"Religion is a hypothesis about the world: the hypothesis that things are the way they are, at least in part, because of supernatural entities or forces acting on the natural world. And there's no good reason to treat it any differently from any other hypothesis. Which includes pointing out its flaws and inconsistencies, asking its adherents to back it up with solid evidence, making jokes about it when it's just being silly, offering arguments and evidence for our own competing hypotheses...and trying to persuade people out of it if we think it's mistaken. It's persuasion. It's the marketplace of ideas. Why should religion get a free ride"

Greta Christina

Friday, 28 October 2011

St Pauls and the Occupation: Not a lot to say really

The former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey has taken a swipe at the dean and chapter of St Paul’s Cathedral over their handling of the Occupy London protest.
He seems to be siding with canon chancellor Giles Fraser, who resigned yesterday over suggestions that the Cathedral may now take legal steps to have the protesters removed.
In an article for the Telegraph he wrote
One moment the church was reclaiming a valuable role in hosting public protest and scrutiny, the next it was looking in turns like the temple which Jesus cleansed, or the officious risk-averse ’elf ’n safety bureaucracy of urban legend
Actually I’ve been equivocating about bothering to comment on this particular incident, despite it having a fairly high profile in the press. The cathedral has been closed to the public, ostensibly on health and safety grounds since Giles Fraser appeared to sanction the occupation of the area, resulting in the loss of some £20,000 per day in tourist revenue, but it has been difficult to tell whether this was a genuine concern or a passive-aggressive ploy to persuade the occupation to end.
In the event it actually now appears to be a conflict of opinion between members of the cathedral clergy, pitting a progressive liberal faction against a more conservative administration.
Carey and Fraser seem to be seeing this as an opportunity to align the Anglican Church with a popular liberal socialist agenda, in support of peaceful protest and grass roots activism. The Dean appears to be more concerned with revenue and displaying a more traditional church conservatism. There are similar stories of progressive Christians supporting the Occupy Wall Street protest in New York.
I have to be honest; I don’t really have a dog in this fight. The “Occupy” demonstrations don’t really seem to have much focus and whilst I support the peoples right to protest it’s not really clear what they are protesting against. I am not personally convinced that capitalism or even globalisation are unmitigated evils, so whilst highlighting the excesses and unfairness they can engender is fine and dandy, no one seems to be suggesting viable alternatives.
As for St Paul’s; they can’t have it all ways. If they want to be relevant and down with the kids on this they should shut up, be tolerant and stop playing games. The protest will have a natural life of its own and will wind down eventually without the church having to tie itself in ethical knots. Essentially as with all things, the church doesn’t really have anything useful to say here, as you can spin the Christian message to support any political or social agenda you like, as is evidenced by the Tea Party in the U.S. That dichotomy of opinion now appears to be evident in the microcosm of this little spat, but it should surprise nobody and concern us not a jot.

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