Book review: Liberal Democrats do God

liberaldemocratsdogodMainstream Christianity often does battle with mainstream liberal values, be that over women in the church, LGBT rights or contraception and abortion. So when I learned that there was a Liberal Democrat Christian Forum and they’d embarked on a new publication entitled “Liberal Democrats do God” my interest was piqued.

At £6.67 on Amazon, I was somewhat surprised when it arrived at its rather lightweight look and feel. At just 70-80 pages, this is no War and Peace.

My first impression of the book upon opening was the number of high profile writers from Tim Farron, Duncan Hames, to Baroness Brinton and Sir Alan Beith … an  undoubted breadth and range of Lib Dem opinion and experience.

The books is split into two sections, the first “Why should we do God?”  covers essays by John Pugh MP, Tm Farron MP, Greg Mulholland MP and Sir Andrew Stunnell MP. All seek to explain why they hold their respective faiths and how they interlink with liberalism.

The boldest of the lot is Tim Farron’s, for he sets out the claim that the evidence for Christianity is ‘staggeringly compelling;’ This is a bold claim from Farron that will undoubtedly make headlines. It seems writing about Christianity, Farron excels with his heart on sleeve technique that is the centrepiece for most party conferences.

Greg Mulholland  then takes on what he calls an “increasing moral conformity” in the party; he hypothesises that many want to eliminate Christianity from internal debates. His style is what you’d expect from a Yorkshire MP – plain speaking. Greg could also win the award for the most uses of the world ‘illiberal’ in the shortest period, making his piece often feel like buzzword bingo than any serious attempt at confronting the failures of debate.

This leads to the second section ‘How should we ‘do God?”, with each author writing on a Christian value and how it can be applied to a certain policy or outlook. What’s noticeable is that most essays average 3-4 sides (which includes headline space, and quote boxes) which never feel long enough to develop any coherent argument or interesting thesis, thus most of the writing flies by without a lasting impression. Worthy to mention is Duncan Hames’ Green piece which uses the principle of stewardship to justify environmentalism, which feels like most of the green agenda, dull but worthy.

One thing that rankles me through the book is the style and presentation. Often there are completely blank pages, the spacing between paragraphs is horrible and the biggest crime of all is that fonts seem to change from paragraph to paragraph. This detracts from what otherwise is and could be a serious and professional publication.

It’s hard to believe that this book won’t cause controversy – and it will stick in the craw of many of our more strident secular members, but it is a publication with merit. Whilst the book should be applauded for adding to the market place of ideas within the party, ultimately it falls short of other collections of essays, hamstrung by its short length and often unoriginal ideas. It’s destined to make a big bang but it won’t revolutionise the party.

* Andrew Emmerson is a Liberal Democrat activist from the North of England

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45 Comments

  • I read Tim’s chapter and thought it was quite reasonable…even though I’m not a christian. I hear a lot about his religious views but I found this quite refreshing. Honest, open and very reasonable. Stunnell’s chapter was quite dull. But Greg Mulholland’s were incredibly incendiary. – I think he should reflect on his views.

  • I’m hoping the humanist and atheists amongst the party will put together a collection of essays. If people want to justify liberalism I suggest they look to the values of the Enlightenment with its emphasis on reason, not faith.

  • Andy Boddington 27th Aug '13 - 5:26pm

    @Dave

    You are spot on that it should be reason, not faith that underpins liberalism.

  • @Andy Boddington
    Does it really mater if it is someones faith or their belief in reason that underpins their liberal viewpoints? Surely all that matters is that they hold them. Christians should be free to state why their faith leads them to a liberal world view if humanists want to do likewise then great.

  • @Steveway – yes, it does matter. Why? Because when people are challenged on their liberalism, they will fall back on arguments and defences. Those arguments and defences should be based on reason. If people want to rely on faith for their politics, they belong to the conservative tribe. What matters is not just what people think but why they think what they think. Why? Because its this which will dictate and determine how they will apply what they think from one situation to the next. Frankly, I’m a bit worried about people who believe in virgin births and worship a sadistic God who likes to massacre people having power.

