Considerable attention has been given to the appearance of the atheist AC Grayling at the Scottish Parliament’s weekly Time for Reflection (TFR) spot in April. This is mere symbolic tokenism.
In the debates that initiated this item of Scottish Parliament business in 1999, it was made clear that TFR was meant to be representative of religion and belief in Scotland.
On the basis of National Centre for Social Research survey evidence that one in five of the population does not believe in God or any other higher power, atheism has been greatly under-represented at TFR.
Each year, six or seven of the annual 33 or so slots should be filled by atheists – more than are routinely made available to the Roman Catholic Church.
If TFR more accurately reflected the pattern of religion and belief in Scotland, there would be ewer of the familiar religious denominations and more atheism and agnosticism.
If MSPs rely on TFR, as it has occurred since 1999 with its distinct bias towards organised religious denominations, to get a picture for the pattern of belief among the Scottish population then they have been seriously misled.
It is to be hoped when the census results on religion in Scotland are released shortly the Scottish Parliament will make an major effort to ensure TFR is more accurately reflective of the pattern of religion and belief in contemporary Scotland, rather than being a platform for favoured religious denominations.
Paul Brownsey (Letters, 1 March) reiterated the charge that the church tries to “impose” its values on society in a unique way, while most other campaigners seek to “enlarge the area of freedom”, as long as it doesn’t “harm” anyone else.
But Christians argue that permissive values and the rejection of the Christian conception of marriage, for example, do harm society.
Some disagree, but it is perfectly acceptable to make the case. Secularists wish to bypass this debate by dismissing religious views because they are religious.
So, my charge still stands: secularists single out religious voices for automatic rejection for no rational reason beyond personal hostility towards religion.