You may conceive with what horror I first heard that Percy was an Atheist...at first I did not comprehend the meaning of the word; therefore when it was explained I was truly petrified. (p.67)
But how things have changed. A UK judge has recently declared Christian belief to be incompatible with human dignity. In a way, this is not surprising, as Christianity does not fit in with the ruling state ideology in the UK, namely liberalism.
The story runs as follows. Dr David Mackereth was employed by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) as a disability assessor. He was queried by a supervisor about whether he would, hypothetically, refer to a 6ft tall bearded man by female pronouns. He answered that he couldn't in conscience do this given his Christian belief that we are created male or female by God (Genesis 1:27) and that we cannot change our sex according to our own will.
There is some dispute about whether or not Dr Mackereth was then directly dismissed from his position or not, but regardless the case ended up at an employment tribunal hearing. Judge Perry found in favour of the DWP and it is the reasons he gave for his decision which are the most significant part of the story.
Judge Perry began by noting that according to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms:
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion
So what's the catch? Well, another judge, J Burton, (in the case of Grainger v Nicholson) defined what constituted an acceptable "philosophical belief" or religion. And one of his criteria was the following:
(v) It must be worthy of respect in a democratic society, be not incompatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others
Judge Perry then ruled that:
belief in Genesis 1:27, lack of belief in transgenderism and conscientious objection to transgenderism in our judgment are incompatible with human dignity and conflict with the fundamental rights of others, specifically here, transgender individuals.
We accept Dr Mackereth’s account that his beliefs are inherent to his wider faith. In so far as those beliefs form part of his wider faith, his wider faith also does not satisfy Grainger.
According to Judge Perry, the orthodox Christian view "does not satisfy" the criteria for acceptable belief in a society because it is incompatible with human dignity and conflicts with the fundamental rights of others. Therefore, orthodox Christianity is not protected under the convention of human rights.
The underlying problem is not that Christianity is incompatible with human dignity but that it is incompatible with liberalism. A Christian might argue that the belief that our male and female natures are God-given and a part of God's plan for us enhances the dignity of our persons. But for a liberal human dignity comes from the act of autonomous choice in which we self-determine our own personhood.
For a Christian, the moral thing is to fully develop our given natures as men and women, i.e. to order ourselves toward ideals or standards of masculine and feminine virtue. We discern what is best within our masculine and feminine natures and attempt to fully develop these qualities, as a way of completing ourselves and meeting one of our missions in life (our telos).
For a liberal, the moral thing is not only to author our own identity but to respect the right of others to do the same. Because liberals do not like the idea of a given nature, it will be held to be particularly moral to act against "stereotypes" when it comes to masculinity or femininity (hence the banning in the UK earlier this year of a car ad which briefly portrayed a mother sitting next to a pram, the image being ruled to be a harmful and offensive stereotype).
Given the logic of the situation, it seems naive to me to expect that orthodox Christianity will be well tolerated within a liberal system. Either it will change to fit in better with liberalism (which usually means becoming irrelevant, as it then loses its animating principles) or else it will have to more self-consciously recognise the difficulty of the situation and use whatever power it has to defend its own place in society.
A note to Melbourne readers. If you are sympathetic to the ideas of this website, please visit the site of the Melbourne Traditionalists. It's important that traditionalists don't remain isolated from each other; our group provides a great opportunity for traditionalists to meet up and connect. Details at the website.