I was attempting to post (another) comment on Nelson McCausland’s blog just a moment ago – I felt we were having an interesting dialogue – but his blog site refused to accept my comment (perhaps it was too long or something).
This is a pity because on his own site his last comment on a trail about the Museum issue asked me a couple of questions. I had penned a response – but am unable to post the response.
Anywhere, here’s my response to his two questions (you need to go here to read them).
I’d be delighted to answer your two questions.
Regarding your first question – it’s very difficult for me to answer because I’m not privy to the full extent of your missives to the Ulster Museum and other centres of art and culture. I’m assuming that because this particular piece of communication has come into the public domain that you do have a predisposition towards ‘putting pressure’ on organisations that you consider to be within your ministerial domain to reflect your personal ‘cultural’ preferences. This implies that you are not shy about expressing your personal partiality in terms of museum exhibits etc – to the exclusion of other cultural perspectives.
The fact that you have chosen to make the Institution aware of your opinion in relation to creationism and “fraternal organisations” shows that your cultural frame of reference is very narrow – and that your particular interest is in ensuring that the museum reflects the so-called cultural basis of what many regard as a very culturally stunted society. It is my view that if the museum were to give in to your requests that we’d rapidly slip into a society where your cultural ‘values’ would overwhelm others that are, frankly, more healthy.
I have already made clear that I believe your request that an institution of knowledge and learning should have exhibits relating to “creationism” would make us an international laughing stock. It would also seriously undermine the Ulster Museum’s credibility.
However, on the point of the “fraternal organisations” I would make the point that for a Minister in our local executive to insist (above and beyond other demands) that the Museum more obviously reflect the division in our society is irresponsible. I would argue that all Ministers should be seeking to encourage institutions of learning, art and culture to highlight more interesting and challenging aspects of our society – other than the divisiveness and puerility that our so-called fraternal organisations stoke. In short, there is a moral duty for Ministers to make this society a healthier one rather than a sicker one. I believe I’m saying that we expect our Ministers to behave responsibly.
Regarding your second question – the answer is no. Our past is a divided one and the nature of our division needs to be reflected in museum exhibits. The museum needs to reflect its context. However, the last thing we need is for the museum to dedicate more space for exhibits that illustrate our tribalism – when as a society we are trying to move on. You seem to believe there is something good and wholesome about religious based tribal organisations like the Orange Order and AOH. I disagree – I believe that such organisations encourage intolerance and division. Moreover, the supposed “culture” that surrounds such organisations is often the culture of tribal supremacy and superiority over Catholic or Protestant. In short, I regard such organisations as culturally malevolent.
You are correct that I am an Atheist – in that I do not believe in a God. However, Atheism is not a sect or doctrine. Many Atheists are socialist. I am not. Many Atheists have opinions that I do not share.
Similarly there are many people who have religious faith that tend to be closer to me in their views on social matters than many Atheists.
Therefore Atheism is not doctrinally or intellectually limiting in the way that religion is. It is simply a statement of fact – I have never believed in supernatural phenomena or gods.
Humanists are Atheists who believe that we have a duty of care to our fellow humanity – and other sentient creatures, and to our environment in which we live. We believe in innate altruistic tendencies within humanity – that do not require the reward of redemption.
The Conservative Humanist Association was launched at the Conservative Party Conference in 2008. I was, indeed, the Association’s first Chairman. I recently stood down from the organisation when I resigned from the Conservative Party. I was delighted that Professor Richard Dawkins helped me launch the organisation and spoke at our first Conference fringe event – to a packed and highly supportive audience of Atheist Conservatives!
You are also correct that I did, indeed suggest that those who join the Orange Order – and other sectarian organisations – might have sociopathic tendencies. On reflection I agree with that statement. I used the word ‘tendencies’ – I didn’t label them each and all members as sociopaths.
Sociopathic tendencies tend to display themselves through intolerance towards difference – especially people considered to be members of an inferior or adversarial group. I’d imagine that most members of the Orange Order consider themselves better or superior to Catholics (or Irish Nationalists).
Indeed our society as a whole has tendencies towards sociopathy. That’s why certain people can commit cold-blooded murder in the name of a political causes (causes fed by sectarianism).
We all have a moral duty of care to remove the malevolence that is sectarianism from the heart of this society. You claim to be a Christian and yet you want to perpetuate a society of ‘fraternal’ sectarian orders – with museums counterbalancing Darwinian natural selection with exhibits showing a world ‘created’ 6,000 years ago by your personal definition of a god.
I’m an Atheist – but I’d prefer to foster a society freed from the historical baggage of division – and one that has global class institutions of learning and knowledge. I’ll leave readers to judge which they’d prefer.
If I exhibit arrogance by disagreeing with you then I am guilty. But I repeat – you should apologise to the Museum and to the electorate.