    Furthermore, I suspect the liberalism of the above contributors does take a different form due to their religion especially when it comes to issues such as abortion, drugs, euthanasia, gay rights etc (if I remember correctly Tim Farron’s votes on the gay marriage issue weren’t great. Hughes, also a Christian, showed another depressing side to him as well on that vote and his faith, he said, was responsible for it ). Their liberalism, on those issues, is certainly not my liberalism.

  • Separate point – is anyone else just very depressed with the state of this party now? Why can’t we have a radical liberal party which values civil liberties, feminism, considers freedom and equality as mutually necessary not in tension with each other, and secularism. We seem to have the worst of both worlds – right wing on economic issues and banging on about God. Seems to me if people want that they should join the tories or the US republicans even.

  • So no Christians should vote Lib Dem then, they can’t be real liberals. Of course the problem with your argument is that a great many Christians support equality and equal marriage, liberalisation of drug laws, a women’s right to chose and euthanasia. Equally many of no faith will be against such things, some of them believing their viewpoint is liberal. The truth is that Christians like most other sizeable group are (excuse the pun) a broad church.

    Perhaps you may need to question your own generalisations.. I would also question the liberal qualities of someone who believes their route to liberalism is the yardstick by which to judge others. Quite an authoritarian view really, you don’t only need to share my viewpoint, you must also come to that viewpoint in the same way.

  • Freedom includes the right to bang on about God you know….

  • A Social Liberal 27th Aug '13 - 6:29pm

    I always thought that the teachings of Christ were liberal. It has always been a real shame that so many christians didn’t and don’t listen to his teachings and instead place so much instead on the teachings of a man whos letters not only are often illiberal but go directly against Jesus’ lessons.

    Of course, at the same time, those same Christians ignore Paul who was Sauls outbursts on women keeping their hair covered and dressing modestly.

  • Steveway – I’m sorry to see you trying to make this personal.
    Of course a Christian can be a liberal but are they justifying their liberalism on the basis of their faith or on the basis of something else? Do they, for example, believe in the welfare state because they think God wants them to and consider other’s their brother or do they believe in the welfare state because they think all have a right, by virtue of their humanity, to a certain standard of living? I would suggest a liberal defence for such a position is the latter but not the former. The former has nothing to do with liberalism and everything to do with religion. If they vote liberal on the basis of the former they are liberal voters but no more.

    Of course, many Christians support the things you say, but I suspect, whether they choose to recognise it or not, that’s because of non-religious reasons. They then go looking for Biblical justifications. Their morals come before their Biblical reasons for such positions. Things like gay rights and women’s right were mostly gained in the face of Christianity and you do a disservice to those who struggled to imply otherwise. In any event the fact is Christians are more conservative on a range of social issues than atheists. Exceptions exist but that’s what they are – exceptions.

    Its not authoritarian to want people to believe in something for the right rather than the wrong reasons. Have a look at Mill – a perfectionist liberal if ever there were one or as I suppose you would say an authoritarian. Amusingly Christians, who you are so eager to defend, do a similar thing. Imagine someone saying they are a Christian but don’t believe in the any of the Bible. Would Christians be authoratarian to say they have got to their professed Christianity the wrong way? Or is it ok for them to say that but not ok for me to say it when it comes to liberalism?

    Of course people can bang on about God although when they are trying to change the public’s perception of this party by doing so they should not expect to go unchallenged.

  • A Social Liberal – would you apply that to his teachings about killing children who disobey their parents, telling people to leave their families and ranting about hell (unlike the Old Testament which is supposedly the more obscene).

  • Perhaps someone could explain what ‘rational’ reason there is to think that ‘all have a right, by virtue of their humanity, to a certain standard of living’?

    I can’t see how to derive such a right from empirical observations of the universe, but maybe I’m missing something (of course if I am, so was David Hume…)

  • I see Andrew Hickey has already made the point I was going to about the founding of the party (and I’m an atheist). I certainly see no incompatibility between Christianity (and other religions) and Liberalism, but in terms of this particular collection… I’m aware that it was commisioned by the Christian faction within the party, but it would have been nice to have some non-Christian religious voices. And some non-white Christian ones, possibly.

    Anyway, if anyone DOES put together an atheist book I’ll be pleased to contribute to it – so long as it is well-formatted and reasonable value for money for the poor suckers buying it, of course, which this pamphlet appears very much not to have been.

