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← Denham's misplaced 'faith group' faith

Mark Jones's Avatar Jump to comment 27 by Mark Jones

Comment #433400 by Half_Cut
John Denham says:


I'm a secular humanist and have been all my adult life. As communities secretary I am formally responsible for the government's engagement with faith communities. Lacking some depth of knowledge I set about recruiting a panel of advisors (retained on an expenses-only basis) to advise me on relations with these communities. For the simple pragmatic step of seeking informed advice I have, apparently, "eroded the de facto secularism that has kept our society relatively stable and collegial". Of course I've done nothing of the sort.

This *sounds* like he's just asking faith groups about faith groups. I cannot see any problem in that, as long as that is *all* it means.

In his speech he said:

When I say I am a secular humanist I have to admit that it would take a very skilled theological surgeon to separate my secular beliefs today from the values I absorbed from my upbringing in the Church of England. Values, moral precepts, my sense of the natural calendar and my appreciation of music all owe something to those roots.

I really think this sort of language is a mistake, and leads a lot of people to grant too much respect to the various faiths. A much more accurate statement would be:

As a secular humanist I have to say that it would take a very skilled theological surgeon to separate the Church's worthwhile beliefs from the values that all humankind have developed. Values, moral precepts, my sense of the natural calendar and my appreciation of music all owe something to *those* roots.

Back to the article he's written in response to Grayling, in which he says:

On these issues, and others including climate change and the values of our economy, faiths have views and values that deserve a hearing.

The question is, do they deserve a *privileged* hearing? A secularist says no; what does Denham say? By using terms such as 'respect for faith' it sounds like yes to me.

Incidentally, as a side note Denham also says:

...to defend the responsibility of government to reflect a majority view point even when this is uncomfortable for some believers.

Government doesn't necessarily reflect the majority view point, otherwise the UK would have capital punishment. Governments need to make policy taking on board the best advice *as well*. That is also why allowing faith groups any privilege in the formation of policy is wrong.

Fri, 20 Nov 2009 10:03:00 UTC | #415016