I took part in a discussion this morning with two very nice people. It was on BBC Raidio Uladh/Radio Ulster’s ‘Sunday Sequence’ (best programme on BBC Raidio Uladh, by the way) and the two very nice people were Wallace Thompson, a former adviser to Nigel Dodds of the DUP, and Rev Lesley Carroll, a Presbyterian minister. They struck me as the kind of people I’d enjoy talking to, on or off a programme. The only problem was that one of them would appear to believe I’m going straight to Hell when I die and the other is, well, a wee bit ambiguous.
I’ll put a link to the programme below, but I’d like if we’d had more time discussing the influence of religious groups on legislators. It’s reported that politicians like Edwin Poots, Nelson McCausland, Jonathan Bell, Diane Dodds, Gregory Campbell and Jim Allister are in sympathy with/responsive to the lobbying of Wallace Thompson. And since he’s a former adviser of Nigel Dodds, maybe he should be added to the list. The comparison has been drawn between Wallace’s Caleb Foundation and the Militant Tendency working within the ranks of the Labour Party, influencing policy. Some people think Wallace’s Caleb Foundation has already surpassed the Orange Order in its influence on unionist politicians. And given that a senior Orangeman formed part of the DUP group at the Haass negotiations, that’s going some.
Should fundamentalist religious groups influence legislators and legislation here? Well as they say, there’s no law against it. Wallace and Co are perfectly entitled to buttonhole Edwin or Nelson or Jonathan or Diane or Gregory or Jim and see if they can shape their thinking to match exactly with the content of the Bible. The catch is, if they’re successful, the people in our society who don’t interpret the Bible literally, or those who don’t believe a word of the Bible – they’re going to be living in a society with laws reflecting the literal Bible. Even though I know I should be worried about going to Hell, I find myself also worried about living in that kind of society. The catch with those who have theocratic tendencies, as Wallace appears to have, is that they don’t really take into consideration those who have no interest in religious faith, or who are opposed to it, or who have religious faith in sharp contrast with that held by such as Wallace. The difference in thinking is exemplified on the programme where Wallace effectively says Catholics like me are on the way to the fiery pit while he, a saint (his word, not mine) is not.
Once you start thinking about other people as inevitably damned, allowing themselves to be led to their damnation by the Antichrist (that’s the Pope, Virginia – try to keep up, would you?), it’s not too big a leap to think of such people as being…well, a bit inferior. In fact, spiritually speaking, a very big bit inferior. And the walk from spiritually inferior Catholic to politically inferior Fenian scum isn’t really all that long a walk, is it?
Here’s the programme link – our discussion starts at 38 mins 52 secs in: