Posts Tagged ‘religion’

Religious moderates license extremists

17/03/2016, 10:44:15 PM

by Ian McKenzie

Once when I was very young, my father was making me porridge. Seeing him raise a salt cellar I asked for sugar instead. “You’ll have salt”, he insisted, “or I’ll tell your grandfather”.

My grandfather was a Scot and, as any first-year student of philosophy knows, no true Scotsman would have sugar on his porridge. “I want sugar”, I countered, “or I’ll tell my grandfather you drink gin and tonic”. I ate sweetened porridge that day and have done so ever since, although now, in my 50s, I use slightly healthier honey in place of refined sugar. I also drink the occasional gin and tonic.

“No true Scotsman” is known as an informal fallacy, an attempted sidestep around the inconvenient fatal arguments of others. Religious moderates of all denominations use it to separate themselves from those at the other end of their religious spectrum who commit unspeakable acts of inhumanity in the name of that religion. (Yeah, yeah, atheists commit mass murder too, but they don’t do it in the name of atheism).

Many use the “No True Scotsman” defence when Islamists commit mass murder. Thus: no true believer would murder 2,000 men, women and children in cold blood by flying a plane into a skyscraper. No one properly religious would gun down a room full of cartoonists, or a theatre full of people or hack off someone’s head for the cameras, and do so in the name of god. Why not? Well, no true believer would do such a thing because Islam is a peaceful religion. See how it works?

Tony Blair says, “acts of terrorism are perpetrated by people motivated by an abuse of religion. It is a perversion of faith.” After the Charlie Hebdo murders, President Hollande of France said, “those who committed these terrorist acts, those terrorists, those fanatics, have nothing to do with the Muslim religion.” This side step has become the obligatory shuffle of politicians and most commentators, lest the religious be offended. The proposition froths down my Twitter feed after every fresh religiously motivated terrorist outrage. It may froth, but it’s a falsehood.


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

It’s time for Labour to be nicer to Catholics, says Kevin Meagher

21/08/2010, 12:15:59 PM

Forget Ann Widdecombe. Or any of the other establishment talking heads rolled out to speak for the Church of Rome for that matter. Most Catholics in Britain are like me: working-class, from the North and ethnically Irish. And most vote Labour.  

But relations between Catholics and some on the left have traditionally rested on a delicate modus vivendi. We walk in tandem on economic and social justice. We both abhor war and starvation. We even have similar things to say on the environment (although the Vatican, understandably, stops well short of ‘Earth worship’ greenery). And we both have a penchant for moral absolutism. 

But we go our separate ways on abortion, birth control, gay rights, euthanasia and the ‘importance’ of marriage. And there it lies. Like Cyprus or Korea we have a demarcation line that is simply irreducible. The iron doctrinal differences on either side are simply not bridgeable.  

So, wisely, we try and avoid confrontation that will dredge up the full extent of our differences and instead focus on the significant areas where we do agree. But it’s not easy. Our time in office saw one flashpoint after another. Sometimes on big issues: Abortion adverts on television; the Mental Capacity Bill; euthanasia; faith schools; human embryology legislation and gay adoption. But sometimes on smaller issues too, like the British Secular Society’s splenetic call for hospital chaplains to be cut – which, sadly, saw no health minister take to the airwaves to denounce such mean-spirited nonsense.#


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon