JERRY ROBERTS The Religious Right is wrong and dangerous

Jun 18, 2019

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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