Tony Abbott on #qanda

Posted in #atheism,#qanda by skepdadblog on April 6, 2010
Tags: , ,

I enjoyed seeing Tony Abbott mano a mano with the crowd last night on Q&A.  Aside from his frankly disturbing donkey laugh, he came across fairly knowledgeable, straightforward (almost to the point of gormlessness) and inoffensive.   I disagreed with him on gay marriage, nodded at his position on border protection and generally enjoyed the program.

My one major concern was his comment about the pope (paraphrased pending the transcript):

“I won’t criticise the Pope… he is my Pope…”

Now leaving aside the fact that the catholic pope is, as is increasingly evident, a criminal accessory to child rape; and leaving aside Chairman Rudd’s alleged closeted bible-thumping; how should I feel about a Prime Ministerial candidate who is subjugated to a foreign head of state?

According to 2006 census data, 74.2% of Australians do not recognise the catholic pope as their spiritual leader.  This is probably on the low side, as anecdotally many who categorise themselves RC on the census do not recognise the authority of the Vatican over their daily lives.

Should I be concerned that Tony holds his pope, who the majority of Australians do not recognise, above criticism?  In the case of a conflict of interest, where his country demanded (for example) cutting diplomatic ties with the Vatican over its crimes against humanity, would he do it?  Could he put the people of Australia before his pope?

If Abbott had said the same about Brown, Obama and Mugabe – “I will not criticise them, they are my mentors” – would we feel differently?  What about the British royal family?

To ask Abbott to embrace true secularism is probably a bit too much of a stretch, but as the Australian Prime Minister his loyalty must be to his country and to the people of Australia first.  His own faith, and deference to his spiritual leader, must be a very distant second.


3 Responses to 'Tony Abbott on #qanda'

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  1. anaglyph said,

    That it should even be an issue is a problem. The simple fact is that religion has no place in politics. In last night’s Q&ATony Abbott also said:

    “Jesus would not necessarily have allowed every asylum-seeker into Australia”

    “Jesus knew that there was a place for everything and it’s not necessarily everyone’s place to come to Australia.”

    This kind of specious moralizing is deeply worrying on so many counts. First of all, just in a factual sense, Jesus quite obviously made no comment at all on Australian immigration problems. So Mr Abbott is speculating about what Jesus might have thought, assuming Jesus was a real character and was in possession of the full picture of 21st Century global politics. Secondly, making some conjecture on what Jesus might have thought is equally as valid as speculating on what Mohammed might have thought, or Ra or Thor or Pele or Quetzalcoatl. Just because Jesus is Tony Abbott’s piece of personal delusion doesn’t make it preferable to anyone else’s personal delusion. And it doesn’t take brains to figure out where that kind of thinking leads. And then there’s the question of whether what Jesus/Thor/Quetzalcoatl might have thought is even valid in politics – political systems are divorced from religious thinking for good reason.

    So truly, no-one should care what Tony Abbott thinks unless it’s directly related to a question of his party’s policy. Nothing else (especially religious belief) is germane.

    • skepdadblog said,

      I agree with you there anaglyph; the ideal is certainly a truly secular government. Unfortunately, the choice we will likely have (leaving aside valid points about 2nd-tier parties) is one of a lesser of two evils.

      In Abbott’s defence, I didn’t feel that he came out swinging Jesus as a bat, proselytising to the audience. The audience cornered him with that question, after a series of loaded questions on asylum seekers, and it was answered almost flippantly. If you’ve not seen the full show, I’d recommend watching it on iView; you don’t get a proper sense of it from the transcript, and the press coverage has been laughable.

      Not for a second do I believe that Abbott though he knew any deity’s actual mind on issues of immigration; he was thinking on his feet, extrapolating his faith and the qualities he attributes to his personal sky fairy to a contemporary issue. The press has blown it quite out of proportion.

      Maybe I need to re-watch it, but I didn’t really get a sense of being preached at. I’m probably more sensitive than most to pulpit policy, but I got the distinct impression that he’s keeping his beliefs as his compass and trying to engage on issues. While I disagree with his choice of compass, I can respect his effort to transcend it.

      Frankly I’m amazed that I’ve become an apologist for Tony Abbott on faith issues! What is the world coming to?

      • anaglyph said,

        Well, it’s certainly a sad state of affairs when we need to adjust our vote to select either a religiously-inclined government or a slightly less religiously-inclined government, and I for one won’t be voting for either of them next time around. I’m so thoroughly disillusioned with the ‘Labour’ Party on just about every platform that they’ve had the last of my support. Not that I suppose they care to have any intelligent people on their side now that they’re after the vast badly-educated middle ground.

        In my opinion it doesn’t matter that Tony Abbott doesn’t appear to be proselytising. The fact that these thoughts come fast off his tongue, for me, is deeply worrying. This is at a point in his political progress now when the religion issue is touchy – I dread to think of what it would be like if he was in power. Shit, he’d probably take his election (oh Jesus, just the very thought) as a mandate for compulsory Christianity or something. I don’t want my country run by someone who thinks the Bible is a good guide to modern morality.

        I’ve lived through a lot of Australian politics in my time, and frankly, I’m terrified that we are having these discussions. Religion has NEVER been a political issue in Australia in the thirty-five years I’ve been voting. I have absolutely no confidence that a religiously-inclined person can keep their views out of their decision making. The fact that they believe in irrational things in the first place is a problem – it means that their thought processes are questionable. Now, Tony Abbott might be completely convinced that with the Word of God on his side he would only be acting for the common good, but heck, that particular conviction has a lot to answer for throughout history.

        I’m afraid I also disagree that the press is blowing this out of proportion – this issue needs to be nailed firmly to the wall right now. Our once highly-secular culture is becoming more and more religious – inch by inch – because of smiling affable goofballs like Tony Abbott. I don’t care for that.

        I’ve never been what you might call a hard-line atheist in the past, but more and more I find myself siding with Hitchens and Dawkins in these matters. I was always in the ‘live-and-let-live’ camp with this stuff, but the problem is that religions (especially the Christian and Islamic ones) can’t do that. They are designed to subsume, and if they can’t do it by violence, they do it with stealth, or with cunning or just by attrition.

        My sole voting agenda has now become very simple: education. Anyone who offers to stick lots of money into education has my vote. And I’m making a prediction – neither of the two big parties will have education on their agenda come next election. Why? Because if you have God on your side, it is best to have a stupid constituency. Then you can get away with anything.

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