The decision on Bideford Town Council’s opening prayers gave another opportunity for people to talk crap.
The National Secular Society and an atheist ex-councillor won a test case ruling that Bideford town council, Devon, was acting unlawfully by putting prayer on meeting agendas.
It is understood the ritual dates back in Bideford to the days of Queen Elizabeth I, and the council has recently voted twice to retain it.
Lots of things date back to the days of Queen Elizabeth I; what of it? In the days of Queen Elizabeth I church attendance was mandatory and you had to pay a fine if you didn’t go. Is that a good arrangement? Miss that, do we? The mandatory attendance was also, of course, to one church only, all others being outlawed. Mosques and temples weren’t even thought of.
In short, Britain under the Tudors was a theocracy and that was that. No muttering there in the back row, or we’ll have your arm off. Council prayers shouldn’t be seen as a cozy old custom but as a vestige of an authoritarian godbothering society of a kind that pretty much no one in the UK wants to live in now.
Harry Greenway, a former Tory MP and ex-chairman of the National Prayer Breakfast, said: “I trust this ruling will be quickly reversed. If people do not want to attend prayers of this nature, they can stay away instead of meddling and busybodying with other people’s beliefs.
“Non-believers are not harassed in this way by believers. Why cannot the non-believers show the same kind of tolerance? I find this ruling puzzling in the extreme.”
The same kind of tolerance as what? How would believers go about harassing non-believers in this way? By telling them to stop not praying? Non-believers can’t show the same kind of tolerance because tolerance of not doing something is not the same as tolerance of doing something. A nuisance is not comparable to the absence of a nuisance. Cigarette smoke is not comparable to no cigarette smoke; loud music at 3 a.m. is not comparable to quiet at 3 a.m.; and so on. Non-actors are not making the nuisance, so other people are not “tolerating” anything by not hassling them; people who are making the nuisance are the ones requiring some kind of “tolerance.” Not all kinds of nuisance should be tolerated. It’s quite simple really.