Thursday, September 29, 2005

Last night, the BBC aired a show called God and the Politicians hosted by avowed secularist, David Aaronovich. Aaronovitch is a newspaper columnists and unlike many of that profession, is quite a sensible chap. His programme was moderate and consequently a bit boring. The premise was that religion in the UK has been taking an increasingly important role in public life but no evidence was given for this a part from some Moslems who called a gentile politician a Jew (presumably because she was pro-Israel). We just got lots of very unthreatening faith leaders who certainly did not look as if they were about to take over the country. Only on one point were they coaxed into controversy, when Christian leaders said they didn't want their children to go to Moslem schools. The reason for this is probably because they don't think Moslem schools would have enough of a British ethos although they couldn't admit that. Religion was probably irrelevant even here.

If the faith leaders were unthreatening, the atheists were hilarious. AC Grayling is one of those philosophers, in the tradition of Simon Blackburn, the late Freddie Ayer and Bertrand Russell, who checks out his brain out as soon as the subject turns to religion. He looked just plain silly. By then end of the programme, he was reduced to prophesying the return of the inquisition if we allow these cuddly clergymen an inch of slack. If he ended the programme looking ridiculous, he started it being ingenuous. We had a brief discussion about whether morality requires religion. Grayling's contribution was to say that the ancient Greeks had a deep and fruitful secular morality that the intelligent classes followed without any reference to the supernatural. What he didn't tell us is that this secular morality supported paedophilia, torture, slavery and infanticide. I wonder if he'd rather live under that moral regime than the Christian one he has inherited today. It took Christians a long time to abolish slavery and torture, but I see no sign that even the most 'enlightened' of Greek philosophers thought that either was problematic.

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