JERRY ROBERTS The Religious Right is wrong and dangerous

Israel Folau is arguing that he is entitled to act in an offensive manner because he adheres to a set of childish superstitions about heaven and hell that most of us grow out of when we work out the Tooth Fairy and begin to have doubts about Father Christmas.

The Anglican church is dying of old age. As Roman Catholic strategist Steve Bannon warns the Vatican, the Church of Rome is about to be stripped of assets by lawyers representing its victims because this ancient institution has failed to implement a zero-tolerance policy against sexual abuse. With the established, sophisticated churches absorbed in fighting their own demons and too weak to face down the fundamentalists, we survey a bleak religious landscape.

Meanwhile the atheistic Chinese Communists whose bible is George Orwell’s 1984 are subjecting us to their economic sovereignty. They achieve their goals with such ease
because Western civilisation is tearing itself to pieces with petty, self-indulgent quarrels exemplified by Israel Folau and the grubby lawyers and political types who exploit his idiocy. Would the founding fathers who wrote Section 116 into our constitution believe that 21st Century Australians could be this stupid?

In the first post-election meeting of the ALP’s South Hedland branch I confessed that the only predictions I made correctly were the dubious merit of Get Up’s participation in the Pearce and Dickson electoral campaigns (Pearls and Irritations 26 April) and Labor’s problem in Queensland having two bob each-way on the Adani coal project (Pearls and Irritations 26 March 2018).

It was evident from election 2019 that Australian voters do not accept James Hansen’s theory about carbon and global warming. I didn’t offer the meeting any advice on that subject but perhaps the focus of environmentalists should switch to the inherent good sense of cleaning up atmospheric pollution.

I did make t\wo recommendations for the immediate future. Federal Labor should oppose the Government’s second and third phase tax cuts, as argued by Michael Keating (Pearls and Irritations 30 May) and should oppose the religious freedom legislation if it ever appears. Labor should be unequivocal in opposition to any Folau-inspired religious humbug.

In the United States, Donald Trump, an unrepentant, old-fashioned sinner, somehow picked up 80 percent of the votes of the White Religious Right who are now barking mad on the abortion issue. In a country already dangerously divided Trump knows that this is a disaster and it will be interesting to see his footwork as he tries to calm down the Bible Belt.

Scott Morrison knows he is Prime Minister because he put a moderate, friendly face on the Liberal Party. He will be wary of starting a religious war. Women will be the losers if the religious boofheads win such a war. Canadian author Margaret Atwood describes their fate in “The Handmaid’s Tale” now back on our television screens. The feminists are going to have to fight their fight all over again. The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.

Australians are free to worship their gods, build their temples, hire their pastors etc but these are private matters in which the State has no interest. Tax and religion may appear to be trivial affairs compared to the massive problems facing the world but they go to the heart of our ability to conduct rational debate, without which the problems are indeed insoluble.

We need to keep religion out of politics. That much is not rocket sense. On the other hand, there will always be politics in religion. When our local Vicar was telling the congregation about the annual Anglican pow-wow known as Synod held the previous weekend in Perth I whispered to Anne: “Jeremy understands politics. He will go up in the Church.” The same gent is now Bishop of Perth and he played such a dead bat when I tried to inveigle him into the Folau controversy that Geoffrey Boycott himself would have been impressed. There was no chance of even the faintest snick going through to the keeper.

Jerry Roberts is a former parliamentary reporter and a member of the ALP


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8 Responses to JERRY ROBERTS The Religious Right is wrong and dangerous

  1. This is indeed a divisive issue, David. You and I will never be on the same side here. I think the arrogance is on Israel’s side. We will soon know what comes out of the Attorney General’s office from his three-pronged legislation on religious freedom. I think Section 116 covers the subject satisfactorily.

    In his mature years I expect Israel Folau will regret this episode. At the age of 30 he may have a year or two of international rugby left but younger legs would soon mow him down. How much better if he had retired from the game graciously, thanked his mates and coaches and officials for the great years it gave him and started his preaching career with a clean slate rather than a multi-million dollar dispute.

