Friday, September 07, 2012

In Praise of Diversity and the Irrational




I am not entirely convinced by the religious freedom arguments put forward by the Strasbourg 4, it could be that I am not entirely familiar these arguments and should read further but it strikes me that a Christian doesn't work in a brothel or a Jew work in bacon factory.

Because we are Christians some jobs are closed to us. More interestingly is the Cologne courts ruling that bans Jewish parents from circumcising their boys, I am not sure even Hitler forbade this. It is going to mean the expulsion, albeit a "voluntary" one of Jews from this part of Germany. On a rational level cutting skin off of a child's body is totally irrational, obviously it is objectionable for black adolescent Sudanese girls, even if they consent, even if it happens under a compliant matriarchy, of course western girls of a similar age can choose contraceptive implants or to have an abortion, but that is a different issue, isn't it?

But back to German Jews and circumcision, because it is Germany and because of the holocaust and because it is the Jews there is something deeply distasteful in a court or a government forbidding it and yet rationality tells us the courts are right. And yet..., and yet because it is Germany and it is the Jews etc...

The problem is that human behaviour cannot be reduced to the merely rational, religion is always the X factor, humanity cannot be constrained by law or rationality. At the most basic level it is a reminder that mankind is not entirely rational, we are more than our DNA. The law cannot be used to codify every human action, we cannot reduce mankind to a machine where every human peculiarity is reduced to the average, the mean man. Diversity is important, it is about the richness of humanity. In our religion, in our politics, in our sexuality, in our values we are diverse, and diversity produces a society in which ideas challenge one another and is creative, ultimately we learn to live alongside one another.

The exclusion of religion from the public sphere is a worrying sign of a growing totalitarianism, and though on the one hand we acclaim diversity there is the growing tendency to outlaw the diverse, rendering it perverse. The first step is to exclude Christians from the caring professions, but what comes after that. The Cologne court ruling gives us a clue, it is about the restriction of the rights of parents over their children, making the state a child's ultimate guardian. Hitler introduced introduced compulsory state schooling and outlawed home schooling, to ensure that only state approved values were passed on to the nations offspring. In most western countries the introduction of same-sex marriage is going make a significant change to what a child may or may not be taught about human relationships. The values of the state will take precedence over the values of Faith groups or of individual parents.  Already strong Christian views on sexuality bar prospective foster parents from fostering, how long until they bar parents from parenting?

Giving the state such a role is indeed worrying, again returning to Germany, here the 1930s/40s a perverse scientific rationality rendered some people less than human, it was the irrationality and unscientific nature of religion that was the feint that voice challenged that totalitarianism.

Already Christians feel uneasy about involvement with many areas of medicine, of social work, how long before they excluded from other areas of public life. And after Christians and members of other faiths are excluded, which other groups will be pushed to the sidelines?

11 comments:

August said...

What is rationality? Is it not much simpler than people suppose? If you want something and the means via which you believe you shall get it is a particular act, isn't it rational to engage in that act? Doesn't this mean a Jew choosing to circumcise his child is acting rationally?
When most people speak of someone acting irrationally, what they mean is that the person is doing something of which they disapprove. The liberal mindset is such that, if you don't buy into their version of morality, well, you must be crazy. If you accept the idea that religious acts are irrational, well you've already lost the argument, haven't you? If we have no hope of the ends we desire to achieve, what are we doing all this stuff for? We do, in fact, have hope (or at least we are supposed to) and so relgion is not irrational.

Fr Ray Blake said...

August,
No, not quite, it is more about a logical sequence, starting from "scientific" data.

The Bones said...

All that the Holy Father warned us of on his visit here is coming to pass in His Holiness's pontificate no less!

Mike Cliffson said...

Ok belong has more than one meaning, but DNC, stateside:
"We all belong to the Government."

Jacobi said...

Fr.,

You raise several interesting points. European law is certainly becoming “Orwellian”.

There are advantages in male circumcision, hygienic, regarding infections bacterial and fungal, and probably viral, physical comfort, and so on and that is almost certainly why it has become a part of folk culture in the Jewish and Islamic peoples. With modern pain control techniques, there are no disadvantages.

That cultures are forbidden to pursue such customs is surely contrary to natural law and rights. But then Orwell was serious in his warnings!

As you say large areas of medicine are now closed to Christians. I do not see now how a Catholic can even be a GP, since all they do nowadays, apart from referrals, is dispense pills, including contraceptive and aborticides.

The answer is obvious, Christian opinion must be harnessed in protest – and in the ballot box!

The best people to do this are our priests, and other ministers of religion, from the pulpit! It would be a welcome change from being told to be “nice to our fellow man” all the time.

Fr Ray Blake said...

I know some people are obsessed by circumcision, unhealthily so, so let's not go there!

The issue isn't in itself about circumcision in any medical sense but about parents rights over their children, and their right to pass on their faith to them.

Amfortas said...

I just heard the News Quiz on Radio 4. When the subject of the Strasbourg 4 came up the panel proceeded to belittle Christians. This 'humorous' discourse lasted some time, with the usual offensive nonsense from that well know Trotskyist, Jeremy Hardy. The Strasbourg 4 deserve our support. After the show the 1pm news carried the depressing news that two new health ministers favour changing the law on assisted suicide. The forces of darkness - often dressed up as liberal humanism - are all around us.

Nicolas Bellord said...

May I recommend a good read:

Kenneth Minogue: "The Servile Mind or how democracy erodes the moral life".

He acknowledges his debt to Belloc's "The Servile State".

John Fisher said...

I have seen customs such as Aboriginals who cut their chests and put ashes in them leaving scars. Last week I saw some Sudanese in the street who do this on their faces and foreheads. Or what about those ridiculous people who put tattoos like you find on walls all over themselves. Or what of those imbeciles who now cut their earlobes inserting bits of metal so they end up looking like members of tribes from the Amazon. The later things I mention have no religious significance all all.
These things are fashion. It seems to me many modern people mutilate their bodies because they think nothing of themselves. It is self mutilation. Will the government try and outlaw that?

Supertradmum said...

Irrationality is widespread because of relativism and individualism which the Popes condemned over 150 years ago. Objectivity is no longer valued, but one can only be a saint if one can stand back and look at one's self and others with the eyes of God.

I lost family in what was Czechslovakia and my grandparents lost land. The family was politically active and three generations ago on one side Jewish. That is all gone and I shall never know what happened. A piece of me is shrouded in mystery, the mystery of irrationality.

We have to train our young to be rational, otherwise we shall descend even more quickly into barbarism and anarchy. That is what always happens when a civilization stops thinking and reflecting...

Solent Rambler said...

For your information, rather late in the day.

No doubt many in the public sector or a union won't have to worry about the wearing a cross issue.

But there was I minding my own business, working in a housing association some two years ago when a suggestion popped up on our intranet: that women should think about wearing cross in case, you've guessed it, some might be offended.

I asked the obvious question: why can other faiths wear distinctive clothing, but Christians can't?

Back came the now usual answer: a cross is not a requirement of Christian faith.

I enlisted the help of my Muslim colleagues to counter all this - and very supportive they were too.

We then had to deal with the promotion of same sex "marriage". Remember the housing manager who had his salary cut because he wondered in a private Face Book page if SSM was a "step too far"?

Our realistic concern was accusations of "homophobia" and resulting grievance procedures. All in all, it was a worrying, depressing time.

I more than relieved that retirement intervened last December to take me out of the bizarre world of "Equal Ops".

The good part were some very interesting conversations with my Muslim colleagues. Interestingly, the only Christian Church they respect is ours.