News

Pickles’ ‘Christian Nation’ baloney is roundly attacked

Pickles’ ‘Christian Nation’ baloney is roundly attacked

A CHRISTIAN commentator for the Guardian, Giles Fraser, has accused the absurd Tory Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, of “crass Christian flag waving” over his latest religious outpourings.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles

The bloated buffoon told the Conservative spring forum in London:

We are a Christian nation. And don’t impose your politically correct intolerance on others.

These words, Fraser points out, come a few days after Pickles  had ordered the police into Tower Hamlets council to investigate apparent financial mismanagement of a local authority that is run by Britain’s first Muslim executive mayor, Lutfur Rahman, and this in a borough with one of the highest ethnic minority populations in London, many of them Bengalis.

At the very least, this sort of crass Christian flag waving is wildly inappropriate, especially from a communities secretary. Tower Hamlets has a good record of community relations. From the curry houses of Brick Lane to the largely white working-class estates in Bow further east, Christians, Jews and Muslims get on remarkably well.

Gays? Well, some are working to make things better.

Fraser said that for Pickles to talk provocatively of us being a Christian nation at the same time as sending the coppers into a Muslim-dominated council is a whopping misjudgment.

He added:

For if political correctness means anything, it is surely that language matters. It matters because language often serves and reinforces the interests of a dominant culture to the exclusion of others – women, homosexuals, people of colour, people of other religious traditions. Eric Pickles may not think this matters much: but as communities secretary, he should.

Christianity, he said  “went bad” when it became appropriated by the Roman empire and the cross went from being a symbol of political oppression to a religious form of state triumphalism. Which is why all Christians should be extremely queasy about any cheap talk of us or anyone else being a “Christian nation”.

If that is what Christianity is, then I will happily side with the militant atheists. For only when Christianity has come out of the shadow of Constantine’s conversion of the Roman empire to Christianity – thus creating the dangerous idea of a Christian nation – can we return to recognising its essential force: that God is to be discovered alongside the victim, no matter what colour, class or creed. And if that is a form of political correctness, then so be it.

The National Secular Society accused the posturing prig of taking the usual easy pop at “militant atheists”, pointing out that he also reportedly said:

I’ve stopped an attempt by militant atheists to ban councils having prayers at the start of meetings if they wish. Heaven forbid. We’re a Christian nation. We have an established church. Get over it. And don’t impose your politically correct intolerance on others.

NSS President Terry Sanderson set the record straight:

He was referring, of course, to the National Secular Society’s 2012 High Court case that ruled that it is illegal for local councils to include prayers as part of their official agenda.

After that decision, Mr Pickles rushed to bring forward by a few weeks the Localism Act and in doing so announced that councils could now keep prayers on their agenda if they want to.

There is no mention in the Localism Act of council prayers, nor was there any in the parliamentary debates leading up to it. And the Act was given Royal Assent long before the High Court judgment was issued.

In that case, the High Court ruling stands and Mr Pickles’ contention that it doesn’t has never been tested in court.

Mr Pickles’ seems to be taking the Alice in Wonderland approach to the law, as to paraphrase Humpty Dumpty “the law means what I want it to mean”.

The NSS has told Mr Pickles repeatedly that he is misrepresenting the facts of this case and yet he continues to do it. We never said that all prayers in Town Halls should be banned. We simply said that it shouldn’t be part of official business so that everyone, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Jew, atheist or anyone else, could take part in good conscience and without intimidation.

Many councils now have prayers before the meeting agenda begins, and we have no objection to that.

Mr Pickles is entitled to be as enthusiastic an evangelical Christian as he wants to be, but we live in a democracy, not a theocracy. He cannot – as he has done – simply place his personal beliefs before the law.

The British Humanist Association also entered the fray, describing Pickles’ words as “comical”:

BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented

The Minister’s views are deeply misguided and he is simply incorrect – only a minority of people in Britain are practising Christians and over half of the population sees itself as non-religious according to repeated surveys. Although Christianity has undoubtedly had an influence on the cultural and social development of Britain, it is far from being the only influence. Many pre-Christian, non-Christian, and post-Christian forces have shaped our society for the better and Christianity has often had ill effects. So, on a purely factual level Eric Pickles remarks are simply untrue.

His comical misrepresentation of reality conceals a tragic public policy error. Any politician or government that tried to make Christianity and Christian beliefs the foundation of British values or a social morality would be building on seriously unstable foundations. All the evidence is that religion makes no difference in terms of a person’s social and moral behaviour – the same percentage of religious as non-religious people do volunteer work, for example. And people certainly don’t want to see it have more influence in government – in a 2006 IpsosMori poll, ‘religious groups and leaders’ actually topped the list of domestic groups that people said had too much influence on government.

His remarks are deeply concerning for anyone who values reason and evidence in public policy and fairness and secularism in our political life.

