John Major, the Archbishop of Conservatism, has no doubt. Other faiths may indeed be equally valid. But he does not feel they are equally valid for us.
'My position on this is quite clear,' he told us yesterday. 'I have no doubt. There are other faiths in the world besides Conservatism. Of that let us be quite sure. As I am. And those faiths are, I am quite sure, valid for over there. They may even be better over there. But we are not over there. We are over here. I was brought up in the faith of Conservatism, in the Church of which I am now well pleased to be Archbishop, and that faith is the one I was brought up in. Yes, indeed.'
What John Major seems to be saying is that he was brought up as a Conservative. But is being brought up in a faith sufficient justification for preferring it to all others? Neil Kinnock, a retired elder of the Church of Socialism, is not so sure.
'I'm not so sure at all. See, I was brought up a Welsh Socialist, which is a very special kind of socialism, very fervent and very communal, and also given to loud bursts of singing. It is not a faith which is welcome to everyone in this country, as I can testify. But I am not unhappy about that. And what if I had been born a Christian Democrat from the south of Italy? What chance would I have had of ever finding what I now believe to be the true faith? Very little, boyo. I tell you, the number of ex-Christian Democrats knocking around in the Welsh Labour chapels is very small. Smaller than small. I think that says it all.'
But says all what? It has not escaped people's memories that every time the Archbishop of Conservatism comes up for re-election, he is unafraid to attack all other religions. He attacks Socialism as evil and misguided. He has dismissed the Liberal Democrat Sect as a movement without any body, and a body without any movement. So does it seem strange for him now to be preaching tolerance?
'If you listen carefully to what he is saying, says Father Gerry Adams, from the Irish Republican Church, 'I think you'll find that he's not preaching tolerance at all. Actually, if you listen to him very carefully you're in danger of doing your mind an injury, because it is impossible to make out what he is actually saying at all. At least you know where you are with someone like Michael Portillo.'
This is a reference to a new figure who has recently attracted attention in the Conservative Church. Michael Portillo is a young man who claims to have had a vision. The heavens opened, and lo, the Virgin Maggie did appear to him, saying that he was the chosen one and showing him a vista of Britain as it might be in the future, with many well behaved nuclear families going to the seaside in their British-made cars. When he is asked whether the Virgin Maggie - patron saint of the Church Conservative - had anything direct to say about the teaching of other faiths in our schools, he merely smiles and puts on an angelic expression in case there are any photographers about.
'What I find completely ludicrous in the situation,' says the Reverend John Smith, of the Apparently Moderate Labour Persuasion, 'is that families in Britain who have always been good, honest, decent Labour people, can send their children to a state school and find their faith totally unrecognised there. Why should Conservatism be the state religion? Is there not a case for saying that Conservatism has been the ruin of this country? And if so, is there not a crying need for other faiths to be adumbrated?'
At this Archbishop John Major smiles, perhaps with satisfaction at knowing that less than 1 per cent of the products of our state schools will even know what 'adumbrate' means.
'I am happy with things as they are,' he says. 'I know the Good Book is on our side.'
And he waves a copy of The Conservative Manifesto 1992.
'Just listen to this,' he says. ' 'For behold, thou shalt sell all that thou hast, yea, even unto the family silver, and give the proceeds thereof to wipe out the debts thou hast accrued with thy faulty stewardship'. I think that says it all.'
I think he may be right.Reuse content