Giles Fraser sides with the militant atheists in the face of Eric Pickles’ somewhat crass comments about militant atheism and this being a Christian country. I find it mildly disconcerting to realise that I am vaguely alongside Fraser on this one. Religion, as far as I am concerned falls within freedom of conscience. However, it should also be a private matter – in the closet as it were – not paraded about for all to see and hear. It is between the religious and their god – or spaghetti monster if you prefer.
Which is why I don’t regard it as okay to say prayers at the start of a council meeting. It assumes – arrogantly – that everyone present wishes to commune with a mythical deity and is okay with this. It is imposing religion where it has no place. The council chamber is not a church, therefore, it is not a place for worship, it is a place for secular matters, not religious ones and it is not political correctness to point this out. You want to say prayers, say them in your closet, your church or your chapel, not the council chamber. Do not presume to impose your beliefs on those who do not share them. To do so is incredibly rude and arrogant.
Likewise, as someone who does not share those beliefs – to the point of finding them absurd – I will defend absolutely the right of anyone to practice whatever belief they like – their freedom of conscience – providing they do not seek to impose it upon others. So, yes, keep it private. I don’t go into public places and loudly declare my lack of religion, likewise I don’t expect you to impose your prayers on me as it’s not polite. We are not a Christian country. We were, once, but we are no longer and that is no bad thing.
Pickles is an idiot – a blustering buffoon using religion as a form of triumphalism and it is incredibly distasteful. But, then, he’s a politician, so I guess distasteful is what we should be expecting anyway. Along with populist, vacuous gesturing. And in the process, he places me on the same side as Giles Fraser. Lord almighty!