Posted by dnotice
October 17th, 2010
This is a cross-post of an article by Dario Battisti which was originally posted on The 21st Floor.
In ancient times, hundreds of years before the dawn of history, lived a strange race of people– the Druids! No one knows who they were, or what they were doing, but their legacy remains…
Thus sang Spinal Tap’s Nigel Tufnel in the ‘hit song’, “Stonehenge”. However, the legacy of the druids is such that druidry continues today, in its revived, revised form. Recently, the Charity Commission accepted that druidry should count as a genuine religion, which should not come over as particularly shocking to anyone. Anyone, that is, except the columnist Melanie Philips, in a smugly hypocritical article protesting against the development.
Will someone please tell me this is all a joke. Until now, Druids have been regarded indulgently as a curious remnant of Britain’s ancient past, a bunch of eccentrics who annually dress up in strange robes at Stonehenge to celebrate the summer solstice.
Can it be long before the BBC transmits Stones Of Praise, or solemnly invites listeners to Radio 4’s Thought For The Day to genuflect to a tree?
Religious programming– imagine that! Laughable! No point is being made by this derision; Philips merely sneers at a faith which happens not to be the one she champions. Her article is replete with demeaning caricatures of druids intended to portray them as inferior savages compared to Christians .
Some might shrug this off. After all, the Druids don’t do any harm to anyone. What skin is it off anyone else’s nose how they are categorised?
Well, it actually matters rather a lot. Elevating them to the same status as Christianity is but the latest example of how the bedrock creed of this country is being undermined. More than that, it is an attack upon the very concept of religion itself.
How, exactly, is accepting druidry’s status as a religion an “attack” on religion itself? By the sound of it, Philips simply doesn’t like druids, and acknowledging that they might well fall into the ‘religion’ camp is too horrid for her to contemplate. Her article is replete of demeaning caricatures of practicing druids which serve no purpose other than to portray them as inferior to Christians. Additionally, pagan belief systems were the ‘bedrock creeds’ of Britain long before Christianity came along and decided to dismantle them, opportunistically pilfering elements which would come in handy for converting the populace.
Philips goes on to claim that druids belong to a cult rather than a religion, on the feeble basis that they believe in spirits of nature but not a ‘supreme god’, and that they are not ‘mainstream’. Yet anyone who has been following our Cult Status series will be aware of the difficulties in distinguishing cults from religions. The standard by which Philips makes her judgement seems completely arbitrary, postulated only for the sake of portraying the ever beloved Judeo-Christian faiths as superior to other faiths. You know, the wrong ones.
On the prospect of charitable status, she complains about druid leaders’ statements that they want “harmony with the earth and everything in it” by noting that:
…there are many who subscribe to no belief system at all and who would say they, too, want to live in harmony with the earth and everything in it. Are they, therefore, also to be regarded as religious folk and given charitable status?
Well, wait a minute! This would suggest that people have charitable inclinations regardless of religion, rather than as a result of it, thus undermining the practice of affording charitable status to any specific religion.
The whole thing is beyond absurd. But it is also malevolent. For it is all of a piece with the agenda by the oh-so politically correct Charity Commission to promote the fanatical religious creed of the Left — the worship of equality.
The Commission was primed by Labour for this attempt to restructure society back in 2006, when charity law was redrawn to redefine ‘public benefit’ as helping the poor.
This put the independent schools in the front line of attack, since education was no longer itself considered a benefit — as it had been since time immemorial — but only insofar as it furthered the ideology of ‘equality’.
Equal rights? Helping the poor? It’s political correctness gone mad! What’s really beyond absurd is Philips’ labelling of equal rights and concern for those in poverty as ‘malevolent’ and ‘fanatical’. This kind of outdated attitude betrays an extremely callous and oppressive streak on the author’s part.
But the new respectability of paganism cannot be laid entirely at the Charity Commission’s door. For in recent years, pagan practices have been rapidly multiplying, with an explosion of the occult: witchcraft, parapsychology, séances, telepathy and mind-bending cults.
Parapsychology, an occult practice? I was not aware that Richard Wiseman was an occultist. And when exactly did this ‘explosion of telepathy’ occur?
How on earth has our supposedly rational society come to subscribe to so much totally barking mumbo-jumbo?
That’s Melanie Philips, speaking in the Daily Mail, invoking rationality and decrying “so much totally barking mumbo jumbo” in her defence of Christian tradition. This is an astonishingly arrogant level of hypocrisy.
After making some more lazy caricatures, Philips makes the claim that focus on the natural world– that is, this world, rather than an elusive world-in-waiting– somehow provides a justification for mindless self-gratification.
These beliefs were, therefore, tailor-made for the ‘me society’ which turned against Biblical constraints on behaviour in the interests of others. They were subsequently given rocket fuel by environmentalism, at the core of which lies the pagan worship of ‘Mother Earth’.
I’m still not sure how the worship of the natural world, outside of oneself, amounts to self-worship. That sounds like the exact opposite to me.
…they were then legitimised by the doctrines of equality of outcomes and human rights — which, far from protecting the rights of truly religious people, aim to force Biblical morality and belief out of British and European public life altogether.
This is because human rights and equality of outcomes are held to be universal values. That means they invariably trump specific religious beliefs to impose instead equal status for all creeds.But if all creeds, however absurd, have equal meaning then every belief is equally meaningless. And without the Judeo-Christian heritage there would be no morality and no true human rights.
Yes, imagine the nightmare scenario that promoting human rights as universal values would result in. Never mind the fact that the whole point of human rights is that, as far as humans are concerned, they are universal values (and therefore must indeed trump religious doctrines which deny human rights, as any civilised person would realise). In any case, what the hell does “equality of outcomes” mean? Equal rights doesn’t mean that every outcome is the same, but that individuals in society are given equal opportunities within that society and not discriminated against– that citizens should have equal status as citizens. This terminology appears to have been devised solely to imply moral relativism where no such implication follows. The pathway beginning from equal rights and leading to absolute moral relativism does not exist.
There is nothing remotely enlightened about paganism. It was historically tied up with both communism and fascism, precisely because it is a negation of reason and the bedrock values behind Western progress.
It is not in the least surprising that, like any good fundamentalist nut, Philips does not neglect the obligatory unsubstantiated Godwin. The idea that the insular and insidious brand of Christianity championed throughout – a version of Christianity which does not recognise human rights as universal values – has somehow been the bedrock of Western progress is perverse.
The result is that, under the secular onslaught of human rights, our society is reverting to a pre-modern era of anti-human superstition and irrationality. From human rights, you might say, to pagan rites in one seamless progression.
This damning of secularism as instigating a reversion to “anti-human superstition and irrationality” is also utterly bizarre. By ensuring that people can live in a society whereby the religious views of one group (cough, Melanie Philips, cough) cannot be imposed on others, therefore meaning that measures have to be negotiated according to a rational, humanist approach, secularism defends against the advance of anti-human superstition and irrationality in making sure that it does not become a basis for laws. That is essentially the very purpose of secularism.
Anyone who thinks radical egalitarianism is progressive has got this very wrong. We are hurtling backwards in time to a more primitive age.
All this leads me to suspect that Melanie Philips writes her column from the safety of some bizarre parallel universe where a red traffic light means ‘go’, and rain falls upwards. A world in which a religious group is not a religion, in which worship of the natural world means self-worship, in which human rights are not universal values, in which equality is a malevolent doctrine, in which secularism favours superstition and irrationality, and in which egalitarianism is primitive and regressive. Her near-colonialist rage at the existence of anything non-Christian belongs in only two places that I can think of: the Dark Ages… and the pages of the Daily Mail.