Sheela-na-Gig aka Jeanne Rathbone

Britain is a theocracy.

I signed an epetition to the Prime Minister about the need for the monarch to be head of state or head of the Church of England but not both and got their reply on 21st December 2009.

Monday 21 December 2009

Secular Monarchy – epetition response

We received a petition asking:

“We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to relieve the monarch of one of the duties: EITHER as Head of the Church of England, OR as Head of State.”

Details of Petition:

“In the modern era of human rights, it is quite untenable [except in a theocracy] for a constitution to require an individual to fulfil both secular and religious roles. Current concern that the 1701 Act of Settlement discriminates against Roman Catholics affects just one family directly. However, the oath and affirmation of allegiance to “bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, her Heirs and Successors, according to law” must surely grate severely with all non-Anglican immigrants: and is therefore inconsistent with anti-terrorist goals.”

Read the Government’s response :

The Government supports the Monarchy and the continuation of The Queen as Head of State as fundamental elements in our constitution, personifying both national and Commonwealth unity.  It is continuing to assess the scope for amending the laws on succession including the Act of Settlement 1701, but it has made clear that change cannot happen overnight and that it has no immediate plans to legislate.  No changes are contemplated to The Queen’s position as Supreme Governor of the Church of England nor to the Church of England’s established status; disestablishment would only be considered if the Church itself indisputably favoured it.  The wording of the oath or affirmation of allegiance taken by new British citizens and members of certain professions relates to the supremacy of the Sovereign, which is fundamental to our system of government, and the Government has no plans to change it.

I sent a letter to the Guardian. They did not publish it. Only a very small number from women are published- I regularly do a gender count. Sometimes when I have sent a missive to the Guardian I add, after my name – not Keith Flett, but it doesn’t seem to make any difference. Here is what I sent.
21st December 2009.
Dear Editor,
I have received a response from Number 10 on Monday 21st December to a petition I signed about relieving the “‘the monarch of one of the duties : either as Head of the Church of England, or as Head of State” adding that it is untenable except in a theocracy.It states “No changes are contemplated to The Queen’s position as Supreme Governor of the Church of England nor to the Church of England’s established status; disestablishment would only be considered if the Church itself indisputably favored it”
So, it is official that we live under a theocracy and not a democracy and that the Church of England alone has the power to alter this not the Government. It seems that “God save the Queen” is really a campaign slogan of the unelected theocratic party, the Church of England. You don’t have to be a republican, anti-monarchy, religious or Humanist  to be concerned about this,  just a democrat.
Yours Sincerely,
Jeanne Rathbone
Humanist Celebrant.
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Isn’t it ridiculous and undemocratic that it is Government policy that only the Church of England , not Parliament, can decide to withdraw all the powers and privileges of the Church and remove its established status. The Church will not voluntarily give up its power and status and will cling on desperately as its congregations dwindle and people turn away from the Church.  I believe that that the position of the established Anglican Church with the Queen as its Supreme Governor is farcical and divisive. It is silly to have a monarch as a titular Church leader.  She is not an ordained vicar. At least the Pope has moved up the priestly hierarchy. As Monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and northern Ireland we are all her subjects but as Supreme Governor she is only the leader of English Christians. It would seem that her Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish subjects escape her supernatural dominion. It is only in England that her roles of religious and constitutional leadership overlap which is a tad. It is a constitutional mess. I bet that she would be quite glad to relinquish her religious title if only Parliament asked her. They are just too timid to ask her Majesty.

Great Britain isn’t very united as Scotland has its own parliament which upsets the English and the Welsh and it is laughable that the Queen is monarch of a fraction of the island of Ireland -  6/32 of its counties where, in due course,  the majority of those subjects will not want to be her subjects. Seamus Heaney, who identifies himself as Irish, objected to being included in a British anthology of poetry in 1982 wrote;”Be advised, my passport’s green, no glass of ours was ever raised to toast the queen”.  I come from a Republic. Ireland fought for its independence from British colonisation and exploitation and like most republics has no wish to become a monarchy. Monarchies are so anachronistic. They should only occur in fairy stories. Keeping an institution for the sake of tourism makes it a tourist attraction. The pomp associated with the monarchy really is rather embarrassing to its subjects and is rather tawdry and demeaning. I don’t think it is nice for her majesty to behave like a performing monkey. Oh dear, I hope that is not deemed to be treason felony. My uncle Stanley was holed up in Brixton prison on a charge of treason felony. Sin sceal eile.

The Queen is only the Supreme Governor of the Church of England. She couldn’t be the Supreme Head of the Church according to the Act Of Supremacy as this would imply that she was claiming divinity or usurping Jesus who is, apparently Head of the Church of England. So it is blasphemous to call her the Head of the Church.  As the head of the Catholic Church is called the Pope why not call the Queen the Mome of the Church of England?

This cartoon by Trog I got from the wonderful cartoon museum.

No one should be forced to be a supernaturalist but the monarch has to pretend to be a deist – to believe there is a  daddy god who sent his only son, Jesus, down to earth to be killed  as a sacrifice for naughty xians.  Jesus, was Jewish, and he said he was God. He had to do that to annoy the hell out of the people to ensure that he would be crucified. You see, if he hadn’t been crucified there woudn’t be any Christianity. It doesn’t make sense that they make a big fuss about it at Easter time.

