Just home from another Oxford debate--(to generalise) the UK and Europe pity us for our god-laden politics, i.e. even someone as intelligently articulate and socially aware as Obama closes every speech with 'god bless america.' whereas here in the UK, sitting in this debate room, listening to the liberal, brilliantly conscientious nature of even those in opposition to keeping god out of politics, who don't argue that god is something to believe in, but that if their politicians believe in god and are thus making their decisions based on superstitions that they want to know it and not have it hidden, thus they want 'politicians to be allowed to do God' and subsequently for them not to be voted in (the whole Tony Blair thing, for instance)--without sitting in this debate room i wouldn't remember that the US was once viewed and admired to be the most tolerant, intelligent nation. & of course w's funding of africa with the stipulation of no contraceptives with the $ (due to his faithful lack of basic tolerance and religious freedom) & resultant increase in HIV in the financed countries was brought up. makes this atheist want to put my head in my hands and say, 'oh lord.'
i feel happy to be here tonight (an ocean away from the US's bizarre religious hegemony), just to know that america's dumbed down, tightly grasping, defensive, proselytizing version of faith isn't representative of a human condition with faith. europe/the uk handles its faith and faith questions quite differently than we do. if the US could first give up thinking of itself as the most progressive nation on the planet, and forcing our kids into dogged devotion to it, we might have the chance of respectable, collective intelligence once again. for now, however, we are sending our US kids to school every morning where they pledge allegiance under one god, where we overlook the fact that not even our liberal president is brave enough to actually separate church and state, and where many of us still have to feel the oppressive pressures of religious fundamentalism forcing prayer at a holiday meal, forcing hand to heart and allegiance to a nation and a god we may or may not believe in to fit in with the group, forcing abortion, sex, etc. to be non-discussable topics between divergent views of it, for instance. oppression is wicked if anything is. i will never understand how christianity (& others) doesn't see this of itself.
i for one feel readily willing to acknowledge that we, the US, have slid into some barbarianism, and all of us that shrug it off as we pay with our 'in god we trust' money each day, etc. endorse a lowering glass ceiling, even for those that do trust in 'god'. for if we are to see those with faith as intelligible versus superstitious, they must begin to demonstrate an awareness and humanitarian tolerance that theirs isn't the only approach to being human in this complex world of finding meaning. those of faith that profess a love for their neighbor, should be the foremost advocates against forcing others into their faith. this approach would reflect actual wisdom, love, and compassion toward their fellow humans in contrast to what has always been done--heavy-handed oppression and coercion so that people will either cower and fake it, or will give up something they held dear out of fear, guilt, pressure. it almost makes me sad for christianity when i see it in this manipulative way--like the bully on the playground who never has any true friends.
i, with the majority here tonight, walked out the door that said "Aye." "Aye, this house believes that politicians shouldn't do god," and by politicians I mean anyone who has sway over anyone else. Faith should be a private matter and not a coercive, guilt-laden tactic of interacting with other humans. I daresay it would be beautiful for all faiths to evolve continually as we discover our various blindspots, intrusions, and oppressions, as it seems to me these thirteen bishops in the UK who just this week endorsed gay marriage demonstrate as a possibility, or the chaplain in an Oxford University chapel who is openly gay with a partner in a town that brings it up with pride at its debate hall. Cheers to the UK as a nation I admire more and more as I get to know it.