Monday, 22 February 2010

Religion and the polls (ii)

I am a bit intrigued by Paul Toohey's brief exploration of all this interplay between religion and politics in Saturday's press. "My dwelling on religious belief might seem overbearing", he says, "but we have a right to know what sort of Prime Minister we might possibly be getting."
He then goes on to raise the issue of Creationism, and points out that neither Abbott nor Rudd, though they are both declared Christians, believes that the world was created 6000 years ago.
It always makes my blood boil when reporters who should know better make the simplistic sort of analysis that belief in God means that you have some how parked your brain in the 12th century. Any modest analysis of history will show you that many contemporary and leading scientists are also mean and women of faith.
There are of course some Christians (often very outspoken) who are biblical literalists, that is they are so ignorant of the nature of the text that they hold so dear (The Holy Bible), that they cannot see any other approach to it than to take a simple literalistic reading and make it (often twisting it) into black and white fact. This seems to me to do a great injustice to the text, and indeed does nothing to advance its serious study.
But there are, as I say, many biblical literalists. Some of those churches are big and influential, and indeed there has been deliberate attempts in the last decade to ensure that these ultra-conservative churches are wooed (or rather not alienated). We have seen this very much in America, but also in Australia where, for example, the very influential Hillsong church has been some what feted. Even the last Federal Treasurer and Foreign Minister were publicly lauded (here) by them even though they may have seemed a little uncomfortable!

But, to my mind, the issue is not about faith leading to Creationism, (even though Abbott has famously declared climate change to be "crap" this does not appear to be because he is a Catholic, and/or creationist but rather because he is a political opportunist); the issue is about whether we deal honestly with the reality that Australians are allowed to practise their faith freely, seriously and openly.
Our nation is ambiguous about this.
We trumpet pluralism, but we are not so much irreligious as anti-religious.
There is also a new scientific fundamentalism in some quarters which would deny religion any place in public life at all. These analyses often seem to me to not address the profound nature of religious experience and reflection on human life but dismiss it as superstitious hoo-hah.

As a serious religious person myself I believe that the quality of life is enhanced by people who take faith seriously. Don't play games and don't pretend to be Christian (or Buddhist, or Moslem or....?) if you are not going to be serious.
I believe it is a good thing that religious faith should inform our wider beliefs. They are after all more fundamental, perhaps a better word is "radical".
They should not go uncritiqued, and they do not need to prevail simply because they are religious. But we should not be frightened to be political, scientific and religious people.
Indeed we should see this as a key human right.

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