Regardless of your opinion on the Iraq war, it seems to be generally agreed that there was some serious fudging over the evidence that led to war as well as the flip-flop interpretation of the laws indicating whether it was a legal invasion or not. Tony Blair doesn’t see it that way, of course, because he has righteous fury behind him and is absolutely convinced of his infallibility – presumably a character trait he picked up from the Pope since turning Catholic. Astonishingly, rather than showing much in the way of regret for the thousands of Iraqi, British and American lives lost in a dubious war he spent most of his time at this week’s inquiry acting as cheerleader for an Iran invasion.
Still, the legal, factual and ethical realities of the Iraq war are still murky at best, so I won’t go into that any further. A much more clear cut case has now arisen from none other than Cherie Booth – aka Mrs Blair. A man by the name of Shamso Miah was recently found guilty of attacking another man inside and outside a bank, resulting in the victim suffering a fractured jaw. Blair/Booth saw pity on the poor aggressor, though, stating in her judgement:
I am going to suspend this sentence for the period of two years based on the fact you are a religious person and have not been in trouble before. You caused a mild fracture to the jaw of a member of the public standing in a queue at Lloyds Bank. You are a religious man and you know this is not acceptable behaviour.
There are numerous issues here, some which are debatable and some which are matters of pure logic. Let’s take the latter first.
- Blair/Booth’s assumption here is that a religious person knows better than to beat someone so hard that their jaw fractures into pieces. That’s why she’s been lenient on this guy. Because he’s religious and knows better. The main issue here isn’t whether her assumption is true or not (it isn’t), but her complete logic breakdown. The fact that Miah acted so aggressively establishes two things: 1. He didn’t realise it was unacceptable behaviour. 2. Therefore, by Blair/Booth’s reasoning, Miah is not a religious man. Ergo, her sentencing makes absolutely no sense.
In other words, regardless of your personal stance on whether religion inherently makes you a good/bad/whatever person, this particular sentence is absurd. For a judge to have such bad judgement and lack of rationality is unnerving to say the least.
And now, to get more opinionated…
- History, both ancient and recent, has quite clearly shown that religion has nothing to do with whether you are a good or bad person. There have been many good religious people and many bad religious people. Terrible things have been done by actual religion organisations. Good things have also been done by religious organisations. The fact that someone is religious or not is incidental to their actual behaviour. Equally, agnostics and atheists have been both ‘good’ and ‘bad’.
- You could, if you were so inclined, claim that those ‘religious’ people that behave badly aren’t in fact religious and are only falsely claiming to be so. Fair enough, but it simply leads to another deduction: that there is no way to tell if somebody is ‘properly’ religious based on what they claim. All that matters are their actions, at which point whether they are religious or not becomes, once again, irrelevant.
- Some religious people actively think that atheists have no morality, or at least inferior morality. It’s an odd assumption. It doesn’t matter whether one defines one’s morality through a religious text or through law or peer review or Optimus Prime, if it results in them being a kind person: all that matters are their actions.
- Although here’s a thought: I have a big problem with people who obey the law (whether god’s, government’s or otherwise) because they’re afraid of being caught. Whether they’re afraid of the law, or God, or Hell, it doesn’t matter. The point is that they’re behaving because they’re scared or don’t want to be punished, not because they actually think it’s the right thing to do. A lot of religions seem to be based around this kind of concept – be a good person or you’ll go to hell. Most of society is based around the same concept, of course, except it’s the rule of law rather than a god.
So what’s my point? It’s two-fold:
- When it comes to morality, it doesn’t matter whether you’re religous or not. All that matters is how you act upon your morality, regardless of where it comes from.
- The true test of morality is whether you treat others kindly because you actively, consciously want to, or because you’re afraid of being caught if you do otherwise.