Where Atheists Dare Not Tread | Jake Scott

In case you hadn’t heard, the Church of England has stated that sex is for married, heterosexual couples. It declared this in 1534, when it separated from Rome – of course, you would be forgiven for thinking it declared this in January 2020, following a statement made in a guidance on the new Civil Partnerships legislation. Naturally, we all immediately became theological scholars, ready to provide our opinion to everyone who didn’t ask.

It doesn’t really seem to matter that the Church of England’s presence in its own country is dismally low – just over 1,000,000 Englishmen describe themselves as Anglican. While the wider faith enjoys a support of 59.4% as per the 2011 census (inevitably it will be lower in the next census in 2021), the Church of England seems to be the chosen punching bag of atheist know-it-alls. It hardly seems surprising that the Church made a statement consistent with its own doctrine in response to a new law, at least to anyone with any knowledge of Anglican doctrine. Though, you can’t help but wonder – why is the Church under fire for a very typical attitude amongst faiths?

There definitely feels as though there’s a readiness to criticise the Church of England for taking a stance consistent with its own teachings and not “catch up” to modernity, and not other faiths. Amongst the most egregious was a Guardian piece calling the guidance ‘staggeringly stupid’ made up of letters to the editor. One wonders whether the contributors (all ostensibly Anglican) really do consider themselves Anglican or adopt the title merely as that – a title; or perhaps they believe themselves better placed to interpret scripture? Some of them are Fathers, but the established hierarchy of the Church is very clear. Further, one also wonders why a set of guidelines are so ‘staggeringly stupid’ when it makes no attempt at coercive control, and instead relies on those two very important virtues underpinning the life of a member of the Clergy – discipline, and abstinence.

But the deeper question is, of course, why do people feel so ready to criticise the Church of England (and wider Christianity) but not other faiths for the same ‘stunningly stupid’ stances? I am sure anyone reading this will have their own answers – my own comes from the faith I hold in the English virtue of irony, the ability to wryly smile at criticism, and shrug. Though, if I may, I would like to ask those who criticise our faith to do one of two things.

Either be consistent in your smug, self-righteous, arrogant offensiveness to all faiths, fully prepared to take to task every faith for not holding the secular views you do (whilst also being fully aware of the irony), and not living in “the real world” that you think faiths do not inhabit; or do the decent thing, and keep your opinions to yourselves?

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