Friday, 19 March 2010

What is the Tony Blair Faith Foundation for?

Dear reader, our blog has moved to a new address.

Do come on over (and change your bookmarks accordingly):

Given his track record on God few were surprised when Tony Blair set up his Faith Foundation once he left office. But what, exactly, is it for? We asked Ruth Turner, the chief executive, and she explains it in Leap of Faith.

Convinced? Let us know by posting your comments here


Francis Fish said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I find myself wondering why they bother to call themselves a 'faith' organisation if they truly do 'answer to the basic, irrepressible, irresistible human wish for spiritual betterment, to think and act beyond the limitations of selfish human desires'.

Surely this is something any moral person, religious or not, would wish for?

She's quite right that extremist views are possible in any world view, however religions by their very nature sow division. We are all of us human at a basic level and promoting groups that actively preach against others of a different belief or sexuality is simply counter productive.

She then moves on to mention all the good work the foundation does. Fine, well done, but why not inspire people to 'act beyond the limitations of selfish human desires' because we as a race think that is an ideal, rather than saying we should do it because a supernatural being tells us we have to?

We're better than that, and we shouldn't need coercing by an imaginary being to do good.

Gordon Goblin said...

"No leader – political or economic – can now afford to be ignorant about religion and how it motivates people."

I agree, but not in a good way. Faith is a force for bigotry and needs to be countered.

Much of what she says presents a funhouse mirror view of reality. You can just about see the facts she has warped.

Same old noise, trying to drag us back to the dark ages.

Damn-Deal-Done said...

"So why despite it all does faith persist, why has it not disappeared with the advent of modern science and technology?"

Could it be because of childhood indoctrination by any chance? What's my prize?

If you are so sure about Religion, leave children to their own accord and when they are older, see if they naturally fall into religious rank. What are you afraid of?

Anonymous said...

If Tony Blair was only interested in doing good in the world, he'd have set up an organisation that didn't bear his name and the word 'faith', or just tried to help existing organisations that already do good work around the world.

This all smacks of a religious fundamentalist with a huge ego...

Anonymous said...

Faith is a great word. But faith in WHAT? That's never mentioned in the article.

And why associate faith, in such a positive perspective, with Tony Blair.

He, along with Bush, is responsible for dead and injured citizens of the world. That's not faith; that's murder. And for the fiscal crisis, since so much money was poured into this unnecessary war effort. That's not faith; that a waste of resources.

If one has faith in God, love of God and love of a neighbor would proper path.

Headbhang said...

Could it be because of childhood indoctrination by any chance? What's my prize?

If you are so sure about Religion, leave children to their own accord and when they are older, see if they naturally fall into religious rank. What are you afraid of?

No prize for you. Chances are some sort of supernaturalism would arise anew among a significant fraction of that population, more or less depending on its quality of life available.

That's not to say that indoctrination doesn't strongly skew things, of course.

Teresa Fowler said...

Ruth says 'Of course you don’t need to be religious to be good. Those we support do so in collaboration with many non-religious agencies. But in these areas the faith community is making a contribution that, in reality, only they can make. We have trained a group of young people from five of the world’s main religions – and a humanist – who work together...'

I know many other humanists disagree with me but I wish there were more specifically humanist organisations carrying out 'good works' like those that many faith based orgs do, rather than humanists just supporting existing orgs that are not faith based (e.g. Oxfam). Perhaps Humanism might then become more visible and respected, both by those with faith and those without.

Number80 said...

It is a trivial task to replace the word "faith" with the phrase "belief unsupported by evidence" throughout Ruth Turner's piece thereby revealing that this Faith Foundation thing is little more than glib hogwash.

PaulJ said...

I think Tony Blair's Foundation is on a hiding to nothing here. I've posted my own comments on my blog.

radiator said...

An important question to ask is whether faith pushes people 'to think and act beyond the limitations of selfish human desires' in greater numbers or in different ways than merely being a member of society.

On the first count, the latest citizenship survey suggests no, with those of no religion volunteering as often as the religious. This data, and previous theory, suggest that social networks and age are more important than faith in promoting civic engagement and activism.

Second, what is the 'good' in this 'impulse to do good'? If everyone in society agreed on what was 'good', then the how is faith uniquely positioned to determine what is 'good'? If, on the other hand, what constitutes 'good' is contested, then it is clear that the 'good' promoted by those of faith cannot be universal, but must also be political.

If it is an uncontentious 'good' that we all agree on, then why is the faith important. If the 'good' is subject to disagreement amongst different people and groups, then we are entering the realm of politics.

That said, 'people [being] required to keep an important part of their identity totally private' is absurd. Religious motivations are as valid as any other ethical motivations, but should the religious be over-represented in public life through the Lords Spiritual, faith advisers to ministers, and the new 'Faith Leadership in Government' fund?