  2. David Moloney says:

    Such arrogance, and associated policies, a significant contributor to Labor’s loss perhaps? Openly mocking religion is now ok? Leaving aside common decency, this doesn’t seem strategically sensible when the majority of Australians tell the census that they believe in God. What did Bill Shorten hope to achieve when, three days before the election, he goaded Morrison re his beliefs on gays and hell? Virtue signalling to the converted? Many in the electorate were already skittish about the religious freedom that both he and Turnbull had fallen over each other to guarantee during the SSM debate, but had since put in the too hard basket. Yet in the election wash-up the ALP enlightened declare all such people the ‘religious right’ and effectively label them Australia’s ‘deplorables’. So the new-left puritans remain undefiled, the world gets Trump, and we get Morrison. Goodbye genuine climate action, too bad people on Newstart (although Labor hasn’t covered itself in glory on that issue either), farewell any chance at fair and reasonable tax and industrial relations policies. And probably goodbye any chance of ALP government, at least until a few more censuses.

  3. My main objection to Israel Folau is theological (Pearls and Irritations 26 April). For 2,000 years the world’s finest minds have studied the Gospels. Among today’s scholars the English theologian Paul Gooder is one of my favourites. Now we are kicking off the 21st century with Israel’s Old Testament gobbledegook.

    We are going backwards in our religion and politics. It is not Maynard Keynes lecturing us on economics. It is Mathias Cormann. Our public space is an intellectual junk yard.

    I don’t think we can laugh this off. Mathias Cormann and his financier friends will not be happy until the workers are as “flexible” as the Egyptian slaves who built those ridiculous pyramids and the Christian fundamentalists now lobbying Christian Porter will not be happy until they are burning witches at the stake.

    The Pope is reported to have gone along with the Chinese Government’s wish to appoint bishops for China’s 10 million Roman Catholics, not all of whom are happy about this move. Kerry — ask the Tibetans about religion in China.

    I think the silence on the Folau issue of the sophisticated, traditional churches –Roman Catholic and Anglican — is a form of appeasement towards the fundamentalists and I can’t see any good coming from it. Religion has to be about beauty.

  4. Charles Lowe says:

    Jerry – sorry to tell you but there’s yet another incorrect observation – in this article this time.

    I quote: “We need to keep religion out of politics. That much is not rocket sense. On the other hand, there will always be politics in religion.”

    Just exactly who has ever kept religion out of politics? Mannix in the ’20’s. ‘The Split’ in the ’50’s. The osmotic infiltration of High Anglicans into the Democrats in the mid-eighties. The Evangelicals into the Coalition over the last two decades or more? And that is by no means an exhaustive list! (Have a go at charting the Catholics alone – on both sides.)

    Mate – my position is simple (though perceived to be impossible!). We need a secular Code of Ethics. And it just isn’t that difficult to construct a viable one.

  5. Michael Flynn says:

    China all atheist ? My reading is that in China are about 1oo million Protestant Christians and 60 million Catholics with many Moslems, Buddhists, Taoists and a Confucian tradition. The Holy See has agreed with the Chinese authorities on the appointment of bishops and local elements of the church. China and Australia have common interests including knowledge about the others history, religion, politics and society. We start with a common humanity and have economic interests that are helped by cultural and student exchanges. We could shift from the language of politics about the separation of church and state to the building of the practice of compassion.

  6. Kerry Faithfull says:

    What has China being athiest got to do with anything? Its amazing to me how every man and his dog no matter what topic they are writing about has to throw in a jab at the Chinese.

    FYI Orwell was writing about Fascism in 1984 not communism. The best current example of 1984 is not China it is the good ole US of A and Oz in rapid pursuit.

    The west is tearing itself apart in every way possible while the Chinese government is trying to build. This has nothing to do with religion or lack of religion. This has everything to do with unfettered capitalism.

  7. J.Donegan says:

    Jerry, you ask: “Would the founding fathers who wrote Section 116 into our
    constitution believe that 21st Century Australians could be this stupid?”.
    Another question perhaps more amenable to an answer might be: How is it
    the Chief Law Officer of Australia is apparently unaware of Section 116?

  8. Hal Duell says:

    “inveigle” – to entice, lure or ensnare by flattery or artful talk or inducements (usually followed by into)
    The bishop was right to play this with a dead bat. Pity we all didn’t.

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