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Caveat Emptor

The opinions expressed on this page are mine alone. Any similarities to the views of my employer are completely coincidental.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Jesus & Mo go to the Libyan School of Economics

Great to see the LSE maintaining their proud tradition of fostering and protecting free speech within the law. The Telegraph seems to be alone amongst the qualities covering the story. Jesus & Mo themselves have this comment. Perhaps it would be something to debate in the School's Programme for the Study of Religion and Non-Religion

In my idea of the good society the presupposition should be that  adults have the right to go about their private business in whatever costume they choose, Hijab, Niqab, Burqua, T-shirt with depictions of prophets, gurus, marxist guerrillas, pink fluffy jock-straps or bag on the head unless there are well defined  reasons of contract, public-health or public safety for preventing them from doing so. 

Dress codes at work are acceptable - you don't have to work for an employer with a dress code that doesn't suit you - as are bans on wearing full face head coverings when entering banks (they don't for obvious reasons like people walking in wearing crash helmets). It goes without saying that the state should restrain attempts to impose nosy preferences on others ie your claim that my clothes choice in some incomprehensible way causes you injury and therefore I should not be allowed to exercise my normal rights.

As far as I can see, all of this is discussed  and dissected with considerable subtlety in Brian Barry's Culture and Equality. Also of some interest is his contribution to the Hansard Society pamphlet Democracy and Islam. I particularly like the line:

"There used to be a sweatshirt that said ‘It’s a woman thing. You wouldn’t understand.’ But this is, considered as a slogan, totally self-defeating. If I can’t understand it, why should I pay any heed to it?"

This seems to me to spell out the limits of any pretension to serious dialogue between believers and non-believers on matters concerning the content of religious belief systems. For many believers the ultimate fall back position is "because God said so" and for the rest of us this is simply an inadmissible argument and there is nowhere else the dialogue can go.

But in my idea of the good society non-believers still defend believers' rights to believe and practice their religion (as long as it doesn't interfere with others' rights) and believer's must respect the rights of non believers to point out that they think the beliefs of believers are  incoherent. 

The role of the state should be to be scrupulously neutral in all of this. It would be a good start if we disestablished the Cof E, repealed the blasphemy laws and chucked the bishops out of the House of Lords. That would go a little way towards leveling the playing field, but I doubt I'll see it in my life-time.

Instead of a little light music here's a classic recording of Bertrand Russell discussing the existence of God.

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