  • Jesus was a liberal philosopher. Whether or not you agree with his teachings makes you a Liberal. Whether or not you believe he was the Son of God makes you a Christian.

  • @Dave
    I’m sure you have good reason and evidence for your view that it is the exceptions that support more liberal views, please share. We can swap stories about Christian and Atheist monsters and deeds, being either does not guarantee anything on ones overall viewpoint or how one acts even if it should. You seem to discount anyone who is both Christian and liberal as being a lesser liberal than you. I am certainly not making it personal, merely pointing out the flaw in your generalisation.

    And for the record I am a Christian who is also a committed secularist. I see no conflict. I am a Christian who supports equal marriage and all of the other things listed above. I can justify my views without recourse to my faith or by using examples and I suspect many others are like me. I do not deny there are Christian bigots but I do challenge any generalisation.

  • Andy Boddington 27th Aug '13 - 8:06pm

    @Duncan Stott
    I like your comment. I pretty much concur with what Jesus is recorded to have said. I say this in a belief that there are no gods, or by definition, sons of gods.
    So what then does being a Christian bring to politics above secularism? Why publish a book of Christian perspectives? Why do we need to mention a god of any persuasion when we are dealing with politics?
    What is special about belief that it can improve politics above those of us who are secular and humanist?

  • @Andy Boddington
    Being a Christian brings nothing more to politics then being an agnostic and atheist or any other belief system. I haven’t read the book yet but would disagree with any of the contributors to it if they stated that. But why not publish a book of Christian perspectives? There is nothing stopping you or anyone else publishing a book from the humanist viewpoint. If people feel that their personal faith has helped them come to a liberal worldview then as long as they are not trying to coerce or force people to join them, let them write. No one needs to buy or read it…

  • If the moral imperatives of Christianity (for example teachings about personal relationships), cause a politician to attempt to make moral choices for others, then it is not consistent with liberalism in my opinion.

  • ‘If the moral imperatives of Christianity (for example teachings about personal relationships), cause a politician to attempt to make moral choices for others, then it is not consistent with liberalism in my opinion’

    Is there any way to legislate which isn’t attempting to make moral choices for others?

    A law outlawing drink driving, for example, is attempting to make a moral choice for others. It’s attempting to impose the moral code that you shouldn’t put others’ lives in danger on people who may think that it’s perfectly fine to put other people’s lives in danger if it means they get to have a good night out at the pub.

  • A Social Liberal 27th Aug '13 - 11:03pm

    Dave – perhaps you can give me chapter and verse where Christ advocates “killing children who disobey their parents”, “telling people to leave their families” or where he resorts to “ranting about hell”?

  • Duncan Stott, other people’s interpretations of the teachings of Jesus, long after his death, then subsequently translated and rewritten several times might indicate some broadly liberal views, but, personally, I’m distrusting of anyone who derives moral authority by stating they are doing God’s work.

    Not only is it against progressive secularist values, but you cannot argue to change the mind of someone who believes their views have supernatural origins.

    All you can hope for is Damascene conversion.

    Religion in politics scares me.

  • @A

    The difference is that drink driving is already behaviour which endangers random other members of the public and so it makes sense for it to be a collective decision as to whether we are all going to stop doing this (as in many European countries) or whether we are going to allow each other to do it but within a strict limit (as in the UK) or whatever. What is incompatible with Liberalism is the unsupressed urge to collectivise decisions about matters which don’t endanger other members of the public, because one wishes to correct someone else’s mistaken personal decision. There are many examples all over LDV, such as alcohol pricing, drugs and LGBT+ issues among many others. There are many reasons why a LD member may support illiberal policies – I would say the prime culprit is campaigning with no greater philosophical depth than “only the Lib Dems can beat the Tories/Labour in Royston Vasey” – but if one’s Christianity causes one to support illiberal positions such as on gay marriage then yes, it is inconsistent with liberalism (and of course this is not a problem for every Christian member, just some).

  • A Is there any way to legislate which isn’t attempting to make moral choices for others?

    The short answer is yes, one can pass a bill to repeal pre-existing legislation.

