An Alternative Easter Message

I doubt Jesus would be flattered by the Easter messages of David Cameron or Ed Miliband. But then Jesus is not so much God made flesh, or a great man in his own terms, but made in the image of whoever speaks of him. I am no exception here.

Cameron made a wishy washy appeal to all while saying we needed the established Church of England to help support rights of other faiths, and Jesus was for the “Big society” that Cameron now and again attempts a Lazarus rise from the dead on. Jesus the Zealot wanted God’s Kingdom on earth in the here and now – the sword very much in one hand with charity in the other as God’s Law became Man’s Law. Equal marriage doubtful as would tolerance of non Judaism religion. Jesus was no secularist or religious freedom advocate if we go by Reza Aslan’s “Zealot“.

Ed Miliband talked of service to communities, especially in times of austere government policy. Instead of political masters it was time for servant leaders. The resurrection of Tony Blair, winner of three elections,  in that sentiment was rather welcome. With the new appointment of political messiah David Axelrod, Labour might even win the next election. Though even he could not bring Mario in Italy back from the dead by polling day.

My point is that Jesus was not a pluralist – he advocated one narrow path and the establishment of God’s Kingdom on earth. Islam would not have got off the ground under it. The Church of England supported the state by seeking out heretics and traitors – often being one was the same as the other. Any claim that it supports other faiths now is more to the secularising of the institution in modern times.

The establishment of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the horrors of the holocaust have more to do with the secular nation we live in today than Christianity. King Henry VIII “domestic relations”, let alone foreign ones, are the reason for an established church and the anachronism remains. It was only in 1858 that a Jew could become an MP in Britain – Disraeli’s father converting to Anglicanism was his only chance earlier.

So Miliband has a point identifying himself as potentially the first Jewish Atheist Prime Minister. That again a reflection of a more tolerant attitude to immigration in the past. Britain became a melting pot of ideas and cultures. Pluralism allows that self identity, just as secularism defends it.

An established church does not secure or underpin religious freedom; it rather risks the privileging of a state faith. Twenty six un-elected bishops in the House of Lords. The Head of State must be Defender of the Faith. A role Prince Charles has questioned wanting to be “defender of faith.”

I might add Prince Charles has raised the issue of apostasy in Islam as he has the persecution of religious people, including Christians. No monarchist heart have I, but Charles is an educated enlightened man of his times (ignoring quack homeopathy; no one is perfect). The Church of England reflects the times we live in rather than being a trend setter regarding plurality of faith. That is to be welcomed without being confused as the de facto cause.

Secularism is about safeguarding citizens from coercion in matters of religion by the state being neutral. The morality that makes people generously give of their time to others is separate from public policy formulation and delivery. We are all equal citizens whatever our belief or none.

This Easter my message is that we are not a Christian Nation anymore than we are a White Nation. We are a nation of many people, united that making sense of ourselves is for our own conscience. That we shall have the freedom to worship God as we understand them, or to be against the very notion there is one. One where Anjem Choudray and Richard Dawkins may make their pronouncements under free speech whatever you may think of them.

I am fortunate to have been born here. May all be free to be who they are and express it, without fear or favour by the state or other people. Violence and intimidation has no place. Free debate is to be valued and when it comes to charity, also be charitable to your critics. For forged in fire of open debate we may yet refine our arguments.

That in living and thinking, we might all look to serve humanity as best we can in a pluralistic society.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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Filed under atheism, British Politics, British Society, Culture, politics, Religion, secular

8 responses to “An Alternative Easter Message

  1. Mark

    I was brought up within this society, surrounded by some elements that might have made me follow Christianity, but it never took, so I can confidently say, I’ve never belielved or followed. Dawkins’ The God Delusion didn’t ‘change’ me like so many like to say, but I was glad to see it on supermarket shelves, rather than tucked away in specialist bookshops, and I love Christopher Hitchens. So why would I defend “This is a Christian nation’? This is without purely defending isolated daft statements like Cameron’s, and knowing full-well that we obviously aren’t all Christians, and there are more definitions, whichever way you choose to define. This is only one of them, but it still fits.
    As a short bullet-point list, it goes like this:

    There is a strong, historical Christian tradition
    All main holidays are based around Christian dates
    Like it or not, Christianity is still the majority religion

    When anyone comes out with the “This is a Christian nation’ statement, it seems just so politically correct now to rip it all apart and come up with a whole host of reasons as to why it isn’t. I admit that this is particularly easy when the statement itself is backed up by certain biblical quotes etc and I’d guess it would be easy for a miffed person to rip my reasons apart.

