You must admit that title got your attention didn’t it? It didn’t? Why not? Was it a little on the dry side perhaps?
It could be that both are two of the most divisive subjects around and you will be hard pushed to find two people with exactly the same opinion and or belief. Many people go to great length to avoid an argument and many nowadays have an inbuilt indifference to both.
Take me for instance; I am a passionate Humanist, a firm believer in the core principles of socialism and an atheist. Each one of those will make at least one of you start to rumble somewhere in the back of your mind with a little voice saying ‘tut tut tut’ and your head subtly moving side to side whilst a soft resigned sigh escapes your lips.
But lets stop and think about this for just a moment. What are the core principles the vast majority of us believe in? I’d argue that those principles are the core principles of all our beliefs be we Christians, Tories, Muslims or Liberals or agnostics (in terms of religion or politics).
I believe that we should all aim to be as good to other people as we can, that where possible equality should be an ideal be it health care, race, sex or a whole range of areas. I believe in a whole range of similar things that are core not only to socialism and Humanists but also to the major religions and most political parties and hopefully to you.
So why so many arguments, why so much fighting in the world and why so much discourse?
I think it’s all down to the detail of how you achieve those ideals and this is where the politics and the detail of religion comes in and messes it all up. It’s also what probably drives many younger people away from being actively interested in politics, with the never ending ‘see sawing’ between parties not having a vast effect on the lives of many young people who naturally live in the now rather than looking too far down the road of life.
I’ve been reading a few biographies and in particular two of eminent left wing British politicians: Michael Foot and Tony Benn. The first thing to note is that the majority of the text concentrates on differences within their own party and the battles to get their opinions heard and in many cases to get their view of socialism excepted as the default version of socialism for the party.
In fact there are often seen to be more difference internally than there are between these famous members of parliament and members of other parties which, although I wasn’t naïve enough to think otherwise, brought into stark relief the idea of political parties. These are organisations which are seen as groups of people all of the same mind but quite plainly they are not. Of course being humans none of us are of exactly the same mind, we are individuals.
Another surprising thing that the books revealed was some of the behind the scenes things such as Margaret Thatcher in tears at a memorial service for a well know far left Labour politician and the close friendship of Michael Foot with a right wing Tory supporting newspaper tycoon. These are the human aspects of politics and are reflected by similar relationships such as the friendships that well know Atheist evangelist Richard Dawkins has with some members of the British clergy.
But then again I thought about my relationships. I have some very good friends who are Christians or Tories (although they could be either or both). I worked for over ten years for a Christian organisation (where many of these friendships were made) and the one thing that we all had in common was not our religion (or lack of it in my case) but our moral frame work.
The workers within that organisation though predominantly Christian in persuasion never discussed religion precisely because of the differences between their various flavours of Christianity – Methodists, Catholics etc. But we all got along because we were there to provide a service for the good of the community, we were all there for those basic principles I mentioned above.
Thank goodness for human differences and variety say I and lets celebrate them but lets also celebrate those core principles we all share.