  • @Richard S
    “but if one’s Christianity causes one to support illiberal positions such as on gay marriage ”

    Why should the state decide what constitutes the terms and conditions of personal relationships anyway? To me, that is inherently illiberal. Whether the state chooses to allow state ‘marriage’ between two adults of opposite sex, two adults of the same sex or any combination thereof, it is profoundly illiberal. What about threesomes – why shouldn’t they be allowed to be married? If I declare that anyone that doesn’t agree with state marriage for threesomes is illiberal, is that correct?

    To my mind, it would be far more liberal for the state not to marry anybody and remove all tax-breaks, benefit restrictions, etc, and allow organisations to marry people according to their own beliefs and traditions, whether they choose to marry only same-sex couples, only opposite-sex couples or any combination of couples in their ceremony. As far as issues relating to the couple’s property are concerned, that should be left to a civil contract drawn up by the partners. That’s my opinion on what constitutes liberalism with regards to marriage. It is a completely different opinion to the ‘equal marriage’ opinion that states that the state determines who can be married and how that legally changes their financial affairs. The point I’m making here is that there is no black an white definition of what is illiberal and what isn’t. However, to decry someone else as being illiberal simply because they don’t share the same opinion as you, is.

  • jedibeeftrix 28th Aug '13 - 9:40am

    < is amused to see the desire for ideological purity trumps the requirement for voters once again.

    i, as an indifferent agnostic, ask whether this is a political party seeking election or a protest movement patting itself on the back…

  • Suzanne’s comments about abortion really hit the nail on the head in this debate. If I read her correctly, she may be about to fall into the trap of saying that her views are ‘ right’ therefore everyone else should abide by them. That is not a defensible liberal point of view but it is how many religious legislators behave including Lib Dem MPs. They are entitled to their own point of view and to lead their lives by this but they are not entitled to impose it on others.

    I respect Suzanne’s view that it is her Christian faith which enables her to stand up for what she believes. It is my humanism which enables me to do the same.

  • Matthew Huntbach 28th Aug '13 - 11:32am

    Dave

    Of course, many Christians support the things you say, but I suspect, whether they choose to recognise it or not, that’s because of non-religious reasons. They then go looking for Biblical justifications. Their morals come before their Biblical reasons for such positions.

    Christianity is NOT “take the Bible, and invent a religion based on it”. That’s Protestantism, which is a religion invented in the 16th century. OK, I’m being provocative here, but if you are arguing about these things, you need at least to show you have some knowledge of what you are arguing against.

  • Matthew Huntbach 28th Aug '13 - 12:11pm

    Dave

    Separate point – is anyone else just very depressed with the state of this party now? Why can’t we have a radical liberal party which values civil liberties, feminism, considers freedom and equality as mutually necessary not in tension with each other, and secularism.

    Yes, I’m depressed with the state of the party, and one thing that depresses me in particular is the determined attempt by a small but influential group of people to try and re-write history and get “liberalism” to mean something other than it used to mean. When these people use the term “classical liberal” or “19th century liberal” to mean an Ayn Rand like belief in extreme free market economics, they ignore the extent to which the Liberal Party has its roots in nonconformist Christianity. Even until quite recently there was a definite correlation between membership of one of the traditional non-conformist denominations and voting Liberal.

    It seems to me this strong social aspect of British liberalism goes back to these Christian roots. Perhaps this is all lost now that most people have no real idea what Christianity is about, and tend to think of it in terms of those who most aggressively use the term “Christian” in a loud-mouthed way i.e. certain evangelical groups, which in some cases are just money-making rackets. OK, I was rude about “Protestantism” in part because I want to get across the notion that there are other forms of Christianity apart from these, but in fact 19th century nonconformist Christianity generally had a strong social reformist agenda. Our concept of liberal democracy owes much to nonconformist Christianity;’s rejection of a hierarchical Church structure, and its emphasis on believers meeting together to worship and study scripture on an equal basis, not one where they were told what to believe and how to worship by any sort of authority. Indeed, though you write “Things like gay rights and women’s right were mostly gained in the face of Christianity”, there is not a single word given to Jesus in the gospels about homosexuality or about denying rights to women. In fact there is quite a lot about Jesus taking a women’s rights position which would have been astonishing in his time and culture.

