There is a recent news piece on the BHA about the Department for Communities and Local Government's (CLG) recent creation of "faith advisors" this really annoys me.
Why does this annoy me? because there is a persistent rumour that we should give a damn what various religious leaders think. Having a religion does not give you special insight into anything. Being a priest to a religion does not give you extra useful knowledge. In fact what little insight it gives you will most likely be through a haze of out-dated rules and laws set down in a completely different time.
There are many community leaders, priests are just one example. If we're giving priests a special position within government (as advisers) why not scout masters? The argument that many people base a large portion of their life around their religion is normally trotted out at this point and I would like to take that trotting target and shoot it down now.
Apparently 66% of the population of the UK have no connection at all with a Church and I would be surprised if the number who genuinely shape their life by it is anywhere near that. People base their morals and tastes on those around them. This is part of what's called "social contract" essentially it is "I won't kill you because you might kill me first".
The religious already have a voice, it's called a vote. In a democratic society that is the only voice they or anyone else deserves. Other experts advise within a narrow realm that is defined specifically by their expertise. These "faith advisers" are going to advice on "economy, parenting, achieving social justice and tackling climate change" or the "big issues". Of all the groups in existence those that follow a religion are rarely the same that I would want to tell me how we can solve the complex problem of reducing green houses gasses against everyone's desire to produce them. They may have a "unique insight" but I don't consider praying for salvation a useful input.
If these people have genuine contributions to make from a standpoint of actual knowledge fair enough but some empty headed assumption that they connect with the people (that minority of 34% or less) and that this connection is somehow special beyond that of just grabbing someone from the street is bollocks.
This is not a post advocating the insertion of a humanist or atheist onto this panel it is advocating the removal of this panel, if you want the advice of community leaders ask them with reference to a specific situation. 13 advisers is too few to cover even a fraction of the many, many, many facets of life in the UK that they will need to in order to garner useful opinions on the topics they want. Will there be a Scientologist? how about a 18 year old street preacher from Brixton? or an anarchist Humanist? Faith may be a major point in a lot of people's life but given the department concerned I think they would be better served looking for representatives of specific socio-economic groups. not faiths.
NB the 66% figure is from this page here: http://www.vexen.co.uk/UK/religion.html