Personal beliefs and democratic representation

I see that part of Tony Blair’s recent charm offensive (was there ever a more appropriate phrase?) with Ian Paisley was a regular exchange of religious books and thoughts. Given the explicitly religious basis of Paisley’s politics, then from his point of view this is understandable. But in Blair’s case, one must ask oneself what influence his religious beliefs have over his own actions and decisions. If he was simply adapting to Paisley’s preferred language, then so be it.

If, however, he was allowing his private religious beliefs (which he has never been willing to explain in public) to interfere with his political judgement, then I can barely express how enraged I am at the idea that political power in this country is in any way under the control of individuals whose true beliefs are not open to explicit democratic scrutiny.

Like any other closet belief, this is quite unacceptable in the leadership of a democratic society. How can I possibly anticipate the kinds of decision they might make, and so decide whether I can trust them with political power? Although both freedom and privacy of belief is fundamental in a free society, this does not extent to those who seek office. How would he feel about discovering that a member of his Cabinet was a closet communist or Nazi? It is not that I would dream of equating most religious belief with totalitarianism, but from the point of view of the non-religious, basing political decision-making on a religious basis is simply irrational, which is pretty much the next best thing.

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