    One cannot read the gospels without seeing that there is a strong emphasis on concern for the poor, helping others, and respecting the dignity of all human beings, and a strong rejection of the “greed is good” mentality which some now are trying to make out is what liberalism is all about by using words such as “classical liberalism” or “19th century liberalism: to mean it. There is a hugely stronger emphasis on this than on any sort of sexual issue.

    Now it seems to me that it is BECAUSE British liberalism has its roots in 19th century non-conformist Christianity that it has as part of its core the idea that freedom and equality are mutually necessary not in tension with each other. That is why I say that those who wish to steal the word “liberalism” and claim it has historical roots where equality is seen as the opposite of liberalism are wrong – they are trying to rewrite history in the way that George Orwell wrote about in 1984, deliberately falsifying it for propaganda reasons.

    In continental Europe, liberalism had its roots in anti-clericalism. It seems to me that this is why, though it was strong on anti-authoritarianism, it lacked the social side which has ALWAYS been part of British liberalism. That is, continental liberalism was all about attacking the power structures of the Catholic Church where it was dominant, but did not have the Christian concern for shared human welfare. The result is that what emerged as the social stream of liberalism in Britain tended to come out in what became called “Christian Democracy” in the rest of Europe – socially conservative, but with more of a caring aspect than in continental liberalism. The result is that whereas liberalism in Britain is seen as centrist in economic terms, in the rest of Europe it is seen as right-wing – traditionally in Parliaments in continental European countries, the Christian Democrats sat in the centre, and the Liberals sat on the right. The equivalent of our Conservative Party would have sat even further on the right, but in the rest of Europe the pro-aristocracy parties, which is what our Conservative Party descends from, died out.

  • “I’m distrusting of anyone who derives moral authority by stating they are doing God’s work…. you cannot argue to change the mind of someone who believes their views have supernatural origins…. Religion in politics scares me.”

    Me too, but.

    Fascism also scares me. So did many communists, though less so Khruschev and not Gorbachev. So does the North Korean leadership cult. So, indeed, do the more fanatical free-market-economy believers. None of these are examples of religion, but they share the characteristics of religion at its worst.

    What really scares me is overwhelming devotion to an ideology, a kind of distorted, self-centred romantic “love”, a massive cerebral malfunction, almost an alien occupation of the brain. There are plenty of religious people who suffer this affliction, of course – Ahmedinejad, George W Bush, bin Laden, and (though he knows he should hide it) Blair. There are many other religious people who don’t. There are also quite a few atheists and agnostics who suffer from this debilitating condition. And again, there are plenty who don’t.

    The scary thing is that, if you are dealing with a Kim-Jong-il, a GW Bush or a Hitler, you are dealing with someone whose overwhelming devotion to an ideological cause can blind them to all facts, all reason, and all humanity. Rational fear of religious extremism is, or should be, a sub-set of that fear.

  • David Allen, I accept your points.

    And, like religion, those examples require indoctrination by the state to survive as political ideas.

    Incidentally, I would include Lib Dems as having an overwhelming devotion to an ideology, liberalism, which, it appears, means many things to many people, all of whom cite it is underpinning their support for one policy or another. in the face of opposition.

  • Julian Tisi 28th Aug '13 - 5:58pm

    Stephen W
    “the idea that ‘faith’=believing things without evidence, and is directly opposed to ‘reason’, is an ignorant, militant atheist caricature that no religious philosophers, thinkers or leaders hold now or in the past. And most of the great figures of the Enlightenment were either Christian or at least Deist. Just to round that off, an atheist based moral theory is just as much a matter of guess work as a religously based one.”
    Totall agree. Sort of what I was going to say, but you said it better than I would have done!

  • @Steve – to a certain extent I agree with you (or rather, I would more directly target parents with any support measures than random married people), but the position you describe isn’t the one from which gay marriage is being opposed by Christian MPs.

  • @Matthew Huntbach

    Ayn Rand isn’t a very good shorthand for libertarian type economic beliefs, because her justifications for the free market are a lot narrower than those used by most supporters of the free market, such as trickle down economics and so on.

  • I wonder how we define “mainstream Christianity”? Doe s it include Methodists and United Reformed, for example? I’ll happily accept that neither Quakers nor the Salvation Army are mainstream.

