BE amazed. Even outraged. The Rt Hon Charles Clarke, a former Labour Home Secretary, has joined a new cavalcade of those who believe that faith has an important role to play in British politics.
Clarke, 61, was appointed last year as Visiting Professor of Politics and Faith in the Department of Politics, Philosophy and Religion at the University of Lancaster, and, according to today’s Telegraph, now has a new part-time job involves working with the Religion and Society Programme, a £12 million research effort to establish and define who we are and what we believe in as a nation.
Clarke is quoted as saying:
The traditional view on the Left is that faith is a pernicious thing and just wrong. I happen to believe that in general faith is a force for good.
I believe very strongly that faith has to be properly thought about in Britain. We have a very ill-informed debate about things like faith schools, in which people are talking out of deep prejudice about what they say is happening, when it is not actually the case.
In his inaugural lecture as Visiting Professor etc in Lancaster last March, Clarke said:
In the UK no serious assessment of education policy, community development, social care, scientific and technological change in health, counter-terrorism or constitutional reform is complete without a serious consideration of the relationships between faith and politics.
However the relationship is all too often characterised by misunderstandings and misrepresentations. Malevolence and disrespect are commonplace even amongst intelligent commentators whom one would expect to be better informed.
For example at the time of the recent visit by the Pope some of the attacks upon the Catholic Church by so-called rational humanists were ill-informed and intemperate. Much discussion of Islam is similarly unbalanced.
Some contributions to debate about the existence of faith schools betray almost no understanding of the ways in which such schools work and peddle colourful images which are often utterly misleading.
What I find distressing about the conduct and language of some of those who, like myself, cannot bring themselves to believe in the existence of God, is the contempt they so often express towards those who do have faith, and the ways in which they seem to consider almost every act of believers as motivated by malevolence, evangelistic ambition or self-interest. And too often their condemnation is larded with self-satisfied arrogance and condescension.
During my political life I have come across an enormous range of individuals for whom faith has been an immensely important positive motivator, and sometimes an absolutely essential support in times of difficulty. They do not deserve to be maligned and challenged in the way that they often are, or to have their own conduct and beliefs confused with those of the sectarians, extremists and obsessives who certainly do exist within every faith as amongst those of no faith.
Humanists and atheists would rightly deny that philosophical beliefs such as theirs led inevitably to the secular totalitarianism of Stalin, Hitler or Pol Pot. They should not make the similar charge that adherence to a faith leads inevitably to the Inquisition or religious intolerance of other forms.
There’s more. MUCH more. But I am far too dispirited to delve further into this misguided man’s nonsense.
Hat tip: Jeanne C.
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