17 February 2009

In (at least partial) support of John Sentamu

Most Giroscope posts on the topic of religion have tended to read as if they were drafted by a slightly toned down version of Richard Dawkins, but I wanted to say a few words in (partial) support of the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, who said today that Christians are regarded as mad by society.

Sentamu was one of the most vocal critics of the BBC's shamefully callous and irresponsible decision not to air the DEC's Gaza aid appeal a few weeks back, and his denunciation of the BBC was based on pretty much exact the same arguments as my own.

I also find a lot to admire in his latest remarks. He says that Christians are regarded as mad by the rest of society because "they are motivated by charity and compassion rather than the relentless pursuit of money".

Scrub out "society" from that sentence and substitute "the people who call the shots in capitalist society and all of us who believe their lies" and it's 100% correct.

John Sentamu is absolutely right that the relentless pursuit of profit at all costs is a problem - but this ain't a "Christians vs non-Christians" issue. Many Christians - or at least people who call themselves Christian (and who is to say what the difference is?) are relentless pursuers of profit. Many non-Christians, either from other religions or atheists, aren't. (To be fair, Sentamu does say "it is not as if we are the only ethically minded people on the block - far from it".)

In the present crisis of capitalism we need everybody who is opposed to the lunacy that has brought us to the present economic collapse - religious people, non-religious people, and those who haven't a clue - to stand together. But we need to stand together because of our common economic ideology, and not divided by this or that religious belief. That is the key issue. If Christian beliefs help get you to the conclusion that capitalism is morally bankrupt, then bloody great - join the club. But it sure ain't the only way to reach that conclusion.

On a slightly different issue (although I'm not sure if Sentamu actually discussed this in his speech or if the Telegraph just shoehorned it into the report as part of its latest hobbyhorse) I don't think it's right that people should be sacked for talking about their religion in the workplace. I can't see how it's hurting anyone if someone tells me they're praying for me, for instance. Free speech, and all that.

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