    On reason and faith: reason cannot give you values, and attempts to derive values purely from reason fail. Ultimately you have to make a choice and the correctness of that choice cannot be demonstrated by syllogisms or calculated by mathematics unless you already have some kind of given. The Enlightenment certainly gave a lot to liberalism, but you cannot derive liberalism from logic except by sleight of hand. A statement like that in the preamble to the American Declaration of Independence, about equality and liberty, derives from a “gut feeling” and to follow that feeling involves a kind of faith. Indeed, many proponents of Enlightenment were taken down that route by religious faith, but of course there is also non-religious faith.

    Reason is a marvellous tool for clarifying our thoughts and working out their implications, but a clear-thinking oppressor like Stalin (or, to lower the bar a bit, Dick Cheney, or the illiberal planning-worship of the early Fabians) is as much a servant of Reason as any liberal.

    There is no necessary conflict between Enlightenment and faith.

    Historically, Liberalism owed a huge amount to the religious commitment of Levellers (whose religious position was what people generally knew then as Brownist), and to nonconformists of various kinds. It’s easy to see, for example, how the philosophy of collective self-help and of equality fostered by Methodism contributed to British Liberalism.

    That is not, of course, to say that a liberal position can only be derived from religious faith. But if we are liberals we should be able to debate these issues without demonising others.

  • Alex Macfie 29th Aug '13 - 8:10pm

    @Matthew Huntbach: I think one should be careful with generalising about continental European liberal parties. The social liberal strand does exist in many mainland European countries (most notably D66 in the Netherlands, but there are others). Many of them are centrist by UK political standards but see the Left as their main enemy simply because the socialist Left is a much stronger politically than it is here (the two Swedish liberal parties are a good example of this). Also while the word “liberal” is often used in parts of mainland Europe as a term of abuse to mean a Thatcherite, I don’t think this reflects the beliefs of self-proclaimed liberals, any more than the lazy journalistic use of the “liberal” to mean left-winger (including the sort of left-winger for whom a liberal is a yellow Tory) in the UK reflects what actual liberals here believe.

  • David Pollard 29th Aug '13 - 10:31pm

    I find it difficult to understand how people come up with a political philosophy based on a supernatural being which does not exist, but if they come to the same conclusion as I do even though I don’t believe in the supernatural then who am I to disagree with them. Recently I have found myself in a strange position as a believer only in the natural world of being against gay marriage, which apparently puts me on the same side as many believers in the supernatural.

  • David Pollard 29th Aug '13 - 10:33pm

    By the way, politics is the art of the possible. Christianity is a very idealistic religion and does not work in human society. The two should not be mixed.

  • David Pollard 29th Aug '13 - 10:43pm

    And finally, I would say to Simon Banks that the values of society are determined from experiments of what works. Values change as Society evolves. Faith can defined as experience. You have ‘faith’ that most people are honest because most people are. You learn to be careful because you come across dishonest people. You have ‘faith’ that the train will arrive on time, because more often than not it does.

  • Matthew Huntbach 30th Aug '13 - 9:13am

    Alex McFie

    The social liberal strand does exist in many mainland European countries (most notably D66 in the Netherlands, but there are others).

    Yes, it does exist, but it is not the dominant strand in what is called “liberalism” as it was here. In fact some of the parties you have in mind, D66 is one, didn’t originate as liberal parties, they originated claiming to want to get away from existing ideologies, including continental liberalism.

    Also while the word “liberal” is often used in parts of mainland Europe as a term of abuse to mean a Thatcherite,

    Er, there is now a determined effort by well-funded and influential people HERE to get the word “liberal” to mean what we used to call “Thatcherite”, and not as a term of abuse.

    The point I’m making is that British liberalism is a distinctive force of a sort that hasn’t arisen, at least not with any strength, in other countries, and I’ve tried to give historical reasons why that is, and those are very much to do with its roots in nonconformist Christianity.

  • As a member of the Liberal Democrat Christian Forum (LDCF), first ,a confession (I have not read the book yet – will buy it at conference from the LDCF stall for the discounted price £5 and encourage any others interested to do likewise), second an apology, I have only now just made time now to contribute as I have been so focussed on Syria and other defence matters. This means I am probably too late to reach anyone with this missive!

