So, the Beardy-Weirdy of Canterbury wants to know why we don't like hearing about our politicians' beliefs and why, if we do, we think it makes them a bit… peculiar.
Two words for you, your weirdiness: LORD BLAIRIMORT.
Yes, Britain's most famous (living) GENOCIDAL THEIST, author of pamphlets: "How I Did It!"; "I would have did it ANYWAY!" and "Nozink in ze vorld can SCHTOPP ME NOWWWWW!", back in the news with the revelation that he DIDN'T GIVE TWO HOOTS about the legality of invading that Middle Eastern county.
Religious convictions? We'd settle for convictions for War Crimes!
We have been INCREDIBLY LUCKY in Great Britain to have got away with being only slightly sucked in to the centuries of religious conflict that have wracked Europe since… well, I was going to say the Reformation, but before that there was the Islamic Invasion and the Cursader Counterstrike and before that it was all barbarians and martyrs so it's pretty much since the Council of Nicaea and Emperor Constantine spotting a get-rich-quick scheme that involved seizing the wealth of all the religions in the Roman Empire by forcibly converting everyone to the unpopular one with no money (guess which).
That's not to say that we've avoided it entirely. Hen-er-ry the Eighth's Break with Rome (NOT a cheap holiday away-day) was a POLITICAL act. Everyone knows that. (Although of course ALL religion is a political act, really.) But his kids turned it into something of a personal cursade, what with Eddy going one way then Bloody Mary going the other.
And Earl Conrad Russell (of sainted memory) wrote of how the Bishop Wars of the early Seventeenth Century led into the English Civil War of the mid Seventeenth Century and how RELIGIOUS conflict was at the root of that strife too.
And even today there are STILL deep religious divisions in some parts of the country, not least Northern Ireland (obviously) and some parts of Scotland (often with the same roots again).
HOWEVER, what we've managed to do is find a very British COMPROMISE. And in fact a very LIBERAL compromise, with successive Liberal Governments in the Nineteenth Century legislating to remove religious prejudice from the (Unwritten) Constitution.
The compromise is this: don't mention the RELIGIOUS war… I did it once, but I think I got away with it!
The thing about religious belief is that it TRANSCENDS rational argument. As a militant atheist baby elephant I would have to say that it HAS to. For most people, faith is something that they FEEL, not something that they DEBATE.
(I say most people; obviously the Beardy-Weirdy's PROBLEM stems from the fact that he is an ANGLICAN BISHOP – debating his faith is practically all the job description he's got!)
If you hitch the cart of policy to the donkey of personal faith, you end up with a simile from I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue… but also you make people invest literally their VERY SOULS in your politics (other fish are available); it makes debating IMPOSSIBLE and even agreeing to differ very, very hard.
So, extremely wisely, Britain has chosen to SEPARATE religious views from political ones. We call this a SECULAR STATE. There is a space for people to do religion (or to not do religion if you are a militant atheist baby elephant) and a SEPARATE space for people to debate politics and BECAUSE they are separate, no one needs to get burned at the stake over a disagreement about the interpretation of the Agriculture and Fisheries Bill!
Not that Archpillock Williams wants to get his hands dirty with the nitty gritty of the Agriculture and Fisheries Bill; Bishops almost NEVER turn up in the House of Lords Club when there's REAL work to be done (unless they're out to ban Gay Daddies from getting something everyone else already has!).
But what he means, when he says politicians are "side-lining" religion, is that he doesn't just want to play in his OWN place for doing religion but wants the special right to come and play in the political sandpit too when he wants to be able to give special little favours to his special personal friends.
(For more on how this "marginalisation" works, see HERE!)
Fortunately, and even more wisely, Britain didn't make that separation with the LAW but used the MUCH MORE POWERFUL force of FAUX PAS!
Ban something and you create underdogs and martyrs (again) and will strengthen and perpetuate it – just look at the Hunting Ban. But put mentioning religion on the same level as farting at the Christmas table and you kill it stone dead – look at the decline in smoking BEFORE Hard Labour legislated to ban it!
That's why we think that the Beardy-Weirdy is a bit, er, WEIRD!
That is why people associate Lord Blairimort "getting religion" with Lord Blairimort going BONKERS.
In all honesty, the former Prime Monster could have painted his bottom BRIGHT BLUE and called himself the Queen of Marzipan and people would have thought him less peculiar. THAT would have been "eccentric", but religion… it's just not CRICKET! No wonder Mr Alistair Henchman kept us from finding out about Lord B's "proclivities" with his "we do not do God" quote.
We're not dubious of Lord Blairimort IN SPITE of him turning out to be a closet Catholic.
We are dubious of Lord Blairimort precisely BECAUSE OF his turning out to be a religious whack-job!
His latest self-justification, which EVERYONE can see is because he's going to get hauled in front of the Chilcot Commission, is that Mr Saddam was "BAD" and so ought to have been removed.
But what MAKES a "bad" person "bad"? And who gets to decide and based on what rules and evidence? Because if it is merely "people Lord Blairimort SAYS are bad" then we are into VERY dangerous territory indeed. We're DANGEROUSLY CLOSE to a religious condemnation of the INFIDEL.
Suppose there is a particularly militant anti-Western Muslim in Iraq (I don't think that's TOO hard to imagine): from their perspective they could see Lord Blairimort as "BAD" – after all, he has (according to them) the "wrong" religion and he's certainly launched wars of invasion. Does that mean that the Iraqis would be justified in invading and occupying OUR country to catch HIM and put him on trial so that the Government that they pick for us can have him executed? In Lord Blairimort's world it does!
Look, I am NOT saying that Mr Saddam was all fluffy and nice. He was a TYRANT, a military dictator who invaded other countries (sometimes with our tacit support) and had lots and lots of people killed (even if stories of "people shredders" turned out to be made up propaganda).
But that's NOT a reason for invading his country and killing a lot of people who were frankly his victims. It IS a reason for not giving him lots of money and weapons and egging him on to attack Iran. Which, funnily enough, is something else we failed not to do.
Believing things to be true JUST BECAUSE YOU BELIEVE THEM is the very DEFINITION of a religious conviction. Which may be fine for Eternal Verities, but when it comes to impartial weighing of evidence, never mind deciding to take the Country to WAR, it's RUBBISH.
Bishops – like the Beardy-Weirdy of Canterbury – would like to have the POWER that comes with political control. Politicians – like Lord Blairimort – would like to have the UNQUESTIONING support that comes with FAITH.
Thank goodness our compromise keeps them apart!
PS:*And what's wrong with men wearing frocks?