    But there is a certain feeling that it’s all being done for these reasons:

    A kind of patronishing pat on the head to other religions, with a “there, there, it’s ok, you’re recognised too.
    You don’t speak for me! chest beating, backed up by angry atheists seeking out Christians on social media to happily berate them.
    A feeling that all those who denote themselves as Christians must be bigots and intolerant, because obviously, they all follow the bible literally.
    A dislike of middle-Britain, where many communities have the church at their heart, and a focus on how urbanisation works, which must be the de-facto way.
    I can’t support Secularism and say it embraces all religions and none, if I subscribe to this.

    I can’t help thinking it’s us unbelievers and the political Islamists who do all the teeth-gnashing about this sort of thing, while for example, the Hindus know they have their religion, but also know this is a Christian country, and they are quite happy about that and embrace certain elements, without losing theirs.

    As historical tradition goes, it really isn’t that important to worry about it.

    • Not all atheists are secularists, let alone pluralists, when it comes to religion. Religious people can be secularists wanting the state out of religion, only acting to safeguard the liberty of people to believe as they will.

      Recently wrote how, with just 20% of people identifying as Church of England, the figures do not support the assertion of Christian Nation. Search Eric Pickles on blog for that post. For many non Christians, politicians stating that does feel like we are not real citizens, we are less a part of the country.

      If you have to go back in time to assert the claim, the most you can say is we were a Christian country. It is not about being politically correct, but accurate, and when talking about the nation asserting the values that bring us together.

      This matters because Conservative party is increasingly talking up religion in policy making, so as secularists the next election may be interesting to see how this may shape policy at election time.

      So useful to push back and unequivocally state importance of secularism for all. Even if that includes social media atheist bullies.

      • CBformerlyinTH

        ” For many non Christians, politicians stating that does feel like we are not real citizens, we are less a part of the country.” – This is odd, if Christianity is truly now, as you say, a minority pursuit.

        “…the most you can say is we were a Christian country.” – But in this statement also lies the admission that Christianity is part of the UK’s cultural heritage, and that in being less-Christian the country is losing that heritage, and losing a part of its own identity and sense of self. Considering that this is a time when the country as a whole is undergoing a slow multifaceted identity crisis, it might not be constructive to actively sever it yet more cleanly from its roots, by putting “post Christian” as the default phrase in public discourse and actively protesting against the adjective “Christian”. Even if you felt it was constructive (and not all atheists would), it might not be kind, especially at times such as Christmas and Easter.

        “It is not about being politically correct” – But you’ve just asserted that many non-Christians feel marginalised by references to Britain as a “Christian country”, with the implication that public discourse should take this into account by no longer defining Britain in that way. What is pandering to the feelings of marginalised people if not the classical 1990’s style “Political Correctness”? Whatever one thinks of “pc”, that is surely what is going on, arguing for the policing of public discourse in order to, well, make sure it is ideologically correct.

        In my own view, I think the truth is that Christianity has left a profound mark on our nations character (although this is obviously complicated as until recently all intellectual movements and ideological changes were mixed up with religious beliefs and debate, as the religious reconciled their theological with their secular beliefs), and that while this might fade over time this is a nation with a Christian heritage, Christian public rituals and a Christian cultural stamp, and that therefore it is legitimate to term it a “Christian country”, even if this is simplistic and in some senses actually incorrect.

      • I have no issue with the heritage or cultural value religion, let alone Christianity, plays in the past and today. See my winter solstice post on that.

        When the Prime Minister uses his office to make a sweeping comment that does not recognise non Christian people as part of the nation – I reserve the right to point out it is an offensive and incorrect remark.

  2. CBformerlyinTH

    “The Church of England supported the state by seeking out heretics and traitors – often being one was the same as the other. Any claim that it supports other faiths now is more to the secularising of the institution in modern times.”

    I’m not sure you’re giving the Church of England its due, here. I’d tend to agree about the active support of other faiths being a recent development, but surely it has been a long while since they equated heresy with treason?

    After all, what were the CofE “Latitudinarian” movement about, if not toleration?

    The last time I recall the Church actively “seeking out heretics” for persecution was prior to the English Civil War (although local authorities subsequently were given the role of seeking out certain sorts of heretics, such as Quakers, for a few decades afterwards). Yet it was almost two hundred years after this that non-conformists and Catholics had to wait before they could escape fines for non-attendance in Church (at least in theory). I’m not sure that any leading figures of those times regarded themselves as “secularists”… does this mean they were unconsciously secularists, or that Christians moved beyond the murder of heretics whilst still being legitimately “Christian” in thought and reasoning?

  3. Pingback: Dawkins Has Been Culturally Christian For Ages | Homo economicus' Weblog

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