NSS President attacks Church of England's pastoral letter

NSS President attacks Church of England's pastoral letter May 8, 2017

Addressing voters in a pre-General Election pastoral letter, C of E Archbishops said faith has a central role to play in politics and that:

Political responses to the problems of religiously-motivated violence and extremism, at home and overseas, must also recognise that solutions will not be found simply in further secularisation of the public realm.

Terry Sanderson, President of the National Secular Society, today hit back, saying:

This is as wrong-headed as it is possible to be. A secular response is the only response that will stop this horrendous violence.
More religion, more theology means more conflict. All these religious wars are based on disagreements over tiny matters of theological interpretation. Or so it seems to those of us looking at it from the outside.
The Church asserts that only it can provide the answer. The problem is that the Church is often at the heart of the problem.
We need to put theology back into church and keep it well away from politics. The harm it causes is clear for all the see. If only they could see it, the bishops would realise that secularism is the only way to protect religious minorities from their bullying, and sometimes murderous, larger cousins.

He added:

But such a vision seems not to penetrate the bubble surround the religious hierarchies of this country or any other. That is because most religions see themselves as the true guardians of power. They consider it their right and duty to run the world.
The Church of England’s attempt to insert further itself into politics is wrong and potentially dangerous. Its hey-day has passed and there are other challenger religions that will soon be able to make claims to being more important than Anglicanism in England.
We need to make sure religion and politics are separated, and there is still long way to go in this country to achieve that.

The letter also makes the case for more “religious literacy” in education. It says:

Contemporary politics needs to re-evaluate the importance of religious belief. The assumptions of secularism are not a reliable guide to the way the world works, nor will they enable us to understand the place of faith in other people’s lives.

Sanderson said:

This is the usual misrepresentation of secularism as being anti-religious. The NSS has proposed that religious education should be reformed to help children understand religion better as a social phenomenon and as something that is important to some people.
The much misused phrase ‘religious literacy’ is too often a cover for the religious to have even more influence in schools and – as at present – frequently misuse it as a platform for proselytising. What secularists want to see is a balanced and objective approach to religion, and that is the last thing single-faith schools want to see.

Hat tip: John Dowdle

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  • Simon

    But religion is important. Deadly important. And it must be, because it is certainly at the root of human conflict, be defanged, marginalised and sent off the field of play to spectate from the bleachers.

  • Robster

    It is a strange thing that the referred to as “religious leaders” (leaders of what, who knows) seem totally incapable of facing or even understanding truth. To call for more religion as an answer to the growing horror of religiously inspired violence is astonishingly silly as would be expected from a magic sky fairy believer.

  • 1859

    ‘Political responses to the problems of religiously-motivated violence and extremism, at home and overseas, must also recognise that solutions will not be found simply in further secularisation of the public realm.’
    What utter crap! Just look at what this sentence is really implying:- Secular politics alone can’t solve religious violence, we therefore need even MORE religion in the world in order to solve the problem of religious violence.
    It’s like saying this virus is destroying my healthy body, but I don’t need medicine to stop the virus, no, I need MORE of the virus! Which is why we should ignore these arch-idiot-bishops and the nonsense they peddle.

  • Simon

    @1859 Be careful with your analogies because Loius Pasteur discovered that immunisation against disease can be done with an “infection” of the troublesome microbial agent. Not sure if that applies to viral infections but don’t give the pious the chance to twist your words to their advantage.
    OT … I was listening to Axp on YouTube last night. If you want to be shaken to your core by the gullibility and stupidity of the pious give it a listen. Search for Dillahunty or Axp Austin to find stacks of clips an episodes where the idiocy of the religious is on display.

  • Alan Rogers

    Tony Blair and Ruth Kelly set up hundreds of sectarian schools (aka faith schools) as a response to the “9/11” and “7/7” atrocities. The Tories have expanded this lunacy even further. Segregating children and then indoctrinating them into competing religions spells social and civic disaster. And now we have (and seem likely to retain) an Anglo-Catholic PM.

