Whilst affairs of the United Kingdom aren’t necessarily a burning issue for many on Persephone, there have been happenings going on here that I figured may be on interest. The happenings? Belief by a group of Christians that they have been discriminated against because of their religion. And in turn, a belief that Christianity in the UK is being marginalised.
Before I go any further, it’s important I think, that I point out I’m a Humanist. A Happy Humanist. A born and raised Humanist, for that matter. A Humanist that has become grumpier than expected with the news of these happenings.
I’m going to start with something of a tangent, and for that, my apologies. But seriously? I saw that a Scottish Cardinal had weighed in on this issue ““ why I’m surprised by this, I don’t know ““ and started to get grumpy pretty quickly.
In part I’m still grumpy because of having read Cardinal O’Brien’s stance on gay marriage not long ago:
We reaffirm before you all the common wisdom of humanity and the revealed faith of the Church that marriage is a unique life-long union of a man and a woman. …pray for our elected leaders, invoking the Holy Spirit on them, that they may be moved to safeguard marriage as it has been understood, for the good of Scotland and of our society.
Eh? Common wisdom of humanity? The good of Scotland? What? Marriage as it has been understood in Scotland is as a means to defy English parents. That’s about it. Marriage in Scotland is not known for facilitating a unique life-long union of a man and a woman, it is historically known as #1 get-away for twelve-year-olds who wanted to elope.
As for the good of our society, the only instances I can think of are the, thankfully near enough outdated, notions that women shouldn’t give birth out of wedlock. Marriage gave those women a safety net and assurances that there wouldn’t be repercussions should they give birth just months after a marriage. A point that seems worth a mention given that I would like to think Cardinal O’Brien, the leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland, would be aware of the role the Catholic Church played in forcing single mothers to give up their children.
The protection marriage can afford is important. The interference of religion in those laws isn’t something that strikes me as important. Oh, who am I kidding? Cardinal O’Brien is a man who would like to have a “re-Christianised Scotland.” Oh, awa an’ bile yer heid, ye eejit. Sure, Iona is one of the oldest centres of Christianity in Europe, but present evidence suggests that Scotland is a shade older than the Bible. Christianity’s influence on the British Isles is just a drop in the historical ocean.
The influence Christianity has had is undeniable, however. I just have to step into town to see that influence. For a town of 12,000, there are 12 kirks (Ed note: That’s Scottish for church) serving various Christian groups. There has been one kirk on its current site for just shy of 900 years, and the present kirk dominates the town’s skyline.
It isn’t just by walking through my town’s streets and lanes that the influence of Christianity is to be seen. When I was at school, and for my son now, Christianity remains a part of school life. Every term ends with an, albeit non-compulsory, church service for the entire school. Bibles are handed out in secondary school as a matter of habit. These are state schools, too.
And so, yes, Christianity is a part of our history. It continues to influence our culture. That doesn’t mean, however, that it should dominate or hold a significant grasp over our politics and laws.
So, to me at least, Christianity isn’t being marginalised. Instead, Christianity is beginning to be recognised as a personal belief. As a nation, we aren’t completely there yet. After all, we’re meant to be past the point of being killed if our personal beliefs aren’t in line with that of others (see: Catholic and Protestant persecution), and we aren’t.
Maybe that wasn’t such a tangent after all, since it brought me back around to the point of marginalisation. It also brings my mind back to the claims of “aggressive secularism” and of “militant atheism.” This, apparently, comes from the concept of religion being suggested as a personal endeavour rather than a public demand. Religion can be a part of public life, but through personal choice, rather than oppressive demand.
So there it is. This Humanist’s feelings on the apparent marginalisation of Christianity. There’s a nutshell here somewhere, and I guess it’s that Christianity is in no danger of being marginalised. For good and bad, Christianity has had an undeniable impact on the United Kingdom. All that the law is suggesting is that religion is personal, and that being adorned with the cross is not a Christian requirement. After all, those who consider themselves religious are not a minority in the United Kingdom, with the 2001 census recording 71.58% as being Christian. For what it’s worth, 0.7% noted their religion as being Jedi. Although, since then, it would appear the statistics are changing. In terms of politics, it is hard to consider the calls of marginalisation, when in 2010 (the last UK general election), a considerable number of politicians (34%) were supportive of Christian conscience. This is also not forgetting that the Houses of Parliament host an annual National Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast. And if there was ever an opportunity to see the impact of Christianity in politics, there’s a Christian website that allows people to view how politicians vote (morally right or morally wrong) according to Christian beliefs, whether or not the politician in question identifies as Christian, rather than records like the Public Whip, which record votes as simply for or against.
When it comes to being marginalised and discriminated against, I’m inclined to suggest it’s those without a religion who come under fire more than those with a religion. All too often, those without religion are seen as somehow less human. I was just about to do a search on atheism and had got as far as typing “atheists” when the search engine suggested “atheists are evil” second only to “atheists for jesus.” There were no such suggestions when I typed in “Christians.” A cardinal, albeit a controversial one, suggested a lack of faith is “the greatest of evils.” Atheists live in a world where some consider them to have lesser morals than rapists. In a world where some consider atheism to be a mental illness. Maybe, just maybe, those Christians who consider their religion as being marginalised and discriminated against, could look around and see the impact their religion has had, and look at what their religion is meant to teach. It’s love and compassion, right?