Hat tip: George Broadhead

17 responses to “Pickles’ ‘Christian Nation’ baloney is roundly attacked”

  1. why do i have to share this planet with religious idiots says:

    A man with gargantuan conceit and bulk. Deluded too if he thinks that this is a christian nation. Another case of the pious bleating and bitching. Which, as I have just realised, is just about the only trick they have left with which to try and beat back the unstoppable pushback against religious privilege. The man is a bigot and a bigmouth of the first order. I am tired of his blubbering.

  2. G says:

    Well done to mr pickles for standing up to people who live in this country and enjoy all it’s privilages but still do not have any understanding of how Christian values have shaped our most tolerent society.

  3. Bubba T Flubba says:

    Hey y’all, Eric Pickles should come to Texas. He I would fit right in with us. He is a lard assed red necked bible thumping good old boy. Just what we like over here. Levi’s make jeans to order so we can get him fitted out real nice too.

  4. Barry Duke says:

    Next job for Pickles: Supremo of WAO, the War Against Obesity.

  5. Barry Duke says:

    Love you G. We love irony like a fat boy loves cakes!

  6. charlie says:

    Arrogant ass. It is to be expected though. The church once had special status, now that it is faded and nearly gone, they want, actually demand, that specialness back.
    He would fit in well in most states here in the US, the southern states in particular.

  7. Bubba T Flubba says:

    Communities Secretary? Really? Community sounds like something consensual, inclusive. Methinks this pompous misguided zealot is in the wrong job. Super heavy wrestler maybe. Nightclub bouncer. Temporary roundabout. Sight screen at the oval.

  8. OurSally says:

    for G:

    http://www.desiquintans.com/apostrophe

    privileges
    Mr. Pickles

    Honestly, were you faith-schooled or something?

  9. Broga says:

    Slagging off the avoirdupois challenged Pickles is easy and tempting. But this man has more than a bodily problem and he must be living on the edge of various physical catastrophes with that. He has serious mental problems as he is clearly a fantasist who is living in a world created within his religion constrained wishful thinking.

    Christian nation! Only on the BBC on Sunday mornings and on the various drivelling inserts they impose on their licence payers. The churches empty, the people are indifferent to their preaching and secular thinking is now so terrifying to people like Pickles that they deal with it by shutting down their minds.

    Pickles is an odious prig and know all. The fact that he holds the position he does, with his views, stains the Conservatives and he emphasises that every time he opens his mouth.

  10. barriejohn says:

    There has been encouraging news from the USA recently: increased education and internet use seem to be leading to a decline in religiosity, though that may not be the complete picture.

    http://www.technologyreview.com/view/526111/how-the-internet-is-taking-away-americas-religion/

    It may be possible to pick holes in individual surveys, but the overall picture is clear, thank Thor.

  11. barriejohn says:

    Good news from the Philippines, as well:

    http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2014/04/08/philippine-court-clears-birth-control-law?

    “This means civil disobedience at the very least, actual revolt at the most extreme. Some of us will want to defy the power of the devil and die as martyrs, if need be, in the only cause that gives us a chance to fight for something much bigger than ourselves.”

    Diddums!

  12. Graham Martin-Royle says:

    Unfortunately, until we disestablish the Church of England, get rid of the head of state also having to be the head of the established church, remove the unelected bishops from the unelected second chamber of parliament, etc.etc.etc. Mr Pickles is correct. We are not a democracy, we are a theocracy with christianity the privileged religion.

    Just because the number of church goers is now a minority, just because we have so many followers of other faiths and none, does not alter that fact.

    This is why I support the NSS. We still have a long way to go folks.

  13. Broga says:

    The internet is doing to current religion what the spread of writing and books did in medieval times. Ideas to challenge the superstitions are readily available and debate can take place. The Inquisition can no longer burn those who say they do not believe God is other than the nature we see around us.

    I read in “Imagine there’s no heaven” (what a terrific book!) that one man who denied God was burned with green wood to make his agony last longer. So much for a loving God. The tortures say more about the fears and doubts of the torturers.

  14. barriejohn says:

    Broga: Great song, as well. It had a big influence on me, as I found its logic unanswerable. Thanks, John.

    The Catholic Church forbad the spilling of blood, but burning was perfectly acceptable. One reads many contradictory claims about this form of punishment; some have claimed that it was performed out of kindness really, as the torture would lessen the victim’s sufferings in purgatory. The following, though it does mention “cleansing the soul”, alleges that the people believed that those burned would have no body to take into the “afterlife”, so it would have been the ultimate punishment. Christians and Muslims have had similar views about those who die at sea. Primitive superstition!

    http://home.comcast.net/~burokerl/burning_at_the_stake.htm

  15. ian says:

    I remember Eric Pickles when he had a waist! Yes, I’m really that old, but the only thing that has happened since then is that his delusions have expanded in line with his girth.

  16. What I want to know is: how come he hasn’t picked up the soubriquet “Cheesy”?