I listened to Radio 4's 'Thought For The Day' program this week and heard Bishop Nick Baines taking about surveillance in the UK and the need to balance our security needs with the need to prevent terrorist attacks. He concluded that it was about achieving the right balance - as most of us would probably conclude. All very reasonable, and he used to work for GCHQ as a linguist - so he should know a little bit more than most of us shouldn't he?
What was not reasonable in my view was that - as far as I could see - he was given this privileged opportunity to express his views mainly because he is a religious professional. I am sure he is a decent and intelligent man - with some experience in surveillance matters - but there must be a number of equally decent men and women with similar experience who would not be given this unchallenged opportunity to express their views on this most sensitive of topics.
The 'Thought For The Day' slot is often (not always) given to religious professionals of various types. Or at least there seem to be a majority of speakers from the various faiths. Other people's thoughts are not seen as valuable or moral perhaps?
This seems to be part of a continuing tendency for many parts of the media to hand over the moral authority to the religious - very often the Bishops. Looking back over the debate on assisted dying you could not pick up a paper without some Bishop or other having their say - often unquestioned. It is as if no one else could be trusted to formulate a moral thought on that topic.
Our marking of the start of the First World War was mainly led (it seems to me) by the religious - often by the State Church. Again it seems that our ability to recognise that nearly a million men lost their lives in such a manner, and that we should give this a good deal of thought and that it was a terrible loss - could only be mediated by the religious.
Anyway - who says they are right - morally or otherwise?
The State Church has only just decided to allow half the population to be represented in their higher ranks. Were they wrong not too promote women in the past and just failed to recognise that? Or are they - like the rest of us - just following the change in society's views on such matters but being held back by religious dogma? Either way I am not sure why their moral authority should be assumed without much thought as it still seems to be.
The State Church has been quite capable of institutional cover ups in such matters as historical child abuse as any other organisation - Justin Welby announced an investigation into just this recently.
As we know there are 26 Bishops in the House of Lords - there simply because of status within the State Church. There are no women Bishops their of course.
We know that all organisations have institutional failings - political parties - the police and security services - the NHS and corporations and businesses to name but a few - but we have a healthier attitude to them - I am sure we filter what we are told by, and, about these bodies as a matter of course.
Personally I have no religious beliefs (and many faults) but I do wonder why the media continue to rely on the religious professionals to tell us what we should think about the tragic loss of life in World War One - assisted dying as well as surveillance and every other topic they wish to talk on?
It is none of my business if other people think the Universe was created and/or is ruled or managed by some sort of supreme-being - but when we have Bishops from the State Church helping shape laws as of right and a media whose default position seems to be that moral and ethical questions are mainly for the religious then it is every-ones business.
Religious people do many good things every day - but so do non-religious people. In either case, people deserve credit for the good things they do but do not deserve the unchallenged right to tell everyone one else what is right and wrong - especially when they sometimes fail to achieve what the rest of society long ago saw as the proper standard - equal rights for women - for one.