‘There are also many millions of people - including me - who believe in no god at all’
‘‘Attracting people who like their Bible with a bit more chest hair’
THE Archbishop of Canterbury is not a stupid man, though he is clearly foolish.
Having just read Dr Rowan Williams’s controversial speech in full it is obvious to me that he knows a lot about religion and law.
It is equally apparent that he understands absolutely nothing about the media, how they – sorry we – take the most newsworthy section of a speech and run with it.
The press storm blew away all the subtleties of the archbishop’s carefully-crafted lecture.
I laughed out loud at the Sun’s front page the day after the speech. “What a burqa” it said.
The headline was funny, but I would humbly suggest that it didn’t quite capture the full depth of the archbishop’s arguments.
When you read the speech, it is clear that Dr Williams was not calling for Saudi-style Sharia, but rather for a little bit of Islamic justice for those who want it.
On Monday he clarified this position in a speech to the Church of England’s ruling body.
He said: “…if any practice under Islamic law had the effect of removing from any individual the rights they were entitled to enjoy as a citizen of the UK… I concluded that nothing should be recognised which had that effect.”
Allow me to translate that into English.
When it comes to Sharia the archbishop believes in offering a wee bit of divorce law, the odd bit of financial stuff, but – heaven forbid – none of that hand-chopping or stoning.
Behind Dr Williams’s argument is the idea that the Government should recognise those parts of religious law which respect human rights.
I couldn’t disagree more.
The Government shouldn’t recognise any religious law of any religion.
There are lots of sects in Britain, some big, some small.
There are also many millions of people – including me – who believe in no god at all.
Because of this the only solution which makes sense is secularism, the separation of all churches from the state.
As far as I’m concerned people can believe whatever they want in private. They can worship at any church, mosque, synagogue or temple. Live and let live.
But once we move into the public setting – particularly into a court of law – that changes.
There has to be a level playing field; and that means leaving religious beliefs at the door.
History teaches us again and again and again just how dangerous religious people can be when they control parliaments and courts and armies. And schools.
Towards the end of last week’s speech, in a section overlooked in the media, the archbishop defended
so-called “faith schools”.
He said: “They bring communal loyalties into direct relation with the wider society and inevitably lead to mutual questioning.”
No they don’t.
Sectarian schools cement division. That’s what they are there for, to pass on the beliefs of a church to the next generation.
They don’t encourage questioning; they close off inquiry by telling children that some things should be taken “on faith”. It says so in this or that holy book so that’s the end of the matter.
It should come as no surprise that the archbishop is no fan of secularism. He is after all the head of the established church.
As he said in last Thursday’s speech: “the law of the Church of England is the law of the land.”
Is this fair? Of course not; so Dr Williams seems to be saying that the other religions should get a slice of the pie as well.
But the more obvious solution is the opposite one; disestablish the Church of England. Bring it down to the legal level of all the other religions in this country.
The fact that the C of E is still the official church is becoming a real problem for Anglicans.
Dr Williams, judging by his own words, sees the Church of England as a kind of spokesman for all religions.
In a way his “clarification” speech at the General Synod on Monday was more worrying than his original lecture on Islamic law.
He told the assembled leaders of the Church of England that “part of both the burden and the privilege of being the Church we are, in the nation we’re in, is that we are often looked to for some coherent voice on behalf of all the faith communities living here.”
Again, I will try to translate this into English.
Dr Williams is basically saying, pity the poor Muslims who can’t speak for themselves.
But fear not, for the good old C of E will speak for you – and for all the other religions too.
Now I happen to believe that non-Anglicans are more than capable of putting their points across. The Muslims don’t need a hand, neither do the Hindus or the Baptists.
Though I have to admit, looking at that Tom Cruise video on the internet the Scientologists could probably do with a new spokesman.
Part of the Church of England’s problem is that it sees itself as the defender of all religions against a Godless world. This is one of the reasons for its decline.
The days when it truly was the church of the English people are long gone. Its services are attended by a dwindling and ageing minority. When it comes to bums-on-pews the C of E has been overtaken by the Catholic Church.
And the more fiery brands of evangelical Protestantism are also nibbling away at the C of E, attracting people who like their Bible with a bit more chest hair.
Christianity is on the slide in England. Yet the C of E is reluctant to aggressively fight for its share of this declining market.
Dr Williams’s speech on Islamic law has attracted near-total opposition.
But it’s interesting that some of the most anguished voices raised against the archbishop have come from his fellow Anglicans, who would like to see him lead his own church rather than hand-wring about the rights of other religious groups.
Until the C of E is disestablished that is unlikely to happen.
A pricey presenter
FAIR play to Natasha Kaplinsky for saying what we’re all thinking.
Yes, she is paid too much. Way too much.
The newsreader has signed a contract with Five for a reported £3m over three years.
In a recent interview she was asked if she was worth this princely sum.
Kaplinsky said: “Channel 5 seem to think I am, but, no, how can anybody justify that?”
For, much as she might deny it, the fact is that newsreading is not a particularly difficult thing to do.
It requires two skills; reading out loud and looking pretty.
Most of us can do the former from a young age, but are never able ever to do the latter.
Perhaps I’m being a little unfair. It’s true that anchors sometimes have to do interviews as well, so I suppose a third skill would be the ability to ask up to three questions and then say “thank you”.
That’s basically it. Worth £1m a year?
I suppose Five would say that yes, Kaplinsky deserves the big salary if she brings in more viewers and hence more advertising revenue.
And I suppose, you might think that Kaplinsy, at 35, needs to make hay while the sun shines.
Male anchors can go on for decades up to, and even past, retirement age.
But female news readers have a shelf life only slightly longer than that of a professional
This could be Kaplinsky’s last fat contract