07 July 2008

Wanna be a bigoted reactionary? Better go hide in the church then.

Firstly people, sorry for the infrequency of posting at the moment. Having gone self employed I find that many waking moments are spent trying to do various stuff I am being paid for, and this blog gets filed under the 'remainder', if you like. Nonetheless Friday evening often presents an opportunity. For the next few weeks I'm gonna use a reasonably serious end-of-week post as an opportunity to catch up on big issues that have been bugging me lately, and intersperse that with short mid-week bursts of comedy wherever possible.

I'm gonna post on religion this week - not my usual topic of conversation, for sure, as a reasonably committed atheist (although not in the rabid 'anyone with religious sensibilities is a dribbling imbecile' Richard Dawkins camp). Nonetheless I did venture onto this fertile new territory a couple of months back to suggest that Tony Blair was a twat, and I'd now like to take the opportunity to give the good ol' C of E some advice.

For the benefit of anyone not from the UK reading this (well you never know), in Britain (well 'England' actually) the official religion (i.e. established church) is the Church of England. Started in bizarre circumstances (King Henry VIII wanted a divorce and the Pope refused so Henry said "OK, see ya"), it is a "broad church" in a very real sense - encompassing all sorts of punters including die-hard 'Anglo-Catholics' , radical quasi-Marxists and tub-thumping evangelicals plus just about every other combination.

The C of E is now facing a possible 'schism' because one group - call them the 'modernisers' - want women to be allowed to become bishops (they're already allowed to be priests) and another group - let's call them the 'reactionaries' (biased language, but then I am biased, so let's have cards on the table here) think they shouldn't be allowed. What's more, the reactionaries want to be allowed to have a special 'male-only' bishop category so that any of them who wants to opt out of worshipping under a female bishop should be allowed to do so.

What's amazing about stuff like this is that the reactionaries' stance is so obviously sexist that it's amazing it's even legal under human rights legislation. If any secular group wanted to mount a campaign in favour of women being debarred from taking a certain type of job, they'd be laughed out of court. But because this is a religious grouping, they're allowed to get away with it.

It's the same with the reactionaries' stance on homosexuality. Their anti-gay stance would be indefensible, indeed would have overtones of fascism, if it came from a non-religious source. But because they are religious, their arguments are seen as somehow defensible - even though their only justification is from The Bible, a book which no-one outside the Christian faith would accept as an authoritative source, and even within the Christian faith there is no agreement whatsoever on its correct interpretation.

The logical conclusion to draw from this is that if you want to be a right-wing fascistic misanthrope, go hide out in the C of E - because the modernisers haven't got the guts (or, more charitably, they pity you too much) to kick you out and expose you for what you are - miserable scum. Of course even if they do kick you out, you have several other options:

  • start your own non-aligned church.
  • Join the Roman Catholic church (which is even more hardline reactionary on this than most of the C of E traditionalists, and where the modernisers are in a far weaker position since the Pope runs the thing like the Soviet Union circa 1950).
  • join another religion that has a proportion of homophobics and misogynists who get themselves taken seriously (radical Islam and orthodox Judaism spring to mind, although it can be difficult to get into the latter unless you have the correct ethnic background).
  • Start your own religion. Worked very well for L Ron Hubbard for example...
So, reactionaries of the Anglican communion, don't feel too down that the Synod voted for women bishops on Tuesday. Because of society's remarkable tolerance towards irrational hatred of gays and women - as long as it is claimed to be religiously motivated - you have many alternative hiding places.

Johnson deserves to be extended: religion, as well as patriotism, is the last refuge of the scoundrel.

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