Wednesday, 1 December 2010

National "Not Ashamed" Day: the temper tantrum of the religious right

George Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, has apparently launched National "Not Ashamed" Day. He claims that Christianity is "under attack" and Christians need to wear crucifixes and demonstrate pride in their religious beliefs. It's such a shame that this catchily-titled initiative is not grounded in any semblance of reality.

According to the Telegraph;
“In spite of having contributed so much to our civilization and providing its foundation, the Christian faith is in danger of being stealthily and subtly brushed aside,” he said. 

Mounting evidence of the trend included teachers and council employees who have been suspended for offering to “say a prayer” for people in difficulties, a nurse who was banned from wearing a cross, and a British Airways worker told to remove her crucifix. 

“This attempt to ‘air-brush’ the Christian faith out of the picture is especially obvious as Christmas approaches,” Lord Carey said. “The local council switches on ‘winter lights’ in place of Christmas decorations. Even Christmas has become something of which some are ashamed.” 
This is, of course, pure and unadulterated bollocks. Christmas and Christianity are not under attack, stealthily or overtly. And the evidence on offer is the dubious bullshit churned out by the tabloids to get people angry and sell copy.

I've torn apart the "Christmas banned" nonsense in-depth before. I even went to the trouble of repeating myself when the EDL threatened to close down towns on the basis of the same myths. I've also covered the point about how bemoaning "attacks" on Christianity actually amounts to "the right-wing version of political correctness and playing of the race card by white Christians."

But I'm neither the first nor the last to do this. The facts are out there for anybody who cares to find them, and it is clear that those who are taken in by this idiocy want to be taken in because it serves their ideological agenda. Carey's leaflet (PDF) is a clear example of this.

As Johann Hari noted, back in August;
How can Christians claim they are in fact being "persecuted"? Here are the cases they offer as "proof". A nurse called Shirley Chaplin turned up to work wearing a crucifix around her neck. Her hospital told her that they were worried the elderly and confused patients she worked with could grab at it, so they said she could pin the crucifix to her uniform instead if she liked. That's it. That's their cause celebre. Oh, and a woman called Theresa Davies who worked in a registry office, but refused to perform civil partnerships for gay couples, so... she was moved to working on reception. 

In response, Carey and the CofE demand Christians be allowed to break the law requiring them to treat gay people equally when providing a service to the general public - and that any case where a Christian feels discriminated against should be judged by a special court of "sensitive" Christians. If we started allowing religious people to break basic anti-discrimination laws, where would we stop? Until 1975, the Mormon Church said black people didn't have souls. (They only changed their mind the day the Supreme Court ruled this was illegal, and God niftily appeared to their leader that morning and announced blacks were ensouled after all.) Would we let a Mormon registrar refuse to marry black people? Would it be "Mormonophobia" to object?

When Lord Chief Justice Laws, who is a Christian himself, ruled the exemptions demanded by Carey would be "irrational, divisive, and arbitrary", he threw an extraordinary tantrum and said Christians might begin to engage in "civil unrest". When I saw Carey make these threats on television, red-faced and rageful, it made me think of a nasty child in the playground who had been beating up the gay kids and spitting at the girls for years and is finally told to stop - only to start bawling that he's the one who is being picked on.
Which is exactly what National "Not Ashamed" Day represents. A call to Christians to throw their dummies out of the pram because they can no longer shroud themselves from criticism or common sense with the veil of faith. 

But, fortunately, most people do not seem to agree with him. The Telegraph points out that "a poll for the charity [The Children's Society] showed only 10 per cent of adults thought religious meaning was the most important element of Christmas, while nine out of 10 said Christmas had become too commercialised." Or, people reject the almost hysterical consumer culture built up around Christmas, but by the same proportion they're nonplussed with Jesus Christ's role in the whole affair.

All that this nonsense serves to do is empower fundamentalist elements by falsely equating religious dominance with civil rights. A secular society is the key to genuine religious freedom, and it is in the interests of most Christians as well as atheists and secularists that this idiocy is rejected out of hand.