2010-07-25

The right side of politics Down Under: Muslims good; atheists bad

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by Neil Godfrey

Black-eyed Sue and Sweet Poll of Plymouth taking leave of their lovers who are going to Botany BayNo sooner do we read of one Liberal Party’s candidate being dumped by his party leader for suggesting that there is no place for Muslims in the Australian parliament, than we read of another Liberal Party candidate attacking the “ungodly” Labor leader and PM for being an atheist — and getting away with it! (The Liberal Party in Australia, to oversimplify somewhat, correlates with the Conservatives in the UK and the Republicans in the US.)

So what’s the lesson here? It’s politically correct at election time to be seen as tolerant towards Muslims; but as for being an atheist. . . ? Who cares?

Actually I don’t mind this approach to criticism of atheists. Let it all hang out. Let everyone see where everyone stands. It’s no big deal. It’s kind of funny to have politicians get up and rave about Australia being built on Christian values and how they always expect a “godly” leader. Australia? Founded on convicts, lashings, prostitution, petty tyrants among the good ‘uns, rum rebellion, — oh, and an Anglican pastor to keep it all in check? What’s the ratio of church goers to non-practicing Christians and “others” in Australia?

I suspect the Liberal Party leader’s decision to ignore the atheist jibe was quite healthy and a “true blue” Aussie response. I’d hate to see political correctness go mad and send to the guillotine anyone who raves about not believing in god and decrying how a godless prime minister simply cannot be a “godly ruler” etc. All a bit of a laugh for most in the audience.

It is the season, however, to be prudent with respect to Muslims. Hate crimes and bigotry and all that are all too real — it goes without saying. (Whoever planted a bomb outside an atheist’s convention in Australia?)

It is still real enough for a Liberal candidate to be quoted as saying that just one Muslim in Parliament must be seen as a march towards the day when Parliament will be all-Muslim! But of course, the mere fact that the sight of one of them in the “wrong place” leaves him down the slippery slope into nightmares of a taliban takeover of Australia, does not mean he has anything against Muslims personally.

Which leaves me in a delicate position at times. When I was once arranging for a leading State Muslim to conduct a public presentation to a general audience, I found myself being offered a copy of the Koran. As a gesture of good-will I accepted it, but later I had the misfortune to read it. It left the taste in my mouth of being just as mind-controlling and fear and authority obsessed as the Jewish and Christian books, only more blunt and obvious about it. So there I was, finding myself in a situation where I was seeking to foster community tolerance among two religious groups, Christians and Muslims, yet ironically having no personal sympathy or time for either of them!

As far as their beliefs were concerned, I saw (still do see) both as potentially harmful psychologically to individuals who took them too seriously. When I see some humanist scholars advocate a humanism that embraces the religiously minded as well, I do feel some revulsion. What has the anti-intellectualism at the heart of Christianity and Islam (and Judaism) to do with humanistic values? Why on earth does “spirituality” or the sense of the poetic and mystery and awe of life have to be tied exclusively to religion of any kind? But I also find myself recoiling from a few of the anti-Muslim statements of some such as Harris and Hitchens. Sure I have no time for the Muslim religion either, but these authors do seem to be unable to tease out the geo-political issues from the more universal religious concepts.

So I decided to focus entirely on the project I had got myself mixed up with as an entirely “social enterprise”. Strictly a civil service.

We’ll probably be stuck with religion as long as we will be stuck with astrology, witchcraft and the occult. If one can’t beat them, the least one can do, I guess, is to support any endeavour that promotes mutual understanding and respect.

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Neil Godfrey

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  • mikelioso
    2010-07-26 01:50:13 GMT+0000 - 01:50 | Permalink

    Australian Conservatives are called the Liberal Party? Wow, everything is upside down there!

    • 2010-07-26 04:08:40 GMT+0000 - 04:08 | Permalink

      The name derives from the nineteenth century philosophy, especially as espoused by John Stuart Mill — this liberalism was associated with the middle class and capitalism. The 19th C Liberal “revolutions” in Europe were middle class movements.

      Hence the roots of the link between the Liberal Party and capitalism/business.

      What Americans associate with the word liberal in Australia is generally called “small-l liberal”. E.g. the Australian Democrats — whose policies are sometimes described as “small-l liberal” — broke away from the Liberal Party when the Liberal Party was becoming more conservative.

      It must be all very confusing to some Americans.

  • rey
    2010-07-26 03:36:01 GMT+0000 - 03:36 | Permalink

    Muslims in viking hats and sombreros? And what’s with the sports shirt and sunglasses. I guess the Imams down under all wear hawaiian shirts and shorts to the Mosque, with flip flops.

  • Peter
    2010-07-26 08:55:52 GMT+0000 - 08:55 | Permalink

    Sydney Anglicans would also rather live under Islamic government than atheist rulers:

    http://www.sydneyanglicans.net/media/video/war_religion/
    The relevant comment is between 23:20 – 24:30 mins in the video

    I wonder if Phillip Jensen moved to Saudi-Arabia when Guillard got in to power??? (He didn’t)

    • 2010-07-26 13:39:42 GMT+0000 - 13:39 | Permalink

      Ha! I loved it. One recalls with fondness those halcyon years under atheists like Whitlam and Cairns, the G-Gship of Hayden, Hawke (half atheist at least) when everyone was free to practise bestiality with willing animals (sigh)

      More seriously, the arrogance of his assumptions is quite charming: only god-believer stands up to government; if Christians go to war and kill, it is for some other reason nothing to do with their faith, but when atheist rulers kill it can only be because they are atheists!

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