Values have a place in the boadroom

THE crowds drawn by Pope Benedict XVI have no doubt helped to put some money into the tills of retailers and restaurants in the cities he visited.

There ought, however, to be a greater legacy from his tour than a modest contribution to the next monthly figures from the Office for National Statistics.

His address at Westminster Hall, in which he articulated the continuing importance of religion in an increasingly secular society, was no less relevant to the business community than to the politicians who made up his audience.

The extent to which militant secularism has taken root as the new orthodoxy in 21st Century Britain was illustrated at the weekend by the contribution to the debate by Telegraph columnist Simon Heffer.

He began by highlighting, with disapproval, the lack of tolerance shown by those protesting at the pope’s visit, declaring himself “dismayed by the aggression and militancy of some of my fellow atheists”.

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And yet he concluded his comment with a paragraph containing the unequivocal statements that faith should be “entirely a matter of private conscience and taste” and that “Religiosity should have no part in politics” ? this from a commentator who considers himself tolerant.

A concept of tolerance which does not allow the actions and decisions of those who hold a religious faith to be informed by the values of the faith they hold is no tolerance at all.

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Those who hold a religious belief have no more right to act in accordance with their conscience that those who do not but, equally, they should have no less a right to do so either.

Politicians might have a better image had more of them exhibited a sense of morality (religious or secular) when filing their expenses claims during the last Parliament. And the interests of society would certainly have been better served had decision-making within the banking industry been more informed by ethical values in the years leading up to the financial crisis.

It is, of course, objectionable for fundamentalists (and some atheists fit that bill just as much as the religiously-motivated variety) to seek to impose their views on others, but do we really want those who run the country, whether in government or business, to hang up their values (religious or otherwise) on a peg outside the office door before they start work?

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