  • Jenna

    This is why Terry Sanderson is right and here is the latest proof to be added to billions of other cases…
    Jakarta governor Ahok found guilty of blasphemy – BBC News

  • Brian Jordan

    The CofE is just jealous. Just as we were nicely getting it off our backs, Muslims appeared who were visibly far more pious. This made the CofE sick, yea even as a parrot, and now they want a bigger slice of the action again.

  • gedediah

    I think this can be regarded as a rear guard action. They are being slowly squeezed out of the public arena and lash out every now and again. The long term trend seems to be headed in the right direction.

  • barriejohn
  • The churches, especially anglican ones, are slowly going under the waves, The occupants are leaving in the lifeboats whilst the remaining crew shout and wave, hoping to be noticed and rescued. They also grab on to as many buoyancy aids (schools, government influence etc.)as they can to help keep them afloat. I could carry the analogy further but I think the point is there – those who are drowning wave and shout the most vigorously.

  • Jenna

    bj … yes I have watched dozens of Matt Dillahunty and co. Youtube clips. I watch the live Podcast on sunday evenings too. I never heard a god botherer or creationist make anything otherv than a CRINGEWORTHY defence of their faith. Watch and you are watching the representatives of a huge portion of the USA. And that should scare you … scare you rigid. And its the doing of the evagelical christian lobby who want to reduce Americans to stupefied compliant jesus fodder for their own specious play for power and riches.

  • barriejohn

    Jenna et al: Hemant posted the following tonight. We have to take it on trust that the source is reliable, I suppose.
    He is, apparently, convinced that a recorded programme must be showing at the time that he is watching it – or maybe that someone could stop him watching it at an inappropriate time!

  • 1859

    @ Simon : Thanks – point taken.The problem is we don’t have an innate immune system always at the ready to defend us from religious infection. All we do have is our reason, but unfortunately, this is not innate!

  • remigius

    ‘@1859 Be careful with your analogies because Loius Pasteur discovered that immunisation against disease can be done with an “infection” of the troublesome microbial agent.’
    @Simon. Be careful with your analogies because it wasn’t Louis Pasteur who made that discovery, rather it was Pasteur’s colleague Charles Chamberland.
    Pasteur got the credit – just as Edward Jenner is credited with the ‘discovery’ of vaccination (using cowpox to immunise against smallpox), whereas it was actually a Dorset farmer called Benjamin Jesty a few decades earlier.
    Both Pasteur and Jenner acknowledged the actual discoverers, but history, it seems, hasn’t.

  • 1859

    @ Regimus: Farmer Jesty must have picked up the idea from a wandering Chinaman because the Chinese were vaccinating their nobility from about 1300AD – though not, it seems, with cowpox. There appears to be mention of the method being used in India in 1000 AD. It seems – thanks to Wikipedia – that by the 17th Century the method had reached Turkey and was tried, successfully, by an English aristocratic woman, Lady Montagu who brought the knowledge to England not long after 1718. Wouldn’t it be an amazing coincidence if she was the next door neighbour of Farmer Jesty?

  • remigius

    @1859. The chinese weren’t vaccinating, they were inoculating. They inhaled powdered smallpox scabs into the nostrils.
    Later inoculation involved using the pus from the open sores of those infected with smallpox. There is a scene in HBO’s John Adams mini-series that shows this.
    There was no link between Jesty and Lady M. I looked for one about 20 years ago but couldn’t find anything. I believe that Jesty merely observed that those with cowpox didn’t get smallpox, and went with it. (He was a dairy farmer, and milkmaids are prone to cowpox).
    I didn’t hear about Jesty until 1996. An article about me appeared in a publication, alongside a piece about Jesty. I had always been taught it was Jenner who made the discovery, even though Jesty had lived not far from where I grew up.

  • andym

    If a proper comparative religious education included their bloody histories and records of persecution, that could be the vaccine.

  • 1859

    @ regimius: What a delicious hobby – inhaling powdered smallpox scabs into the nostrils! I saw the John Adams scene you mentioned a couple of years ago – it must have been bloody dangerous, deliberately infecting yourself with real, live smallpox virus in the hope you wouldn’t die but recover and be thereafter immune?