More respect, more, more, more

The archbishop is miffed. He’s irritated, he’s annoyed, he’s wounded, he’s upset. He thinks it’s all a mistake. He can’t understand, he just can’t understand.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has accused the Government of treating all religious believers as “oddities” and “eccentric”. Dr Rowan Williams said ministers were wrong to think that Christian beliefs were no longer relevant in modern Britain and he criticised Labour for looking at religious faith as a “problem” rather than valuing the contribution it made to society.

But whether religious beliefs are ‘relevant’ or not is not the only issue, nor is it necessarily the most important one. ‘Relevant’ is notoriously a weasel-word anyway – it’s really just a stand-in for majority will. Christian beliefs may or may not be ‘relevant,’ but that has nothing to do with whether or not they are true, or justified, or reasonable. Truth and reason are also still ‘relevant’ in modern Britain, and Christian beliefs are in considerable tension with both. The archbishop could pay more attention to that fact, but of course his job calls for him to conceal it rather than address it.

Dr Williams told The Daily Telegraph: “The trouble with a lot of Government initiatives about faith is that they assume it is a problem, it’s an eccentricity, it’s practised by oddities, foreigners and minorities.”

The archbishop has glimpsed a truth here, but of course it is part of his job to conceal the real nature of that truth. ‘Faith’ is an eccentricity in the sense that it is a flawed way to think and inquire. It’s not an eccentricity in the sense of being a minority practice, but it is an eccentricity in the sense of being off-center, mistaken, wrong. Naturally the archbish doesn’t want to admit that – but he could just keep quiet, instead of trying to bully the government into coddling this mistaken way of thinking.

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