Shoot me if I don’t know who Baroness Warsi is, but she’s made a dire pronouncement in the pages of The Telegraph: Britain is being overtaken by militant secularists. The good Baroness is leading a ministerial delegation from the UK to the Vatican (apparently reciprocating for the Pope’s visit in 2010), and she writes about it in a dire piece Telegraph piece called “We stand side by side with the Pope in fighting for faith.” Here are Baroness Warsi’s worries about creeping secularism:
My fear today is that a militant secularisation is taking hold of our societies. We see it in any number of things: when signs of religion cannot be displayed or worn in government buildings; when states won’t fund faith schools; and where religion is sidelined, marginalised and downgraded in the public sphere.
It seems astonishing to me that those who wrote the European Constitution made no mention of God or Christianity. When I denounced this tendency two days before the Holy Father’s State Visit in September 2010, saying that government should “do God”, I received countless messages of support. The overwhelming message was: “At last someone has said it”.
This woman is mad. She wants to de-secularize European governments, with special mention of Christianity? Remember, she’s head of an official UK government mission. She goes on:
That so many people felt moved to write showed just how uneasy they were at the rising tide of secularism.
For me, one of the most worrying aspects about this militant secularisation is that at its core and in its instincts it is deeply intolerant. It demonstrates similar traits to totalitarian regimes – denying people the right to a religious identity because they were frightened of the concept of multiple identities.
That’s why in the 20th century, one of the first acts of totalitarian regimes was the targeting of organised religion. . .
When we look at the deep distrust between some communities today, there is no doubt that faith has a key role to play in bridging these divides. If people understand that accepting a person of another faith isn’t a threat to their own, they can unite in fighting bigotry and work together to create a more just world.
The retort is so obvious it’s hardly worth mentioning: the biggest source of intolerance in the world is not secularism, but religion. Because each faith thinks it has a lock on the truth, it perforce must see the others as wrong. And since there’s no objective way to adjudicate what’s true (something we do have in science), the enmity persists. Which secularists deny people a right to their religious identity? Have I ever said that a Catholic has no right to be a Catholic, or no right to profess what he or she believes? No, what I claim is not the right to deny people their beliefs, but the right to criticize those beliefs when they seem irrational, harmful, or unfounded.
Here’s what the Torygraph says about the upcoming visit. Cameron is a real faith-head!:
[Warsi’s] speech represents one of the most strident defences of the importance of religion by a serving British minister. It comes days after the High Court ruled that local councils could not hold prayers during meetings. There have also been recent cases of public sector workers being banned from displaying Christian symbols at work.
David Cameron welcomed the visit. He said: “Our relationship with the Holy See is an important one and it speaks powerfully of the positive contribution faith can make to all societies.
“Sayeeda Warsi has consistently made the case for a deeper understanding of faith by the British Government so I am delighted that she will be taking this message to the Vatican personally.”
And, finally, the Telegraph‘s own view, as expressed in its editorial “Faith must not be driven from Britain’s public life“:
Our history and culture are formed by the Christian faith. The way we are governed is linked directly to the schism in the Church almost half a millennium ago: in England, we have an Established Church of which the head of state is the Supreme Governor.
Yeah, but you UK guys don’t need an Established Church any longer. Sometimes traditions are valueless. The editorial continues:
It is all too easy to forget this – largely because politically correct fawning by public bodies over the sensitivities of other faiths has left many Christians feeling inhibited about asserting and celebrating their own beliefs. It has also left many wondering exactly when it was that Britain stopped being a Christian country. Combine that with the aggressive intolerance of the militant secularists, and it is little wonder that the Church of England frequently feels beleaguered.
Last week, we had the perfect illustration of this baleful process, when the National Secular Society succeeded in a High Court attempt to prevent Bideford Town Council doing something it had done for centuries – holding a short prayer service at the start of its meetings. The atheist former councillor who pressed the case argued that the council had no right to “impose” its religious views on him, conveniently ignoring the fact that no one had forced him to attend the prayers, and failing totally to see that it was he who was seeking to impose his views on others, not the other way round.
For once I can say that this: that type of religiosity is foreign to many Americans. It’s illegal in our country to start government meetings with prayers, for the U.S. government, by Constitutional decree, is strictly neutral on the issue of religion. (That doesn’t mean, of course, that the faithful don’t try to circumvent this!) It would be equally illegal to start a public meeting with an atheist “prayer” or “reading.” By prohibiting any religious or antireligious observance at civil events, the government (at least, our government) is not imposing atheist views on others; it’s imposing religious neutrality on civil functions.
For a humorous palliative, go read Crispian Jago’s parody at Science, Reason, and Critical Thinking, “Militant reason a threat to fantasy, warns Warsi.” It’s hilarious; here’s the beginning, and it gets funnier:
Ancient myths are being “sidelined, marginalised and downgraded in the public sphere”, Conservative co-chairwoman Baroness Warsi whined in an article for the Daily Telegraph.
The Muslim peer said Europe needed to become “more confident and more comfortable with its middle eastern fairy tales “.
h/t: Grania Spingies