Faith In Paper Money

Hitchens’ very strong Mail On Sunday column:

“If judges ban religion from our courts, guess who gets to play God…

We all now know that our money is based entirely on faith. There’s nothing like enough gold or dollars or even land to back up the fantastic promises made on all those banknotes.

Nobody dares to think about what might happen if confidence dies, as it so nearly did  in the last great crash.

Given that faith in paper money sustains our entire banking and currency systems, isn’t it odd that faith in  a Christian God is generally viewed as eccentric and outdated?

For what exactly is it that holds up the law? Why should parents have charge over their children, teachers over their pupils? Why should we stop  at zebra crossings if we’re in a hurry? Why give a seat to a pregnant woman or an old  man? Lots don’t. Why pay your debts or your taxes, if you can get out of it?

Authority, and the test of  what was right or wrong, used to come from the Christian religion. But Sir James Munby, a distinguished High Court Justice, is the keenest of several judges to say that is all finished now.

He says ‘Once upon a time, the perceived function of the judges was to promote virtue and discourage vice and immorality.’ But he adds: ‘I doubt one would now hear that from the judicial bench.’

I doubt it too. Lord Justice Laws said back in 2010 that providing legal protection to one religion over another would be ‘deeply unprincipled’. ‘This must be so, since in the eye of everyone save the believer, religious faith is necessarily subjective,’ he remarked.

Of course, that’s so in a way. Faith is a choice. But the respect given to Lord Justice Laws and Sir James Munby is much more subjective, as is the set of beliefs which seat them on the Bench and pay their salaries.

In 2011, Sir James was one  of two High Court Judges who said that it was not yet ‘well understood’ that British society was largely secular and that the law had no place for Christianity. It’s pretty well understood now. Yet I don’t recall Parliament ever passing an Act saying we had stopped being a Christian country, or revoking the Coronation Oath, or removing the dozens of Christian elements in the law, right up to the cross on top of the crown on every police cap badge. Can it be that the judges have decided to replace God with their own views? It sounds like it.

Sir James seems to have some personal goodness calculator concealed in his robes. Amazingly, it seems to accord with fashionable opinion on everything. Will it still work if its verdicts are unpopular with the liberal elite? Likewise, he’s against things done by a minority of Muslims (though not actually Islamic) which he says are ‘beyond the pale’, including forced marriage, female genital mutilation and so-called ‘honour-based’ domestic violence.

But if he’s so secular and multicultural, as he says he is, what exactly is his objection to these actions? Some cultures are rather keen on them.

It’s all very well saying ‘All are entitled to respect, so long as they are “legally and socially acceptable” and not “immoral or socially obnoxious” or “pernicious”.’

But isn’t deciding which is which, as Lord Justice Laws might say, ‘necessarily subjective’? Dig through the first layer of judges to find out what’s acceptable this year, or what’s obnoxious this week, and you’ll find that it’s just judges all the way down. There’s no bottom, just the modish opinion of today, which may not be the opinion of tomorrow. What’s ‘immoral or socially obnoxious’ in 2013 may be ‘legally and socially acceptable’ in 2043. Who would have believed, in 1983, that we’d be where we are now?

Three decades on, ‘Equality and Diversity’ will have gone, much, much further. Just as we no longer have money, just a pocketful of promises, we no longer have laws, just the current opinions of a self-satisfied, not very thoughtful elite.

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I am more and more sure that the HS2 railway line should not be built. Of course I like the  fast trains of the Continent, and often use the Eurostar to Paris and Brussels. The distances justify it. But Britain is smaller and more crowded than France or Germany. The trains to Birmingham and Leeds seem fast enough to me.

And if you travel on normal French trains, you’ll find that the TGV has sucked money out of ordinary lines, so that quite important towns have wretched, infrequent and slow services.
If we finally have money to spend on railways, renationalise the lot – so saving billions in needless payments to private operators – and put back what we stupidly shut in the 1960s, especially the marvellous Great Central line, which would actually do most of the things HS2 says it will do, and won’t.

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The BBC presenter Jeremy Paxman says that ‘nine times out of ten’ people obey him  when he asks them to pick up their litter. I hope his run of incredible good luck continues, but could it be that he’s a bit selective about whom he asks? Or maybe there aren’t many weapon dogs round where he lives.

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Barbed wire fences have begun to appear along Russia’s once-open borders with Georgia and Ukraine. Both these states have chosen to rely on American  and EU promises and seek to break their historic links with Moscow. I hope for the sake of Ukrainians and Georgians that those promises are kept. But something tells me that Russia will still be there, waiting, when the EU is a memory and Washington has lost interest in anything east of Cape Cod.

(NB, I have omitted Hitchens’ short section on Lou Reed as found it abit silly, though am infinitely opposed to the unpleasant attacks he has faced for giving his opinion. It can be found at the link I provide here for those who want to read it: (http://hitchensblog.mailonsunday.co.uk/2013/11/if-judges-ban-religion-from-our-courts-guess-who-gets-to-play-god.html)

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