Thursday, August 28, 2008

Speaking of the UK

David Miliband, who with 999 other members of his extended family could form one band, is coming closer to No. 10 as the premiership of Gordon "I'm not as miserable as other Scotsmen, really" Brown swirls the drain. Now, we already know that the Lib-Dem leader is an Atheist, but how do the members of the current cabinet fare?

AC Grayling has a good column here discussing the benefits of an atheist PM:

When Labour cabinet members were asked about their religious allegiances last December, following Tony Blair's official conversion to Roman Catholicism, it turned out that more than half of them are not believers. The least equivocal about their atheism were the health secretary, Alan Johnson, and foreign secretary David Miliband.

Whoa, over half? And North America is stuck with a bunch of god-blowers?

Grayling makes a couple of other good points:

Atheist leaders are not going to think they are getting messages from Beyond telling them to go to war. They will not cloak themselves in supernaturalistic justifications, as Blair came perilously close to doing when interviewed about the decision to invade Iraq.

Atheist leaders will be sceptical about the claims of religious groups to be more important than other civil society organisations in doing good, getting public funds, meriting special privileges and exemptions from laws, and having seats in the legislature and legal protection from criticism, satire and challenge.

Gee, that would be cool. Imagine the US if George Bush (pick either one) were to think like this.

Best of all

Having a statedly atheist British prime minister makes it more likely that the functional secularity of British life and politics, the foregoing exceptions noted, will become actual secularity. Secularism means that matters of public policy and government are not under the influence, still less control, of sectarian religious interests. The phrase "separation of church and state" does not quite capture the sense in which a genuinely secular arrangement keeps religious voices on a par with all other non-governmental voices in the public square, and all the non-governmental players in the public square separate from the government itself. It means that churches and religious movements have to see themselves as civil society organisations like trades unions, political parties, the Scouts, and so on: with every right to exist, and to have their say, but as self-constituted interest groups no more entitled to a bigger share of the public pie of influence, privilege, tax handouts, and legal exemptions than any other self-appointed interest group.

Yes. What he said.

No comments: