History tells us that many practices the present considers perfectly conscionable, the past deemed profoundly unconscionable. History shows that ecclesiastical doctrine and sincerely held religious beliefs are alterable and are editorialised. Morals and ethics evolve.
The religious resist, then retreat, their stridency evaporates, then they give the argument. As Alexis de Toqueville said:
"As long as the majority is still undecided, discussion is carried on; but as soon as its decision is irrevocably pronounced, everyone is silent, and the friends as well as the opponents of the measure unite in assenting to its propriety."
Then they stake out on another subject, and the struggle resumes. Except, the belligerents exhibit no modesty and no humility for their past intransigence and errancies. As Christopher Hitchens said:
"At every turn [the religious] try to make the public forget about their earlier obscurantism, in order that their present obscurantism may not be seen for what it really is."
Right now, the ecumenical religious right in Northern Ireland regard homosexuals as the greatest threat to religion. This is only the latest cause in a litany of causes for religious panic. All of which have been false-messiahs. As Fintan O'Toole said:
"Marriage is always under attack from something - contraception, adoption laws, divorce, sexual permissiveness, "dirty" books, "immoral" films. Same-sex couples are just the latest conspirators, but if it wasn't them it would be somebody else."
And like the past, the present hysteria and hubris will pass. As Fintan said:
"Over time mainstream opinion comes to recognise that honest beliefs once held by decent people were reprehensible, not because the people were bad, but because the beliefs were shaped by prejudice. This will happen, probably quite soon, with beliefs about sexual orientation."
(2) Nothing in these Regulations shall make it unlawful
(a) to restrict the provision of goods, facilities and services; or
(b) to restrict the use or disposal of premises,
so as to avoid endorsing, promoting or facilitating behaviour or beliefs which conflict with the strongly held religious convictions of A or, as the case may be, those holding the controlling interest in A.
You can see where that legislation would take you. And it has brought once again Northern Ireland into disgrace and disrepute with a cascade of criticism. The religious rabble are in the saddle and if they have their way they would turn this benighted province into a little Russia. That's to turn away from the open, tolerant, equitable West. That's a self-lobotomy.
We need to Save Ulster from Self-Lobotomy and from obloquy.
The anti-gay law won't come into effect. Such are the legislative arrangements under the peace settlement. But the principle of this motion is important. The move has been made by the religious and the symbolism needs to be countered.
Until recently, Calvinist demagogues declaimed Catholics as the greatest threat to their religion and the 6 partitioned counties of Ulster. Once upon a not very long time ago strident anti-Catholicism was a sincerely held religious belief and party political policy openly proclaimed in public and promoted in public policy.
Our great challenge is to make transparent the great deceit and conceit of the religious. When will we unmask the cyclical charade of religious resistance and the idea that religious ideas are inviolable and unalterable when history shows that they are violable and alterable; and that as in the past, that which is considered presently unconscionable will in the future be quite conscionable.
This legislative drive comes from the party that bore to Britain and the world the hideous slogan, "Save Ulster from Sodomy" and the double-talking homophobic First Lady. It comes from the party that does public piety and private profanity. It comes from the party of clericalism that habitually U-Turns.
It comes from the party that said "NEVER!" to Sinn Fein and who now sits in an alliance with Sinn Fein. Paisley said on May 8 2007:
"If anybody had told me a few years ago that I would be doing this I would have been unbelieving."
The political allies of the deceased Paisley will be saying the same about equal marriage and other matters in the not too distant future.