Is it just me, or does this photo fill you with dread as well? Last week former Prime Minister Tony Blair stole a march on his successor and pretty much everyone else, in gaining an audience with President Obama. He may have been invited by Congress to the National Prayer Breakfast, but he and Obama wasted no time in becoming fast friends. And look at what Blair said:
Today, religion is under attack from without and from within. From within, it is corroded by extremists who use their faith as a means of excluding the other. I am what I am in opposition to you. If you do not believe as I believe, you are a lesser human being.
From without, religious faith is assailed by an increasingly aggressive secularism, which derides faith as contrary to reason and defines faith by conflict. Thus do the extreme believers and the aggressive non-believers come together in unholy alliance.
And yet, faith will not be so easily cast. For billions of people, faith motivates, galvanises, compels and inspires, not to exclude but to embrace; not to provoke conflict but to try to do good. This is faith in action. You can see it in countless local communities where those from churches, mosques, synagogues and temples, tend the sick, care for the afflicted, work long hours in bad conditions to bring hope to the despairing and salvation to the lost. You can see it in the arousing of the world’s conscience to the plight of Africa.
I’m sorry but this is nonsense – intellectually vapid garbage. It’s an attempt to spin his way out of the outrageous (and in modern times unprecedented) catastrophe of foreign policy which his faith had a immediate role in bringing about while he was Prime Minister. His direct attack on the forces of reason are the most telling – faith is contrary to reason. It’s in part an example of why we’re so interesting as human beings – we can be intensely rational an irrational at the same time. But noone’s suggested that there’s harm in the metaphysical – how else could we love, after all? The attack on his and Bush’s religiosity was directly because their faith was at the heart of their disinterest in questioning the run-up to and aftermath of the Iraq War. The evidence told them (and us) that there was no need, that Saddam was contained, that his WMD programmes had long since been abandoned, and that he posed no threat to the West. Yet he tries to paint those of us who attack him still on this as equivalent to religious fanatics? Just what planet is this man living on?! And for the record doing ‘good’ is not dependent on faith. He went on however:
But as someone of faith, this is not enough. I believe restoring religious faith to its rightful place, as the guide to our world and its future, is itself of the essence. The 21st Century will be poorer in spirit, meaner in ambition, less disciplined in conscience, if it is not under the guardianship of faith in God.
Dangerous words by a dangerous man, whose faith contributed to making the world a more dangerous place than at any other point in my lifetime. I realise that although his political job might now be to obtain peace in the Middle East, it was also the legacy as Prime Minister which he failed to secure. He has a lot to gain by rubbing shoulders with Obama – I hope Obama realises that despite Blair’s history with George Mitchell, the same is not true in reverse.