Sunday, 8 January 2012

Religion! Mind Your Own Business!

Where do religious institutions get this idea that somehow they should be included in the institutions of government or that our elected representatives should pay them any attention beyond that due to any other member of society? Religious institutions are by their nature, autocratic and undemocratic, even anti-democratic. All are self-appointing, self-interested organisations which exist ONLY for their own aggrandisement and perpetuation.

Few, if any religions have a democratically elected leadership. Few if any of them are accountable to their members for policy and/or doctrine. Almost all of them have a top down structure which is answerable only to itself.

Where then do they get their authority to interfere in government and the right to influence the nature and structure of society? They can't even claim to represent the opinions of their members since they never seek to discover them. Indeed, almost every religious service seems to consist of autocrats telling their members what they should believe.

How is their authority any greater than that of the Board and Directors of a business, which is at least in theory, accountable to its shareholders? How are religions any different to pressure groups which seek to influence and subvert the democratic process and bend it to its own self-interest?

They have no more claim to special status or to have their opinions noted than, say, the Board of Manchester United FC, or the organizers of a local darts league or fishing club. Indeed, more people probably participate in those activities than go to church on Sunday or attend a mosque or a synagogue, throughout most of Europe.

In fact, they are no different to any other self-appointed group and should be treated as such. In the case of the Catholic Church, they are no different to any other multi-national business other than being even LESS democratically accountable. The leadership is self-appointing and the top man is appointed from amongst a small unelected elite just like the president of some third-world military dictatorship. The 'Dear Leader' is appointed for life and is worshipped almost like a living god.

Could any democracy based on government by the consent of the people tolerate a system whereby the leadership of, say, a major financial institution or a global oil company, demands and is given, the right to be consulted on law, on education, on the running of the judiciary, indeed on any and every aspect of government?

Why then do we tolerate the same interference from the un-elected leadership of a religion?

It's time we dispensed with their 'services', thank you very much. They are welcome to form their little mutual support and admiration societies and clubs and to meet up and tell themselves what wonderful people they are being the only ones who know the 'truth'. What they are not welcome to do is tell the rest of us what to do any more.

It's time religions were told to mind their own business.

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