Farron, religion and Liberalism

That a thoroughly decent man has been forced from public office is a given and I say that as an atheist.

Yes I was very uncomfortable watching Tim contort himself into knots when asked about his religious views and yes the media were out to do him harm over his religion. Just think about it, how many other leading politicians have strong religious views and how many of them have been hounded out of office for holding them? Blair got some stick because he was Roman Catholic but I struggle to think of many others in recent times.

Did Tim bring trouble upon himself? Well yes to some extent because of this contorted answers that had us all scratching our heads. And you know despite his odd answers he actually did a lot to back minority rights and the LGBT community have acknowledged that apart from what I will call their more militant fringe.

Can you be a Liberal hold religious views? Well you must be able to as there seem to be many people out there who do. Anyway one of the significant strands of liberalism comes from ‘Chapel Liberals’ and Methodism. I am sure my dear old Mum was a Chapel Liberal and I personally know many Lib Dem’s who hold strong religious views and I count them as my friends.

The crunch issue as I see it is this. As a Liberal your guiding light is the rights of others and your being willing to stand up for those rights even when you personally do not subscribe to them. That’s what Tim Farron tried to do, that’s why he stood up for LGBT rights even though his religion was seemingly telling him otherwise. His problem was being unable to publicly reconcile his liberalism and religion when the contradictions were put to him by the media. And once he had shown weakness the first time he was asked about the matter it was always going to be where the media homed in.

Were the media involved in bullying and intimidation? Yes of course they were, indeed they were acting as though they were from the 1950’s and steeped in intolerance with more than a hint of the Spanish Inquisition thrown in for good (or is that bad) measure. It’s as though Farron were being treated as a criminal for holding religious and political views, it’s a sad reflection on our reactionary media and the intolerant times we live in.

Yes of course opposition politicians also exploited Tim’s inability to answer straight forward questions on the potential conflict between his religion and his liberalism. I picked up what I viewed to be political trolling comments on this very matter.

Brexit has split us very deeply because it has brought back into focus views that people used to be ashamed of talking about – racism, intolerance, homophobia, etc. Farron in my view became a victim of that new intolerant culture and it shames our society greatly.

One last thing, the schism on the left of British politics is not actually so much about policy but about libertarian versus authoritarian approaches. In general terms socialism is more authoritarian and liberalism is obviously libertarian. Tell you what is good for you as opposed to giving you the facts to make your own mind up you could say. Quite obviously our society is by its nature these days far more authoritarian and less libertarian. I hope it goes without saying that Conservatism is also authoritarian.

Authoritarian societies don’t tolerate differences from the norm and the norm is usually set by the ruling classes. Farron is, like many Liberals before him and those who will follow him, too libertarian to be tolerated by a media and a political establishment that see most things very black and white, right and wrong.

Don’t look upon Farron as someone you liked or disliked in party political terms, look upon him as someone our society showed the door to because he was not conforming to the norms as interpreted by the media and the establishmnet. Then look at other minorities and think about them too, who will be next?

Oh yes and Farron stood in 2017 General Election on a policy of tolerance!

Sefton Church – A Dickensian Christmas Fayre and a blast from my past.

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Sheila and I went along to the Dickensian Fayre held in the church last Saturday and despite the cold (the church heating had broken down so it was only warm in the Vestry) we had a good time.

Sefton Church's Dickensian Fayre. You can see the candelabra I lit as a young chap for church services.

Sefton Church’s Dickensian Fayre. You can see the candelabra I lit as a young chap for church services.

This 800+ year old church is fascinating and I have to confess that I was a choir boy there from around 1969 to 1972. Electricity was only installed in the main church building during my time there. Prior to that I went early to services with old Bert Sutcliffe of Rossyln Avenue Maghull to light the candelabra and oil lamps.

Here I am sat in the choir stalls:-

I recall sitting in this very seat - if memory serves all of course!

I recall sitting in this very seat – if memory serves well of course!

I met a lady there called Beryl from Lunt (sorry Beryl I did not catch your second name) who was attending the church at the same time I was and we reminisced about folk we had known back then – Gerry Brown the organist who sadly died quite young, Nan and Bert Sutcliffe, Mrs Payne, Owen Yandall the Rector etc.

