Tuesday, June 07, 2016

If you can't beat em?

Interesting article in the Telegraph today about Justin Welby (Head of the UK state religion) in which it's claimed that he will be making a speech tomorrow that will talk about the priority and status of religion within our state broadcaster (BBC). In this annual speech on religious broadcasting he is expected to say that the "promotion of religious literacy should be the specific duty of the BBC", in other words it should be mandatory that the BBC broadcast on religion topics. As a quantitative benchmark he is also expected to say that the level of this coverage should be on a par with other important topics such as sport, politics, economics and drama.

As an atheist and a secularist, I would offer two perspectives on this statement. 

Firstly, I wonder if Mr Welby (or any serious theist) has ever attempted to put herself (intellectually and emotionally) into the shoes of someone like me when considering such policy suggestions? I passionately believe that his religion, and all others, are entirely man-made memes, untrue, unnecessary and in an alarming number of cases harmful to the cohesion and tranquilly of our society. I put his religion on a par with the hobby of civil-war re-enactment, except that at least we have some evidence for the civil war! In my view his private hobby should entirely reside in the private domain of this club to which he belongs, where it can be enjoyed by him and others entirely as they like but not something that should be mandated on the rest of us (either to consume or participate in). How ridiculous would it sound to Mr Welby for me to demand that civil-war re-enactment TV coverage should be put on a par with economics, sport and politics! To my ears that is exactly what he sounds like when he says things like this.

Secondly (shockingly) I want to agree with him, with one simple caveat. I agree that religion is an important topic, something that more people should understand the history of (in a relativistic sense); it's very difficult to understand the shape of today's world without some appreciation if it. Equally (much like the Nazi holocaust) we do not want to repeat the evils and errors of the past. People should be aware of what religion was like in this country and other places, when it had absolute power (and still does in many theocracies today) If nothing else but to guard against harmful slippery-slopes in the future and to secure freedom of conscience and speech. I actually believe we should have more mainstream content on religion, BUT, I would insist that that include equal billing for the atheist/humanist position, for the history of the enlightenment and for the scientific world-view. Without such equality this feels to me like a rather suspicious attempt to push his private hobby down the rest of our throats (the UK is at least 25% irreligious) under the cover of "better understanding".

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