Posted by: aboutalbion | August 22, 2012

DIY religion (3)

The third topic in Colin Morris’ list is regulation.  And the question for my case is: “Has a nation state (such as the UK) the regulatory framework normally associated with traditional religious organisations?”

Morris points to two kinds of religious regulations – moral law regulations and creedal regulations.

First, approaches to moral law questions seek to ascertain universal rules that should apply to everyone.  “[T]hat’s what I mean by moral law: a set of reasons capable of being understood by people generally for doing some things rather than others.” (p41)  Other people invoke the ‘golden rule’ that you should treat others as you would like to be treated yourself.

Second, creeds are statements that depend on human opinion, human conviction, and human consent.  “[Creeds] are understandings about the nature of reality we have discovered in the company of those who see things as we do and share our views of the world.  All religions have them, and they are hammered out sometimes after centuries of controversy, debate and argument.” (p42)

I find that the English Legal System [ELS] has laws which embody both kinds of religious regulations.

The ELS has provisions which support a wide range of moral law ideas – beginning with offences against the person and offences against property.  However, at the margins, the ELS has declined to follow the French decision to make it an offence for a person (coming across ‘an incident’) who does not render assistance when they are in a position to do so (without endangering their own life) – the ‘good Samaritan’ law.

The ELS also has provisions which have the structure of a national creed.  I would instance the regulations that refer to the UK citizenship ceremony, about which I have posted before.  To emphasize the significance of becoming a British citizen, a person has to make a declaration using the following words:

[“I (name) swear by Almighty God…”] or [“I (name) do solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm…”] “that on becoming a British citizen, I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, her Heirs and Successors, according to law.  I will give my loyalty to the United Kingdom and respect its rights and freedoms. I will uphold its democratic values.  I will observe its laws faithfully and fulfil my duties and obligations as a British citizen.”

To my mind, these promises have the structure of a religious creed when they are seen as “understandings about the nature of reality [of life in the UK which British citizens] have discovered [over the centuries]”.

So, on these two matters, I find that a nation state (such as the UK) has in principle the regulatory framework to be a religion.

[Morris, Colin (1992) Start Your Own Religion.  London: BBC Books.]

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