Jeremy said...

With respect to other commentators (I guess that's what we're called) I think they're missing the point.

All the evidence indicates that religious belief/faith - based as it usually is on irrational belief - meets some basic human needs for most people. It's been there since pre-history and there's nothing to suggest it's going away soon. So we'd better get real.

We all know that it's often related to tribalism and provides a source of power that can be used to terrible effect. But it also inspires people to "good works" and in some cases to extraordinary self-sacrifice.

Here in the UK, especially in London, we live with a bewildering multiplicity of religions, sects and beliefs - a micrososm of the global situation in a world of instant communication. We, the non-religious, appear to be the second largest group behind those calling themselves Christians. But we all know that, just as there are many tick-in-the-box Christians, many non-religious people are can't-be-arsed-horoscope-believers rather than thinking ethical Humanists.

With the unprecendented mixing of beliefs comes the obvious risk of conflict. So far it's only the Islamists that have taken it to extremes (a fraction of the overall Muslim population, which itself is only about 5pct of the total).

Fanatics will not be swayed. But the great majority of normal people will be less inclined to tribalism, and more understanding of the others around them as fellow human beings, if they understand their cultures and beliefs, and simply get to know "the other" as people.

That will not be helped by telling those who have religious faith that they're stupid, ignorant malign or all three. All that does is open us to the accusations of atheist tribalism (and in most cases it's conspicuously untrue).

On the other hand, Humanists are in a unique position to help make inter-belief dialogue and understanding work. We should get stuck in (as we are in some places already).

So what's wrong with the Tony Blair Faith Foundation? The aims as described by Ruth Turner seem to be positive and valuable. And why not use the infrastructure provided by organised religions to supply Nigerians of all beliefs with mosquito nets? (Not sure how well that will work in Jos, where Muslims have just been massacring Christians.)

The problem, as illustrated by some of the earlier posts, is:
a) The name "Tony Blair" comes with baggage that he'll never get rid of. And naming the organisation after himself suggests that the hubris has not gone away.
b) The use of the word "faith" in this context sounds like it has a subtext - something along the lines "having religious faith is superior to having no faith, and we, the religious of all types, should therefore band together and battle against the anti-Christ of atheism".

Ruth Turner's article makes these concerns seem a little churlish. I hope they're wrong.

VeridicusX said...

I want to know why they don't understand that believing things in contempt of evidence and facts is immoral.

The consequences are clear.

Ruth Turner says: But recall also the evils of the 20th century done in the furtherance of political ideology...

The correct phrase is faith-based ideology.

What the 20th century demonstrated is that it doesn't matter whether the faith-based ideology is political or religious, it pretty much always leads to disaster.

If they want to do some good, they should be teaching people to reject faith, revere reality and embrace secular democracy.

Just - Human said...

Madm - You must be a jocking like Toni!

(NB: English is not even my 3rd language. If you get a mistake try to get the concept > sorry)


Teaching children religion or funding religious education is child abuse of disproportionate level.

According to your article with out faith the world would end up in anarchy.

If you are watching TV programs like Wife Swap & Super Nanny or nanny 911: with out too much religious mambo jambo how children and stupid parents are tamed. Where at the beginning each family consider their way of life is the perfect one.

Do you have eyes and ears with working mind? Religion is causing havoc from Asia to rotten Middle East, then a while ago in Balkan and N Ireland and S USA. S USA is messed up with cow boy religions by opening more than 350 religious collages. Where students are taught deformed science lessons called creationism. They can not refute science because it is every where from the shoe they are wearing to their cars, mobile phones. So your kind cow boys in America decided to join it if you cant win it. That is why so many cow boy religious colleges open in one country to brain wash youngsters and wily nilly adults like you and Toni.

If you are following events in the world beyond Toni's constituency, in NIGERIA WEST AFRICA people are buried in mass due to religious carnage happening there NOW LADY.

Your "Saint Toni" allowed primitive religious educations to be funded by public money as the result you have seen the carnage in July bombing.

Religious education is child abuse of disproportionate scale.

Why don't you train children like those TV programs I mentioned above with out haven and hell mambo jamboo just to respect the other human being to be loved and respected by others. This was chived within a week or two in most disruptive and unruly families on those programs. I don't mean that is the only way but you create loving and caring human being by not introduce them to hell and heaven like primitive humans. Instead raise children with common sense. To do that you have to have common sense.

Funding religious education is prolonging primitiveness in our society.

Gabitto Madam Toni's promoter.


Teach youngsters commonsense instead of trying to control them through remote control called "God is every where".

Religion was used when there was no proper police and law in ancient time by rulers and religious preachers to get firm grip over the masses.

Don't use medieval religious tactic now, lady gaga! if u allow me to call you.


Lemma (