Songs of Praise
Here’s the common thread that runs through half-a-dozen news stories every day. Yesterday, for example: a schoolteacher arrested and charged in Sudan for allowing children to call a teddy bear Muhammad; the poor, ethnically mixed housing estates around Paris going up in smoke again; Israel-Palestine peace talks, with their implications for relations between Muslims and non-Muslims everywhere; a Jewish school in London criticised for insisting that for a child to qualify for admission the applicant’s mother had to be born Jewish; angry scenes in Oxford as a student debating society offers a platform to a Holocaust denier.
Timothy Garton Ash, in The Guardian, might have also mentioned a incident that occurred today in my workplace.
Someone had left a pile of flyers for a performance of sacred music at their local church on the counter in the kitchen. I was intrigued because I happen to enjoy cello music, Christmas Carols and Episcopalian churches and I expect I would find the combination of the three especially pleasing.
A colleague, though, felt that it was inappropriate to advertise a religious service in the workplace and we discussed the topic over email. I made a rather clumsy case for liberal tolerance of religion and so was pleasantly surprised to find, during my lunchtime browsing, TGA’s article making the same case in The Guardian in which he says many wise things.
We do, however, need to be clearer about the difference between secularism and atheism. Secularism, in my view, should be an argument about arrangements for a shared public and social life; atheism is an argument about scientific truth, individual liberation and the nature of the good life.
It’s a good article and I heartily agree with most of it. The comments are (mostly)Â good too.
I think western civilisation would be much the poorer without Christmas Carols and a policy that bans flyers for church services in the workplace would not only be unfair (unless it also banned flyers for craft fairs of wives CEOs and Free Kiwis) but would make the workplace a less pleasant place to be.
Not sure why TGA felt it necessary to preface his article with a declaration of his liberal faith…
I’m a liberal, so I start from liberalism – not in the parody version propagated by the American right, but liberalism properly understood as a quest for the greatest possible measure of individual human freedom, compatible with the freedom of others.
… but I kind of like that too.