Friday, June 24, 2005

My, that mad Stephen Green from Christian Voice has been busy, hasn't he?

The background is that the Co-op bank recently refused its services to the fundamentalist group, citing their rabid homophobia. Lovely Mr Green, who can in no way be described as a sexually-insecure sociopath, replied:

"The decision from the Co-operative Bank fits a pattern where politically-correct bully-boys try to attack Christian organisations, Christian symbols, the Bible, and in the case of Jerry Springer the Opera and BBC2, even the person of our Saviour."

Well, this is shocking, isn't it? CV's argument is that the bank is 'hypocritical', because it embraces freedom of sexual orientation, but not freedom to be a religious bigot. Of course, this is the kind of fuzzy, comparing apples with pears logic you'd expect from someone who really, really believes that the Old Testament is true. Christian Voice are calling for homosexuality to be, if not outlawed, at least repressed and ostracised. Homosexuals, on the other hand, are not exercising their presumably reciprocal right to have religion outlawed - so who sounds more reasonable?

The indisputable fact is that no bank is obliged to provide custom, just as bars and clubs can refuse admission if they don't like your shoes, or your face. If Co-op were the only bank in the world, then there would be an argument that it was unfair to refuse CV an account, but they are not; and there are plenty of banks around who'll take money off pretty much anyone.
So well done ethical bankers!

This all links in to my continuing watch of the Government's proposed ban on "stirring up religious hatred' (see posts passim). There was a very good piece by Nicholas Hytner on 'The Week' (now with 10 per cent more Andrew Neil). He put it something like this: "I have a right to say your religion is stupid; you have a right to tell me that I'm going to burn in hell." What neither person should be able to do is use this as the basis to harm the other.

One of my favourite moments was the Government (who introduced the bill mainly to appease the anti-war Muslim vote) realised they had inadvertantly provided protection for Satanists, and indeed any other weird cult with enough members.
Richard Dawkins uses Bertrand Russell's example of a floating teapot, which orbits the Moon, to illustrate the weirdness of religious belief - "I have no proof that there is a teapot, I can never have proof - but I believe, and you have no proof it's untrue. Therefore it's true."

The problem is that if you can convince a hundred, even a thousand other people of your particular daft theory, then it surely must count as a religion, and be protected by the law. Interestingly, the modification community tried a wheeze a few years back to set up a "Church of Body Modification" in the US. It fell apart amid accusations of financial chicanery and overbearing leadership, but the idea was that you could argue your spirituality was enhanced by having a nose piercing, in the same way Sikhs wear turbans, or some Muslims wear the hijab. It was certainly an interesting idea.

I seem to have strayed off the point somewhat, and it was this: that there can be no complete protection in law for your beliefs. Neither should there be, because there will always be those whose beliefs, both powerful, are contradictory.

Invoking the idea of some unprovable God shouldn't be a kind of 'get out of argument free' card either. If the government wants to make a law concerning belief, it should be that no-one is allowed to venture their opinion without some kind of evidence to back it up. So if you hate gay people, you can't abdicate responsibility by blaming it on some God who hates gays too. If you think one race is inferior, then whip out the proof, don;t be shy, we'd all be interested to see it. If you think women are dirty, lesser humans who lead men into sin.... don't bother reading this blog.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

cf. Richard Dawkins' point: You can't assent to believe. You believe something because you already think it's true. You assume these beliefs are adopted uncritically and people with religious beliefs are wilfully wrongheaded. Unless you only accept as true things that have been proven to you then I think you’re being consistent.

I accept as true all sorts of things which will never be proven to me, simply because I am too stupid to understand the 'proof'. Do you accept the possibility - without having understood any proof- that there are crazy-ass black holes out there - places so weird time gets twisted? I reckon you do. If so, how can you then dismiss religious belief with a wave of the hand? You can't. You're on thin ice. With a deluxe turbo hairdryer pointed at your feet.

As for the Co-op, I’m applying your impossibly high, believe-it-when-I-see-it standard of proof to its decision. 'Ethical' banking only hove into view when people were prepared to pay for it. People are ethical; banks are not. They are efficient at best. Corporate and Social Responsibility is a sellable brand and I suspect those good people at the Co-op took the calculated risk that refusing CV is more likely to impress its target demographic (liberal, tolerant, middle-class folk) than, for example, refusing the Animal Liberation Front. (Also, ALF more likely to car bomb when displeased).

7/19/2005 9:48 am  

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