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about the church:-

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Helen’s_Church,_Sefton

We had a lovely cup of hot soup and a bread roll in the warm Vestry and then went outside to have a look at the church from there (I am sure it was warmer outside!). Have a look at this photo, you can clearly see where the wall and window have been rebuilt as a part of the original stone window frame has been left behind.

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A bit of ‘All Our Yesterdays’ for me and a chance to meet so many lovely people from the local area. I was even invited to rejoin the choir by this fine looking Dickensian chap:-

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I don’t think I could repeat that Once in Royal David’s City solo again in the church no matter how hard I tried! And anyway I’m an atheist these days.

The first photo is also amongst my Flickr shots at:-

www.flickr.com/photos/86659476@N07/

Religion in Schools – Time for a fundamental change

I can’t be doing with religious teaching in schools of whatever kind.

Surely we are grown up enough in 2016 to leave youngsters to decide for themselves, when they are old enough, if they want to be religious and if so what religion they want to follow.

Schools are for teaching children life and employability skills not for indoctrinating them to believe whatever religious beliefs their parents may hold.

By all means, as part of broadening the minds of young people, teach them what the major religions of the world believe in and why, but also teach them about Humanism and Atheism too. That way they can go out into the world with clear and open minds adopting or not adopting a religion as they see fit.

Today is World Humanist Day

Today is World Humanist Day, a day of celebration set up in the 1990s. Humanism is not a religion. It is a world view based on secular values, common to any person regardless of nationality, race, culture, sexuality, gender or background. Its ethos is captured in the phrase – nothing to die for, everything to live for.

Humanism is growing across the world and often people lead a humanist life without realising it. The Guardian reported last month that, for the first time, in England and Wales those who identify as non-religious now outnumber Christians.

Sadly, many people still suffer stigma and discrimination for rejecting religion. In some countries atheism is illegal with secularists abused and killed for their lack of belief. Even in more moderate nations like the UK it can still be very difficult for atheists to ‘come out’ for fear of rejection by religious family members or colleagues.

Humanism looks to build a more humane society based on ethical values in a spirit of equality, enquiry and human achievement. Answers are found through science and human rendezvous not the supernatural. At its heart is the recognition that we get one life and everyone should be able to live it in peace.

So all of us atheists are humanists I presume whether we realise it or not. I have been an atheist for 40 years now and should you want to find out more about how one man lost his religion try reading Ludovic Kennedy’s book All in the Mind: A farewell to God.

Reigion and politics do mix – its news but not new news

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-25889828

This story (see link above) from the BBC web site probably confirms what we have always known, as a rule of thumb, about the connection between religious views and party political support.

My Mum was a Chapel Liberal and Dad a C of E Tory; I am an atheist Liberal.

But of course the BBC study is all about generalisations as I know plenty of C of E and indeed Catholic Liberals.

Religious teaching row

The Church of England has recently criticised the government over limited resources being devoted to training religious education teachers, branding it as a scandal that is affecting “an essential part” of every child’s studies. The criticism comes as a Ofsted report finds that more than half of all schools have been failing pupils in their religious education, a subject which the watchdog claims is increasingly important “in an ever more globalised and multicultural 21st century” because of the way it promotes respect and empathy. Ofsted added that children are leaving school with a “very limited understanding” of Christianity.

I picked this up from a Local Government Information Unit briefing and it made me think about my religious education at school. To be honest I can’t really recall any of it at all! What I knew about religions on leaving school I had picked up from my C of E church going (St Andrews – Maghull & St Helens – Sefton Village) and things I had read myself. On that basis the criticism above goes back around 40 years and probably more! Evan as an atheist I can see the value of youngsters gaining some insight into major world religions as what you may call ‘useful information for life’.

By now you will have realised that I walked away from religion, many years ago I would add, but I guess that I did so not because of what I did or did not learn about it all at school but because of my own reading and discussion with friends.

The big test for our society is not what religion we follow (or not) but how tolerant we are of those with differing views and beliefs, how we embrace the diversity of differing views and whether as free thinking individuals we close to take up a religion or not. Other than providing useful information about the value systems of various major religions I see no other need for this to be a part of a youngster’s education; it certainly was not a part of mine but maybe religious readers of this posting would say that contributed towards me becoming an atheist. Now there’s a thought……….