Thursday, 16 February 2012

Religion on the Ropes?

In the Blue Corner
Baroness Warsi of Dewsbury
Not content with exposing her considerable intellectual deficiencies on a recent edition of  BBC's Question Time, the undeservedly enobled Baroness Sayeed Warsi of Dewsbury has been very busy this week confirming her status as a seriously mediocre thinker.

Championed by the right-wing Daily Telegraph, her religious views, like those of her woolly-minded leader, have been given more column inches than all the empty pews in all the churches in the shire counties of England. 

This unelected Muslim peer has jumped on Cameron's ridiculous religious bandwaggon and been calling for a large injection of 'faith' in public life. Her call for a defence of Christian values, against the dangers of secularism, is not only unwelcome to most rational people, but also ill-advised, given the clear intolerance of her own inherited faith.

She compares secularism to totalitarianism. A claim so patently ridiculous and seriously inaccurate that one must question her suitability for her current role as Co-Chairperson of the Conservative Party. With such incendiary and ill-informed views she should certainly be removed from office. 

Her claims for the value of faith at the heart of politics, would be laughable, were they not potentially, also dangerous. Faith is belief without evidence, and whilst I fully accept that the Baroness may find the existence of an invisible, intangile unknowable god believable, I don't really want people who hold such untestable beliefs making important decisions in the public sphere.

It's understandable, that due to enforced religious indoctrination during the impressionable years of childhood, many people grow to believe things collectively, which, if believed uniquely, would mark them as insane. It must be stated and restated, that the truth of any proposition is not proven by the number of people who believe, or wish it to be true. Truth is established by evidence, not by faith or wish fulfilment.

It's asserted by Warsi and others, that we require religious faith to make us more tolerant and understanding of our fellow man.  Yet how is morality, or sound judgement served by threats of eternal damnation simply because we believe it unreasonable to worship and adore the imaginary and capricious tyrant portrayed in the holy writings of Christendom  and Islam?

What we really require in public life is not more religion, but a very large injection of intelligence and rationality. We do not need a return to the values of an obscure desert tribe in Bronze-Age Palestine, for whom the wheelbarrow was the pinnacle of technological achievement.

If the deluded Baroness sincerely wishes to live in a society where religion plays a truly significant role in public affairs, then may I respectfully suggest she relocates to Iran. She would not be missed by those of us who value intelligence above stupidity and evidence above faith.

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Thursday, 2 February 2012

Honours: a discredited system

The decision to strip Fred Goodwin of his knighthood for his monumental incompetence, and obscene rewards for his failure as a banker, sets an interesting, and hopefully, useful precedent.

Are we now going to see campaigns for the removal of honours from others who've proved themselves unworthy? If so, what are to be the criteria? Clearly, perjury, fraud, and other forms of criminality have not been considered serious enough to warrant the removal of an undeserved honour.

So, if incompetence, avarice and stupidity are to be the new benchmarks for the confiscation of honours, then the House of Lords is going to become very depopulated indeed. Many, may think this not altogether a bad thing, and I'm sure we'd all be able to suggest a large list of lords for the chop.

Of course historically, we've never been deterred from giving knighthoods, dukedoms and even principalities to the less than virtuous. In medieval times, to be an unprincipled brigand was frequently a required condition for ennoblement. I'm sure that knights of yore didn't have to worry too much about the opinions of the common herd.

Not so today however. In the present climate of complete intolerance for any transgression by a public figure, there is scarcely anyone truly deserving of an honour. For who can honestly claim a totally innocent and untainted past? Given this fact, we would be advised to permanently change the rules for the awarding of all honours.

I would like to suggest the perfect solution. In future, all honours should only be awarded postumously. This would put the candidates in a similar position to saints. We should allow a decent length of time to elapse between death and reward, say one hundred years, so that each individual's life could be exhaustively scrutinised to ensure there were no skeletons in any cupboards likely to rattle and embarrass the recipient.

It would also possess the added advantage of filling the House of Lords with the long departed. This would improve both the levels of debate and their lordship's legislative competence. Lord Bishops should be particularly keen on this, as it would remove the temptation to store up earthly riches for themselves and make their admittance to heaven more certain.

All in all, postumous awards would solve an awful lot of our current difficulties. 'Cash for honours' would become 'ash for honours,' since that's all potential recipients would have to offer. Plus we could sell off the House of Lords to help with the deficit and hold all future sessions of the Upper House in a cemetery.

A win win for everyone I think.

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