.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Thursday, December 20, 2007

God and the man

So what is this new-found obsession of the British media with the individual religious beliefs of our politicians all about? Let us hope that we do not start going down the American path, where every candidate feels the need to outdo the others in the way that they observe their faith and being a devout Muslim is an electoral liability. God is even used to justify decisions made by those in power, although curiously those who profess to have the Almighty as their guide appear to be the ones most out-of-touch with their electorate. The invasion of Iraq is the most obvious example.

In the UK, I blame Tony Blair. Although he famously refused to talk about his faith for fear of being considered a bit of a "nutter", we all knew that he was a very religious man and a lot of his speeches and decisions had that fervour and self-belief about them that can only come from a man who is comfortable with his own destiny. You would never catch our former Prime Minister giving a straight answer to a straight question in the way that the Liberal Democrat leader did yesterday.

I can only think that the interviewer who asked Nick Clegg if he believed in God had run out of questions to ask. In my view Nick should have declined to answer, or said something along the lines of 'my personal life and that of my wife and children are private and have no bearing on my work as a politician. The same applies to my personal religious beliefs. What matters is the sort of country my party and I wish to create, and unless we decide to force people to adopt a particular set of religious beliefs, try to deny them the right to worship as they wish or start to justify our policies as divinely inspired then how I and my colleagues feel about God is immaterial to the wider political debate we are participating in.' Of course when you are put on the spot and asked to provide a one word answer it is not easy to get all that out.

The most sensible pronouncement on all of this Christmas silly-season media interest* comes from the Archbishop of Canterbury. He is quoted in the Guardian as saying: "It matters less to me than to know that they [politicians] are honest and reliable and that what beliefs they have they hold sincerely. "This isn't a country where Christianity is imposed by law ... obviously, I would prefer it if he were a Christian but you know, his integrity is what matters." Way to go, Rowan.

*Non-Liberal Democrat readers need to understand at this point that the modest coverage that this pronouncement got is in fact quite a lot for a Liberal Democrat. As such I feel justified in describing the many column inches Nick Clegg's answer attracted as voluminous.
He wouldn't be Nick Clegg if he didn't give straight answers like this, more often than political convention expects.

Drug use is different - it is something to be ashamed of, and it is in the past. But nobody should be made to feel ashamed of their religious affiliation.
The thing is, it is quite relevant in some cases. For example, some Christians subscribe to the view that Israel must be protected to fulfil biblical prophecies. It's quite a ridiculous view, especially given the Bible has little to say about politics and nothing to say about modern day Israel as a nation.

David Lloyd George, for instance, was quite a Zionist and made great efforts to secure a Jewish state. In the end Britain and others ended up shafting the Arabian people in the Middle East by promising them a homeland but never (to date) delivering. Quite a relevant issue, I'm sure you'll agree.
> I can only think that the interviewer who asked Nick Clegg if
> he believed in God had run out of
questions to ask.

From the BBC news report: "New Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has said "no" when asked on
BBC radio if he believed in God. The rapid-fire question and answer format
on 5 Live meant the 40-year-old did not have the chance to elaborate."

Full marks to Nick Clegg for being straight anyway. Some Tories, who still see the Church of England as "the Conservatives at prayer" may try to make something of it, but in this matter ours are surely more enlightened than US politicians.

Labour, with so many prominent members brought up in the secular socialist tradition, will surely avoid the question.

When all's said and done, we should be looking at our leaders' sense of morality, not what creed they adhere to.

Frank Little
I thought it was very refreshing have a politician give a straight Yes/No answer. Even though what you say is true, had he given the reply you suggest, then they'd just come to some conclusions from it and twist things.
As your comments on Tony Blair show, Peter, a believer is just as likely to be criticised for his faith as a non-beliver for his lack of it.
I found his response quite refreshing. Normally politicians will attempt to skirt around the question if they're an atheist, for fear of alienating religious voters.

Declining to answer would have most likely come across in this light.

A Swansea Blog
I'm surprised no newspapers went with the headline 'New Lib Dem leader believes in nothing'.
Umm, where does it say that a politician has to believe in God?
I respect Mr Clegg for 'coming out' as an atheist - there's an awful lot of us out there!
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?