Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Liberal Conspiracy and God

As someone who badly wants to see a really successful liberal-left blog to counter the right's contunued dominance of the political blogosphere, I was delighted to be asked to join the Liberal Conspiracy group blog when it started up last year. But I always feared that as a Christian I would find myself in a distinct minority when it came to issues such as abortion and embryology.

I accept this, much in the way that pro-life Labour MPs have always accepted their party's majority position on such issues, in the interests of building a broader coalition on the kind of society they would like to see.

I do however take the view that when it comes to faith-related matters, people should be careful not to use inflammatory language and to try to respect the other's sincerely-held point of view. Up until now, this has by and large been the case on LC.

However yesterday I was finally moved to protest following an intemperate post by Kate Belgrave entitled Jesus H. Christ Rides Again which referred to Christians as "Jesus freaks" and "Holyrollers" and likened Christ to "a made-up figure like Big Bird and Po."

As you will see from the comments thread, the consensus on the site appears to be that LC bloggers should feel free to make such attacks on the grounds of "free speech," which is, after all, a perfectly respectable liberal point of view. After sleeping on it for a night, I've decided to go along with that and let it lie for now.

But if the general verdict is indeed that freedom of speech is king, I will of course expect the same degree of licence to be shown to anyone who criticises the adherents of any other faith in similar terms. Not that I have any particular intention of doing so.

Jan 31 Update: Mike Ion has now written this excellent piece on LC explaining much more eloquently than I ever could why so-called "progressives" need to be more ready to engage with people of faith.

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Anonymous said...

You've made a great point Paul, and even as an atheist I find that some of the attitudes are beginning to look hypocritical. It's important for LC to nip this kind of thing in the bud if it is to be taken as a serious force for the liberal-left.

Anonymous said...

Though Kate is an atheist generally (I'm not), I think some of the edge of her criticism came because Labour's God Squad are trying to restrict rights for women. So we have to see it in context.

I doubt very much we'd run general Richard Dawkins style posts calling all people of faith 'delusional' just to have a big slagging match. That would get us nowhere.

And yes, equal criticism of other people of faith when the context arises goes without saying. Even of Islam/Muslims where applicable :)

Paul Linford said...

Thanks Sunny - comments appreciated.

Anonymous said...

Carl Jung thought that - in Western society at least - it was "normal" (to the extent that anything ever is) for people to seek God in middle age.

A young man or woman with a good education in this country ought not to need God - unlss they've suffered a tragedy such as a bereavement or major disability - by middle age life has usually knocked us about so much that materialism can no longer provide a fulfilling narrative. (In Freud's language, the reality principle takes over from the pleasure principle.)

God, like politics, is a human construct. This is not to diminish the reality of either; rather, it means that there is more than one kind of reality. God and politics are both about narrative rather than fact.

The point was reasonably made over on LC that Jesus isn't a historical figure in the way that Julius Caesar was. That is to say: the records that have come down to us are not to be read in the same way. Jesus doesn't need to be "historical" in order to inspire, any more than Aesop's fables have to be.

Christians who want him to be simply show their own inability to distinguish fact from narrative - and the only appropriate response to human incapacity is compassion, whether served with Christian trimmings or not.

William James said the True is the Useful. If anyone feels their religious faith (or indeed their atheism) threatened by the test of pragmatism, they are indeed visited by the divine gift of Doubt, without which no one has ever grown spiritually.

Anonymous said...

go kate

James Higham said...

Libertarians are always doing this - I get it in the neck the whole time. Their problem, Paul, not ours.

Anonymous said...

It seems incumbent on me to start this comment by "declaring an interest". I am a Catholic who has recently come to the church (aged 32) having previously had some latent, but undefined, belief in God. I therefore have a faith which many people disagree with and don't really understand (including my atheist parents). I have not come to that faith due to a "need" need for God - I have come to it because I believe it to be true. I won't ever be able to pursuade everyone of this, and thus accept that it is my belief and is not that of everyone else.

The issue I have with the attitude to religion which seems to flow through the media (in particular the Liberal media) in this country is that those of us with a Christian faith are portrayed as either stupid or deluded for following that faith, on the basis that no rational person could come to that belief. For some reason, the same tainting does not seem to apply to other faiths. The other thing which people try to obscure is that an understanding of chrisianity is fundamental to understanding the history of this country - most of our institutions and history has in some way been shaped by it.

We are still fundamentally a small 'c' Christian country in most of our beliefs and accepted morms for a fully-functioning society. All I ask is that this be acknowledged and we are not patronised or demonised. It is also incumbent on us to behave with a true spirit of charity and understanding for others, but not stand back from defending our beliefs.

Curly said...

Where can we find hope if there is no faith?

Without some faith we cannot even hope for tolerance.