As a transplanted American in the UK, it’s very clear to me how different these supposedly similar cultures are. And nowhere is this more obvious than with issues of religion and politics. I thought I’d share a bit of that with you (especially perhaps the Americans). Back in the US, Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has been declaring, in a widely praised speech, that “freedom requires religion”. Over here, in the country that actually does have an official state religion:
- Tony Blair has reported that he never felt he could discuss his religious beliefs because he’d sound like a “nutter”.
- The new leader of the 3rd party, the Liberal Democrats* has mentioned publicly that he’s an atheist. On the BBC radio report I listened to, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Michael Portillo were interviewed. The Archbishop of Canterbury says he doesn’t think anyone should care about this. Michael Portillo, a former Conservative Cabinet member, now sort of an elder statesman, says he thinks the only people one should worry about are the ones with really strong religious convictions. (He does worry about atheists who are intolerant of believers, but makes it clear he doesn’t take Clegg to be such.)***
- *Yes, they’re called the “LIBERAL DEMOCRATS”! And that’s not the reason they don’t win the big elections– a key reason for that is that they’re seen as too middle class. **
- **Yes, TOO MIDDLE CLASS, an inconceivability in US politics.
- ***Not enough culture shock yet? How about the fact that Portillo has admitted to having had gay sex, and NOBODY REALLY CARED.
Enjoy the culture-shock! And, just to add yet another twist, in the UK everyone seems to say “Happy Christmas” to everyone else, without any thought that it’s odd e.g. for one Jew to say this to another. At first I thought this must mean a real assumption that everyone’s Christian. Now it seems much more like it doesn’t occur to people that there could be such a presupposition involved in the greeting. (Maybe kind of like atheists saying “bless you” when someone sneezes.) So, hey, Happy Christmas! (Nope, still doesn’t feel right to me.)