It did it the trick , allright, because anyone who claims to be  God is deemed to be schizophrenic and back in those days they killed people for that. Of course, if it was nowadays he would have been given medication after he was sectioned but then it was death by torture and crucifixion. The result is we are lumbered with the religious sect Christians and logo of a a dead man on a pole. They say he was a nice chap, a bit of wimp even, but by pissing off the Romans and getting himself killed  and becoming a martyr has given the world so much grief.

Getting back to the Queen – we can never know what any religionists actually do believe but the Queen has to pretend to believe in all the Christian stuff. I don’t know why we still indulge religionists/supernaturalists. Within the mental health field it is accepted that you shouldn’t endorse the crazy beliefs and delusions of patients. We should not indulge the credulity of any believers and certainly we should not accord them any special respect for having these beliefs. It is both ridiculous and insulting to ask us to ‘respect’ those who have supernatural beliefs let alone give the Church of England, its leaders and followers special privileges. One of the worst aspects of this is the existence  of Faith schools.

To segregate  children according to their parents supernatural beliefs is so wrong.   Don't Label Me Billboards Campaign

This is the new poster of the British Humanist Association campaign. This was very much in response to popular demand and is allied to the campaign against faith schools. If you are concerned and interested you could subscribe to the campaign by going through the BHA website.

So that is my last blog for 2009 and we will see what 2010 brings. Sheela-na-Gig, energy permitting, hopes to stick around telling it like it seems to her. Wish you all well for 2010 and keep up the struggle for rationality and enlightenment.

I had a comment from a member of the SW London Humanists.  He takes the usual position of Cof E Humanists/atheists which is that other religions are worse -  the usual suspects are Catholic, Muslim and American evangelicals. He cited Iran and 20th Century Ireland as examples of ‘real theocracy’. As an Irish person in the BHA I am well used to comments and jibes about Catholic Ireland and how the ‘troubles’ in the north were entirely religious and not as result of British imperialism.  The majority of BHA members, inevitably, are a product of their culture which is that of a colonial power and the Church of England. The Church of England, having being formed from the libidinous proclivity of an earlier king wanting divorce, is seen as a hobbity, Vicar of Dibley quaint, harmless institution. This national treasure with the Queen, as its Supreme Governor and ‘Jerusalem’ its anthem, is being sentimentally preserved and  and now regarded as ‘a bulwark against fundamentalism’. This is similar in tone to the view of Giles Fraser the once ‘trendy vicar of Putney’ now the Reverend Canon Chancellor of St. Pauls Cathedral who writes:

“The Church of England is fundamentally a theological peace treaty. As the Reformation plunged continental Europe into an ideological bloodbath, with Catholics and Protestants murdering each other by the million, England created a church that made the most remarkable claim for itself: both Catholic and Protestant. Sick of religious warfare, it invented the original big tent philosophy. Those of widely different philosophies could kneel together and worship God through the appropriately named Book of Common Prayer.

It was a pragmatic arrangement that came to shape our national character. The English didn’t do doctrinal dispute, we frowned on the public exploration of ideological differences characteristic of those hot-headed Continentals. Instead, we agreed to differ and muddled along. We became the world’s natural compromisers.

Sure, the Church of England gained a reputation for not believing in anything and being shy in speaking about things that really mattered. But it was a brilliant way of creating an inclusive church. The parish church was to be a place where, under God, the English would find an oddly workable unity.

Two things have undermined this vision: the British Empire and the internet. In the days of the Empire, missionaries from the English church made faith our most successful export. Global Christianity mushroomed in the 20th century, with Anglicanism leading the way. There are now 77 million Anglicans. But what did not get exported was the very idea of Anglicanism as a peace treaty. Transplanted into different soil, Anglicanism grew hotter and more ideological, re-exposing deep theological fissures between believers that the C of E had agreed to set aside for the greater good. With the growth in communications technology, these differences could no longer be hidden.”

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The man said ‘the Cof E  is fundamentally a theological peace treaty’…..  It was a pragmatic arrangement that came to shape our national character…….. We became the world’s natural compromisers….Two things have undermined this vision: the British Empire and the internet.”

That arrogant, imperialistic, anglocentric view is the cultural heritage of those brought up in that Anglican tradition and that includes the majority of  British Humanists. The BHA membership is so very middle England and not at all demographically representative.  However, as people who have distanced themselves from their earlier conditioning,  they probably do not see themselves in this way.

I was not at all surprised at this response from a Humanist in defense of the monarchy and the C of E, which has become the epitome of Englishness and must be protected from extinction. The assertion by the Government that the Church ‘would not be disestablished unless the Church indisputably favoured it’ he did not comment upon – evidently he did not see this as a problem for democracy. That is like taking the   ‘Don’t ask the turkeys to vote on Christmas’ position. This country is in need of constitutional reform but Parliament itself will not take any action. It is only the will of the people that can do it.  We will have to wait and see what the general election throws up.

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