Frankly, people do think you’re a nutter

Christina Patterson doesn’t share Tony Blair’s affection for injecting “faith” into politics.

You might think that someone who doesn’t believe in a theory
accepted by almost every scientist for more than a century, and who wants to
restrict the rights of half the population to make decisions about their own
body, and thinks that every human being in the world who doesn’t “accept Jesus
as their saviour” will literally go to hell, would have US voters rolling their
eyes. But it doesn’t. You can’t, in fact, even think of running for office in
the world’s only superpower if you don’t, in the now famous words of Alastair
Campbell, “do God”.

Bad combination – superpower, and must do god. Even worse combination, world’s only superpower and must do god. Horrendous combination,  world’s only superpower and must do crazy dominionist or Reformed Whateveritis Barking Mad god.

Here, thank God, Allah, or Big Brother, you can. Here, if you start talking about Jesus, or hell, or hurricanes as warnings from God, you’re more likely to make it into a jungle with Sally Bercow than the Pillared Room at Downing Street. Here, if you start talking about the “inerrancy” of the Bible, or “intelligent design”, you’re likely to trigger some serious concern. Even Tony Blair, who was the nearest we got to a Messiah for a while, didn’t, at least when he was elected, and for quite a while afterwards, talk about God. “It’s difficult if you talk about faith in our political system,” he said in a TV interview after leaving office. “Frankly, people do think you’re a nutter.”

And then you leave office and start doing god with a vengeance and people realize you’re a nutter.

In this country, if you’re in public life, you can’t talk about God, but you can talk about “faith groups”. Faith groups are what Tony Blair was thinking of when he started his Tony Blair Faith Foundation. “I set it up,” said the man who helped to start a war that killed more than 100,000 people, “to make the case for religion as a force for good”. Faith groups, according to this view, are nice groups of nice people all wanting to make society better. They are not groups of people who think that people who don’t go to their church, or mosque, or synagogue, or teenage girls who get pregnant, and don’t feel ready to start a family, or people who are sexually attracted to their own sex, will rot in hell.

Which is why that view is so stupid and so wrong.

Women have fought hard for the right not to have their bodies controlled by
somebody else’s God, and so have lesbians and gay men. It’s beginning to look as though we might need to start fighting again.

Without any help from “faith groups.”


  1. says

    Hey, you moving over here to freethoughtblogs now? Great!

    Yeah, Christian Patterson’s article is a good one. Its troubling, though, that Christianity is starting to be mainstreamed like this in Britain where, for a long time, you just couldn’t do god and get away with it. What is it with Nadine Dorries? Over on her blog she’s saying that it has nothing to do with religion. It’s got to do with — wait for it, wait for it! — “… the 80,000 BACP members who may wish to transfer their skills into the abortion arena and who are prohibited from counselling pregnant women. Counselling is a very professional and growing industry.” So it’s all about making jobs for counsellors! Does she really think everyone is as stupid as she is! One of the first things about counsellling. You don’t force people to go, unless they are a danger to themselves or others. Only religious idiots think that it’s okay to force women who want abortion to go to counselling, because they think you’ve got to be bonkers to want to do such a thing — and they do think that such women are doing harm to other persons. It’s a religious think. Why doesn’t she just fess up>

  2. Jeff D says

    Ophelia, good to see you at freethoughtblogs. I hope that the machinery runs smoothly.

    The relative scarcity of “faith talk” by elected officials and candidates in U.K. politics makes the U.K. seem like another planet to me, as I sit here in the American Midwest.

  3. Ken Pidcock says

    In fairness to American voters, there’s really no evidence that, in general, they favor greater religiosity. Obviously, you can’t be…you know…but I doubt that passionate faith is rewarded very often. Rick Santorum’s last real job was as a US Senator representing Pennsylvania, a state with a lot of Catholics. He was crushed in 2006, anyway.

    My guess is that if Perry becomes a viable candidate, the religious stuff will get turned down. The anti-science stuff, sadly, probably doesn’t hurt him.

  4. julian says

    The anti-science stuff, sadly, probably doesn’t hurt him.

    Heh. Reminds of that Obama rally where the gentleman introducing then Senator Obama said how great it would be to have a President who actually listens to science. The crowd had been very good at punctuating each of his deliveries up to this point with cheers and applause. Not so with science!

    Poor science…

  5. Jeff D says

    Ken Pidcock:

    In fairness to American voters, there’s really no evidence that, in general, they favor greater religiosity.

    No, but the vast majority of American voters prefer to create the impression that they favor greater religiosity, that they think religiosity is a good thing, and that they are more religious than they actually are, whether they actually think that religiosity is valuable or useful. It’s all very meta-meta, second- or third-order.

    Seeming to be religious, to be spiritual, to be a person of faith, is prized, because it’s one way to claim the label of “trustworthy” or “I belong” or “cooperator.”

    Openly acknowledging that it’s mostly pretense, believing-in-belief, is frowned upon, if not actually taboo. No co-inky-dink that Dan Dennett titled his book Breaking the Spell. Most of us here in the U.S.A. are still under that spell, at least in the context of our behavior in fully-public spaces, both physical and virtual.

  6. butterfliesandwheels says

    Oh lordy, I’ll have to look at her blog then.

    Creating jobs for counsellors by forcing people to get counselling?! Dear god………

    Yup here now, though only the blog part; the rest of B&W stays where it is. Easy access via links on the right.

  7. Ken Pidcock says

    Oh, I don’t think it’s a spell. It’s very real coercion. No religion is entirely voluntary association. This is why nonbelievers who identify with what they might call a faith tradition should give serious thought to just what they are abetting.

  8. says

    Hi Ophelia, good to see you here!

    While FTB is still new – the list of blogs that comes up on each page is incomplete. It doesn’t have you, or Assassin Actual or any of the others since the first seven.

  9. Jeff D says

    I agree; various forms of coercion — some of them subtle — help to keep the machine running and induce the believers-in-belief to maintain the pretense.

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