Religion in the age of Secularism…

Dan Walsh 

© Image Sean Elliot

The recent court cases of four Christians, claiming workplace discrimination has brought religious beliefs and human rights into sharp focus. The reaction from Christians seems to be one of despair, given that only one claimant was successful. Their pessimistic outlook shaped by the reality that the UK is increasingly becoming an ever more secular society, as religion becomes increasingly marginalised and antiquated. The Christian outlook is perhaps also shaped by the case of the Christian guest house owners who refused a married gay couple a double bed. Contrarily, the reaction of others has been the opposite to that of Christians, with human rights group Liberty, describing the cases where the claimants lost as ‘equal treatment, religious freedom and common sense‘.

The concerns of Christians or for that matter those of other faiths, that these various rulings spell the end of religious freedom, are understandable and indeed the cases are another indication that religion is no longer the overriding factor in the eyes of many. Put bluntly, many people now regard religion as an almost backward view that is no longer terribly relevant at least in law. The recent rejection of women bishops only exacerbates the view that the church is an outdated institution disaffected from the modern world. And there is an almost ‘us and them’ situation developing in society at times with Christians frequently dismissed as terribly ‘other’. Read more of this post

Northern Ireland’s Abortion Debate

Stephen Donnan 

Image © Elvert Barnes

Few issues are as divisive as abortion, aside from the death penalty or euthanasia, all deal with the issue of the sanctity of life, and very rarely do issues such as these come before national legislatures. However in the case of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, both authorities currently criminalize abortion. Future Health Minister and current MLA for South Down, Jim Wells, caused a storm of controversy last month by stating that abortion in NI should remain illegal, even in cases of rape and incest. Speaking to the Nolan Show, Mr Wells was quoted as saying: “A termination of a pregnancy should not be the first option in that situation. The other option is that you kill the child who’s a totally innocent victim in this terrible set of circumstances.”

In relation to the issue of abortion legislation, Ireland (both Northern and Republic of) is a strange one. Out of over fifteen major parties across Ireland and dozens of smaller parties, only three have visible pro-choice policies. The Socialist Worker’s Party, the Irish Labour party and Labour in NI are the only parties that are pro-choice, and even with that, Irish Labour are heading for a split in their membership over the issue. Not even the Greens, a mostly proactive party in the area of social rights have reserved abortion as a conscience issue.

Bernie Smyth of Precious Life, an organisation that lobbies to defend existing anti-abortion legislation, had a rather heated radio debate with Alliance party MLA Anna Lo in August, claiming that allowing abortion in cases of rape would create a case of ‘bad law’ in which such legislation could lead to it being used a contraceptive. But what are the facts?  Read more of this post

Realism and Religion

Andrew Calderwood

Image © Duke Human Rights Centre

For many people, religion will have a profound effect throughout their lives, often acting as a great healer of the soul. It will provide a positive influence in times of need and a rock of solace throughout times of pain and suffering. Equally, during periods of great plenty and fulfilment, the preaching of key messages, moral wisdom and the search for solidarity can be used as an unmatched medium in the step towards societal advancement.

Whether a fully fledged believer or an ardent atheist, the majority of society are likely to agree, that the cornerstones of religious preaching can set sound foundations when building towards a prosperous future in the pursuit of harmonious global relations. This positive underpinning, however, makes it an ever more bitter pill to swallow when recognising that the various religions that encompass our world appear inherently unable to co-exist side by side and assimilate themselves into a united society. Instead, radical religious leaders and sects appear intent on abusing religious ideology in the pursuit of objectives that are deemed as personally productive. Many demonstrate a lack of willingness to cooperate within the national and international arena and thus fail to contribute to the constructive progression of developments in cordial political dialogue.

Too often we see religious leaders or groups striving for dominance over another, or politicians using religious beliefs as a political vehicle to control the masses. We have also been witness to the oppression of groups and individuals who openly oppose the dogma of ruling political parties, or those who may be deemed undesirable or a danger to the status quo of power politics. Throughout history religion has been used as a tool to nurture the ‘Power Urge’ of groups and individuals, derived from the more basic urges of self-aggrandisement and self-assertion. The power urge can be translated through personal ambition, a quest for prestige or simply from a desire to profit from the work of others.[1)

Read more of this post

Is the Bible’s ‘Moral Code’ right for Britain?

Liam Duffy

Image © ckpicker

In a speech marking the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, the Prime Minister announced that a revival of Christian values could combat Britain’s moral collapse.

But what exactly is this apparent ‘moral collapse’, and how would Christianity counteract it? According to a recent Home Office report, crime rates are at their lowest for thirty years, yet indifference and scepticism towards religion is at its height. Does he mean the depictions of sex and violence in our culture? The majority of the video games, TV, and cinema which some find abhorrent are largely imports from the USA, a nation in which Christianity is far more influential than it is in the United Kingdom.

No, Cameron cited the threat of Islamic extremism, the financial crash, and last summer’s riots as the evidence for the moral collapse. He stated that ‘passive tolerance… just isn’t going to cut it anymore,’ but atheists are among the most outspoken in condemning religious violence, and particularly Islamic terrorism. On the other hand, some comments from Christian voices have often been far from helpful regarding such matters; refer to Vatican comments on the Jyllands-Posten cartoons, or Jerry Falwell’s 9/11 comments. Read more of this post


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