Trigg's THEOS report - a silent downgrading of religious rights in Britain

Prof Roger Trigg and I had a debate about whether Britain is too secular now last Easter at the Ox Lit Festival (a CFI event). Trigg has since produced a report for the think tank THEOS that takes much the same line as he took in the debate and his earlier book. He says there has been a silent downgrading of religious rights in Britain. His conclusion is religious beliefs are special and do deserve special privileges and protections - which are currently being eroded with potentially dangerous consequences. Go here.

Several of Trigg's arguments are explicitly discussed in an early draft of the secularism chapter of my forthcoming Very Short Introduction to Humanism (OUP 2010) available here.


DM said…
funny... you think by censoring the TRUTH it goes away....








you little liars do nothing but antagonize…

and you try to eliminate all the dreams and hopes of humanity…

but you LOST…


Einstein puts the final nail in the coffin of atheism…



atheists deny their own life element…


Andrew G. said…
"The research for this report was aided by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation".

Why am I not surprised to see that?
Wen Scott said…
Prof. Trigg's argument is a clever substitution of 'religious beliefs' for what is perhaps best described as spirituality.

As a race, we may be inclined to be naturally spiritual, just as we seem inclined to be naturally curious, or naturally social animals. But spirituality (perhaps defined as an inclination to be moral, as defined by our social environment and life experience, to have specific views of birth, life and death, to accept or reject mysteries we cannot explain) is not religiosity, which might be better defined as taking those private spiritual views and publicising them, attaching concepts such as 'exclusion', dogma, orthodoxy, intolerance or politics to them for the benefit of some over the rest.

Since religious beliefs are 'naturally' exclusionary, I cannot see how they can possibly co-exhist in our modern, cosmopolitan, multi-cultural, democratic societies.
wombat said…
This might be of interest - the BBC had a radio program on the legal position with respect to religious rights recently, still available on heir website here Unreliable Evidence - explores the often controversial interface between English law and religious belief.

The lawyers involved seemed (to me) more interested in the practicalities of resolving disputes and getting people to jog along happily together without too much concern over principles.
Paul P. Mealing said…
A.C. Grayling was in Australia, last month, for an international atheist convention.

There is a transcript of an interesting and relevant interview on the topic here

I found this comment especially relevant to the Australian experience:

And people who didn't have a religious commitment wouldn't mind if other people did privately and they wouldn't attack or criticise them.

So there was an unwritten agreement that the matter was going to be left quiet. So in a future where the religious organisations and religious individuals had returned to something much more private, much more inward looking, we might have that kind of public domain where people were able to rub along with one another with much less friction than we're seeing at the moment.

This is what I'm familiar with, and I find it difficult to understand why this is not the norm. If people are going to live in a secular society, then tolerance of other people's religious beliefs is essential, no matter what their own beliefs are.

Regards, Paul.
theObserver said…
That report is the standard "Everything that is good, from human rights & democracy to the rise of science, came from Christianity so we need to follow our Christain tradition" argument, complete with the also standard slander against the enlightenment.

I could have wrote it myself because I've heard the same argument so many times: Take the basic outline and drop in a few country specific examples. Dinesh de Souza likes debating using a US version of the same.

No disrespect to the author - the report was well written - but the the argument is becoming overused and tedious.
Apokatastasis said…
dreams and hopes for the future?!?

i most certainly got my dreams back when i became an atheist, wrestling them out of gods' hands.

not to mention clear thinking....
Paul P. Mealing said…
I Read all 58 pages of his thesis. Even in the Forward, I disagree with his philosophy when he attacks ‘commitment to… pluralism, toleration for diversity, freedom and equality.’

I think, that when he argues about religious freedom, he’s really arguing about personal freedom of conscience, like the woman who won’t preside over same-sex unions, because she’s a Christian – I’m sure there are other Christians who would.

He effectively argues that Christian tradition should take precedence over any other position, based purely on historicity. He also argues that multi-culturalism is moral relativism, which would suggest a certain ignorance rather than erudition.

In a democratic society, there is a parliamentary system and a justice system, which takes precedence over any religious tradition. In effect you can practice your religion as long as it doesn’t break the law.

He attacks Grayling for arguing for reason over tradition. But, at the end of the day, what becomes law is effectively a consensus. For example, a Muslim would not be allowed to practice polygamy in most Western countries, and I haven’t heard anyone protesting that they should.

He alludes that science leads to genocide, but it’s politics that leads to genocide, which may or may not include religious justification.

He also alludes to the ‘impossibility’ of ‘universal principles’, but morals, ethics and justice are always a work-in-progress. Otherwise we would still have slavery, and women would not be allowed to vote. In the future, the rights of homosexuals will be looked upon with the same insouciance.

One of the problems that he doesn’t acknowledge is that he believes ‘God’ is the supreme power of law and justice (even over ‘the Crown’) yet who decides what God’s law is? Is it the Pope? Is it someone’s interpretation of the Bible? Is it someone’s interpretation of the Qu’ran?

His most extraordinary statement: “Why other people matter, even when unrelated to us… is none too clear without a religious explanation.” So, if it wasn’t for the parable of the ‘Good Samaritan’ we’d all live in anarchy. If we’re all so Christian, then why do Western countries all over the world treat refugees as pariahs?

I actually agree with him that religion, or religious belief, is an inherent aspect of human nature, but this does not imbue it with any moral privilege and neither does it justify it having a political role, yet he specifically argues that it does.

I live in one of the secular countries that he specifically criticises as heading in the wrong direction, yet we practice religious tolerance even beyond what he recommends.

Regards, Paul.