    Yes, I am a Christian first, and Liberal Democrat second. I was interested in politics from about age 11 and became a Christian when I was 18. There are Christians in almost all parties … indeed over my lifetime I have voted Conservative, Labour, (almost joined the SDP), Green, independent (Police & Crime Commissioner) and of course Lib Dem. Recent policy and practice deviations by our party apart (and I think that 2 great Christian virtues are necessary here forgiveness and empathy towards our leaders – something in which I am frequently remiss unfortunately), I am a Lib Dem because as a party we stand for freedom, equality, justice and the protection of the ordinary citizen from special interests and authoritarianism.

    Lots of issues were raised, so I will comment on just a few:
    • Book contributors – we would love to have had more ethnic minority contributors, reaching out to extend LDCF membership to our ethnic minority brothers and sisters is a high priority;
    • Faith and reason – as several contributors have noted, they are not by nature in conflict as all reason starts with the base of axioms (assumed truth) whether we recognize these or not (of course it is possible to build unreasoned structures on these axioms;
    • Jesus a liberal philosopher – it would be handy as a Lib Dem Christian to claim that, but if you read the Sermon the Mount, he could only be deemed to be a radical progressive, but on top of that the claim that he is the Son of God is either earth-shattering in its profundity, or a sign of megalomaniacal paranoia;
    • Abortion – not a popular cause in the UK, but I am against abortion in all but the most extreme cases exactly because I am a “liberal” and value the life of the very weakest member of society, namely the unborn child who has no independent voice; and finally
    • Qutoing “politics is the art of the possible. Christianity is a very idealistic religion and does not work in human society. The two should not be mixed.” Yes politics requires compromise (indeed compromise when done correctly is one of the greatest ways of loving our neighbour by loving others as we love ourselves), but it is guided by principles, ethics, and ideology and Christianity provides these abundantly. It is far from easy to be a Christian in politics, but we were never promised an easy life. God is intimately concerned about politics as he is intimately concerned about how we treat one another and how we treat the planet we all share together as human beings and the rest of biological diversity.

    Please do pass by the LDCF stall in Glasgow if you want to chat more.

  • As a Quaker, I am a free thinker, not hidebound by centuries of state controlled Christianity. The belief of a God within everyone rather than some being existing outside time and space makes it clear for me that so-called issues of conscience are very often an attempt to use religion as an excuse for not being Liberal. I think there is a confusion between the writings in the bible, set down anything up to 2000 years ago and the clear Liberal belief in equality. Religious belief cannot be a substitute for Liberalism. I think we need to reconsider just how issues like marriage, abortion, the death penalty, gay rights are viewed. No-one is forcing people with Christian beliefs to marry a same sex partner, to have an abortion, to mix with homosexual people or indeed to hang anyone. But neither have people with religious beliefs any right to tell other people, who don’t share their faith, how they shall think or act on these issues either.
    A Liberal society would very much that that envisaged by JS Mill, society where people would be free to do anything they wanted unless it caused harm to someone else. Hence racist and homophobic behavior are out because they do harm others, but same sex marriage, whilst it may offend some, does not do anyone any harm.
    Some Lib Dem MPs act in an illiberal way, not because they are unhappy about abortion or same sex marriage, but because they try and stop others who do not share their beliefs from living as they wish to.

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  • User Avatarpeter tyzack 25th Jul - 9:56am
    - it is depressing how people take words and give them other meanings to suit their own distorted agendas. Perhaps we should drop the word...
  • User AvatarPeter Watson 25th Jul - 9:55am
    @Paul in Wokingham "The MPs who get re-elected next year will basically be those who are well-known and well-liked by their constituents, and who manage...
  • User Avatartheakes 25th Jul - 9:44am
    Richard: it is reality, look at Doncaster last night, where was the Liberal Democrat candidate, did we have one? And this in an area where...
  • User AvatarDavid Evans 25th Jul - 9:33am
    I like it!
  • User AvatarPaul in Wokingham 25th Jul - 9:28am
    I do find myself wondering whether any of this really matters. The MPs who get re-elected next year will basically be those who are well-known...
  • User AvatarTim13 25th Jul - 8:53am
    I have learnt, reading up on James Gurling, that he is, in his day job, a communications consultant. He has also been Chair of Campaigns...