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Prayers at a council meeting are not a prerequisite, as far as I can work out. Individuals can pray before a meeting, but if a number of councillors are of a different faith or no faith at all, it's not very inclusive, is it, in fact rather divisive. Apparently in the case in question the prayers were on the agenda and being minuted.
For State occasions where the monarch as Head of the established church is involved the situation must be different, which is unlikely to change until the church is disestablished.
My personal view is that the decision was right in that prayers should not be a compulsory part of a meeting, but as an agnostic leaning towards a moderate belief in a benevolent deity, I think optional prayers are reasonable and that the anti-religious councillor should not have gone to the trouble to make such a big issue out if it.
Not anti-religious just atheist. He had no problems with people praying in private before the meeting.
If prayers are to be said as part of the meeting then I would argue it should include prayer from all portions of the community that council represents - Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Wiccan, even Satanist. I can definitely see that if only Christian prayer is said as part of the council meeting then minorities are not only going to feel as if the council doesn't fully represent them, but will not feel welcome in standing for council elections.
As I say if the prayers were a formal part of the meeting, I think it was right to say this should not be done.
Prayers can actually be cross-religious, I.e. not particularly specific to one religion, though this would be difficult to apply in practice to those other than Christianity, Islam and Judaism.
A minor point, but I don't think anyone would seriously argue that Satanism constitutes a religion, though it would be interesting to know if this point has ever been tested. Surely it is, and is intended to be, a negation of Christianity.
Why not? The Royal Navy recognised a Satansim as the religion of one of its ratings some eight years ago.
As for it being a negation of Christianity - this isn't quite right. For a start there are many forms of Satanism, some theistic some atheistic. For example I can imagine worshiping the being that gave mankind self-knowledge, that is sometimes called Lucifer (the bringer of light) as being perfectly rational - especially when you can think of the Bible as being either corrupted or deliberately false propaganda by the other side (who even in his own texts wanted mankind to not have self-knowledge at all and who tried to kill them off).
It certainly sounds as rational (or rather irrational) as any other religion to my eye.
"Lord, the God of righteousness and truth, grant to our Queen and her government, to Members of Parliament and all in positions of responsibility, the guidance of your Spirit. May they never lead the nation wrongly through love of power, desire to please, or unworthy ideals but laying aside all private interests and prejudices keep in mind their responsibility to seek to improve the condition of all mankind; so may your kingdom come and your name be hallowed."
Pity some of them don't take more notice of these worthy sentiments, whether or not they believe in the Christian's god.
Curiously, the MPs present face the wall behind them while the prayers are read.
What's the significance of that? Does that mean MPs on government and opposition benches face away from each other? Does the wall face Mecca, Rome, Canterbury? Are they just showing some sort of dissent from the prayer? Not trying to be sarcastic or funny - I never knew this and if it's based in some sort of tradition would like to know.
Maybe it is to hide their embarassment.
#12 it sounds like one of the parliamentary traditions that date from the civil war period. The distance between the Government and opposition dispatch boxes in the Commons is no less than two (I think) sword lengths dating from that time.
It would seem to be a fairly simple thing to incorporate into the formula a few words from the mayor or council-leader giving non-Christians permission to temporarily leave and later recalling them. As there had previously been two votes on the question of these prayers, presumably preceded by debate, it seems quite likely that the supposedly Christian majority had refused to do this. In effect, they were saying that attendance is optional but, if you exercise your option, we'll make you look a twat.
I've read a few commentaries on the current attacks on so-called aggressive secularism, crystalised by Baroness Warsi's speeches. It's quite clear that, amongst theists of all descriptions, and even among many agnostics and non-believers, there's a lot of confusion of terms. Secularism, atheism and humanism are not interchangeable descriptors (even though adherents of these philosophies may overlap considerably) and mixing them up does no one a service.
There's also a lot of guff talked about such philosophies being aggressive, and all I can say is that if staunch believers feel they're being somehow persecuted for their religions they don't have much idea of what real aggression and persecution are. I'm looking for all the instances of civil disturbance, pillaging, torture, hanging, drawing, quartering and burning being perpetrated by these aggressors against those religious martyrs on councils and in parliament. Oh, they mean all those courtroom judgements and those TV interviews and books by godless secularists. Quick! Contact Amnesty International! Appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (if Britain hasn't already opted out of it). Or go crying to the Pope. (Oh, they've already done this.)
Sorry. I know sarcasm isn't the best of arguments. Especially when preaching to some of the converted.
'Secularity (adjective form secular)1 is the state of being separate from religion, or not being exclusively allied to any particular religion.'
Government buildings can always have those prayer and contemplation rooms where religious leaders can be invited in to lead prayers or religious ceremonies for those who wish to attend if individuals feel they need it. Or alternatively they can just seek religous guidance outside of their work time. I see no reason why any religious content needs to be included in official business, Christian or otherwise.
I'd go along with that. I suppose the USSR would be an example of an atheist government, and I don't think that worked terribly well.
It always strikes me as curious that the US has an official separation between church and state, but that it's inconceivable that they'd elect a president who didn't wear his christianity on his sleeve, whereas our state is officially tied to the C of E, but in practice is effectively secular. Until something like this story pops up to remind me that it's not quite as secular as it sometimes feels.
Mind you, there's then a step further into what I for one would like, where government policy is genuinely evidence based. We can but hope.
I'm not sure it is so far off topic. If religion is about what feels true to the believer (but probably isn't), then moving on to policy making based on political dogma that feels true to the voter (but provably isn't) doesn't feel like great progress...
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