynics have of course argued that nationalising Christianity via the CoE has helped the cause of fuzzy agnosticism and atheism more than the complete works of the Englightenment. Well, maybe. It may have as much to do with the relative openness of British society, our ironical sense of humour (religious enthusiasm has often struck the Brits as slightly silly or unhinged, ripe for Monty Python treatment) and desire not to give offence.

I fear that sense of humour is going to be tested for the remainder of my lifetime.

14 comments to Liberty and all this God business

  • Ooops, sorry that was supposed to be a comment on the last item 🙁

  • And one would think Islam is ripe for Monty Python treatment, or whoever the hot young comic troupe of the moment is, what with the whole virgin or raisin controversy and the apparent confusion of the Deity with Hugh Hefner.

  • “Muslims must be made abundantly aware of this point for if they do not, the consequences could be dire.”


    Not to be a pifflesniffle on this point, but Muslims are abundantly aware of the point — because the central tenet of their jihad is to change it, and have the West disappear into their Caliphate in consequence.

  • Eurabian Nights

    I think that particular strand of British humour is gone for good now, along with red phone boxes and the concept of a sovereign British state.

  • Well the Beeb seem to claim they do cutting edge comedy. Why not a nice comedy about Islam then?

  • What would your vicar think of this statement?

    I can’t do justice to the post-Enlightenment church history; the quick story is that the interdenominational warfare eventually ended. State churches remain, but have lost their teeth; now that their governments are no longer interested in waging ecclesiastical wars, these churches now serve as pretty ornaments to be displayed on special occasions – not exactly the mission Jesus had in mind.


  • I will shortly amend that statement to make clear that the assessment doesn’t include the Vatican (standing up to totalitarianism was certainly a good deed), and to change the wording to “these churches now serve largely as” so as not to sweep with too wide a brush.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Anonymous coward, thanks, I tried to fix the link but it appears not be working. I have just tried it again but it is still playing funny.

  • B's Freak

    According to the Founding Fathers, part of what is God’s are certain inalienable rights. Someone should tell Caesar to leave them be. Oops, that someone is us.

  • The existence of rights reflects the value that God places on us, which carries the expectation that we do not injure what He values.

    Secularists and theists may disagree on the origin of rights, but the shared assumption that the individual is the most valuable physically-observable entity in the universe allows for a great deal of common ground.

  • Snorre

    Hee, this reminds me of the state church here in Norway. Some say they only want to keep it for the old “if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it” reason, but others say that it’s important for the government to keep control over the largest religious institution in the country, since they don’t want it to change into a more fundamentalist thing. To me it seems that we’ve already got fundies, and some even got state funding for a school that taught that the male, the lord of his house, might need to hit his kids (and possibly his wife? Can’t remember any longer) and stuff like that. The press made a big fuss about it, and it appears to have adjusted its teachings a bit.

    Anyway, we do have some comedians who do make fun of muslims and the stereotypical immigrant habits, as well as most other parts of society. Offensive and funny. We’ve come some way since Life of Brian was banned for blasphemy when it first arrived. :]

  • All religions have lost the plot. You need to find enlightenment so you know how to live your life without religion. Jesus and Buddha’s teachings have been eroded over time. Even buddha himeself said after 500 years after his death there will be no truth left in his teachings, Jesus destroys idols and effigys yet still churches use crosses and statues, hypocrates, no enlightenment at all.