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Morality and the Law

Christian morality is being ‘marginalised’
by the law, complains the former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, in a
newspaper article.

I say, “Quite right, too.” 

But Carey is appalled.

The gist of his complaint is that
the law is becoming increasingly inclined to ignore the role of Christianity in
shaping the morality he thinks the courts should be upholding.  “Our Christian identity is being ruthlessly
marginalised … driven by the ideologies of secularism and multi-culturism – a
battering ram against our traditional Christian culture.”

This tirade comes in response to
remarks by Sir James Munby, who presides over the Family Division of the High
Court.  What Munby said was this: “We sit
as secular judges serving a multi-cultural community of many faiths,” and that,
“happily the courts no longer had a role in enforcing morality”.

Back to Carey:  “… our whole legal system has its basis in
Christian morality, with its emphasis on empathy and selflessness…..
Christianity has always been a restrained, tolerant faith, keener on compromise
than obedience.” 

I take issue with at least three
of Carey’s assertions.  (Of others I have
neither the time nor the space.) 

First, the law may or not have
roots in Christianity that remain relevant today, but the courts are supposed
to be in the business of upholding society’s values, not those of Christianity,
or even of the Church of England (most of which, by the way, ethically coincide).   

Second, Christianity, far from
being a ‘restrained, tolerant’ faith has been conspicuously aggressive and uncompromising.
Carey conveniently overlooks such outrages as the Crusades, the Conquistadors’ oppressions
in South America, the Inquisition, the Huguenot massacres, Cromwell’s pillaging
of Ireland and, closer to
the present, the divisions that persist in Ulster, which, in the 21st
century, have so far cost thousands of lives. 
There are many others I could mention. 
Take your pick.

Third, I’d quarrel with his
characterisation of atheism as an ideology (I can’t speak for multi-culturism
because I’m not sure I can define it). 
It’s hardly a ‘battering ram’.  Atheists
have never attempted to organise themselves into a movement for the express
purpose of fighting religion, or specific religions, and never will. The
reverse is conspicuously, and dangerously, true.  Most of the conflicts in the world at present are
based on, or at least justified by, religious convictions taken to extremes.    

If Christianity is being
marginalised in Britain
it’s because most people with the advantage of a modern education, which
exposed them to the findings of men of science and reason, no longer believe in
the absurd fables long propagated as unchallengeable truth by the major
religions of the world. 

Christianity is rejected by so
many because it doesn’t make sense. 

That’s not to say that atheists
are bent on imposing some hedonistic and immoral alternative to faith; in matters
of morality, atheists subscribe to the same moral imperatives as Christians, and
for that matter other faiths.  We just
throw out the accompanying fairy tales.

George Carey can believe in fairy
tales if he wants to, but the law is an impartial agent representing all of us,
faithful and faithless alike.    


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