Friday, 17 February 2012

more comments on secularism

The Telegraph had this leader comment on the speech by Baroness Warsi: Faith must not be driven from Britain’s public life

Baroness Warsi, the chairman of the Conservative Party, today leads a heavyweight ministerial delegation to the Vatican to mark the 30th anniversary of Margaret Thatcher’s decision to restore full diplomatic relations between our two states. She has used the opportunity to urge people to be far less timid about their faith and to challenge what she calls “militant secularisation”. It is unsurprising that it has taken a Muslim member of the Cabinet to speak out clearly and forcefully on the importance of faith in the life of the nation; followers of Islam tend to be less mealy-mouthed about their beliefs than many Christians.

Lady Warsi argues that society will be healthier if people “feel stronger in their religious identities and more confident in their creeds”. That means “individuals not diluting their faiths and nations not denying their religious heritages”. She makes an important point. 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…

Andrew Brown wrote at Cif belief that Militant secularists fail to understand the rules of secular debate.

Reading Julian Baggini’s lucid defence of secularism in the light of three years of comments on Cif belief, the point becomes obvious that among the people who most misunderstand it are the militant atheist secularists. But who are they?

There are three kinds of people in Britain today who might be taken for militant secularists: that is to say people who are not just themselves unbelievers, but have an emotional investment in the extirpation of religious belief in others. There are the adolescents who have just discovered “rationality”; there are gay people who feel personally threatened by traditional monotheist morality; and, in this country, there are parents frustrated by the admissions policy of religiously controlled schools…

Catherine Pepinster interviewed Baroness Warsi for the Tablet: Slaying the secular dragon.

…speaking to The Tablet the day before she left, she made it clear that problems with the place of women or sex in the Church was not on her agenda.

“Whenever we talk about faith, the debate always comes back to religion versus sexuality. But when we go to the Vatican that is not the important issue. There are so much more pressing ones,” she said. So forget the hot-button issues of the domestic agenda such as same-sex marriage. Instead she and her delegation spoke about climate change, poverty in the developing world, the environment and inter-faith dialogue.

But above all, Baroness Warsi was using the two-day visit to express her conviction that religion must have a clear role in public life and must not be pushed to the sidelines. In a speech to the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, the school for papal diplomats, she endorsed Pope Benedict’s call for religion to have a place in society’s discourse. But the language she used was far more sensational than his, talking of “militant secularisation” gripping Europe. The day before, in her office at the House of Lords, though, her language was a little more thoughtful when she said: “I’m arguing for faith to have a seat at the table, for it to be a voice amongst other voices. More and more other voices are heard and the voice of faith is not heard.”

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 17 February 2012 at 8:04am GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

"Whenever we talk about faith, the debate always comes back to religion versus sexuality. But when we go to the Vatican that is not the important issue."

Ach! Alles is in Butter!

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Friday, 17 February 2012 at 9:56am GMT

I think its time to dust off the works of the early 20th c Anglican monk and political thinker J Neville Figgis or more easily his more recent disciple David Nicholls . Both wrote with considerable sophistication about the nature of a pluralist state.

Posted by: Perry Butler on Friday, 17 February 2012 at 11:25am GMT

With respect, the Vatican cannot simply dismiss concerns about Roman Catholic teaching on sexuality, gender, human reproduction and similar topics by regarding them as less important than other matters.

Posted by: John Ross Martyn on Friday, 17 February 2012 at 11:35am GMT

Here we go again. We live in a free society where people can express themselves and their views, however inane they may be. The attack on so called militant atheists, secularists is nothing more than a grotesque attack upon people merely saying what they think. Atheists are really the new gay. They can be atheists so long as they keep quiet about it but the moment they so much as open their mouths "in the public square" they get torrents of abuse poured over them.

Any christian grouping that joins in this orgy of abuse should seriously hang their heads in shame.

One final point - notice how empty, symbolic and purely rhetorical this is. No one is proposing anything practical like rolling back Sunday trading or trading on major festivals, state financing of old church buildings (surely justified) or a state contribution to salaries of ministers. No; the first rule of this debate is that it is purely and simply about designating an 'out' group that it is safe to abuse as well as garnering partisan advantage for the Conservative Party in igniting our very own (albeit very silly) culture war and temporarily making the Church of England feel somehow important and relevant.

Posted by: Craig Nelson on Friday, 17 February 2012 at 12:46pm GMT

"But when we go to the Vatican that is not the important issue."

Of course not, the Vatican doesn't want it to be important because it can't deal with the realities of 21st century western secular and Christian beliefs and practices. It's much safer and easier to talk about impersonal issues like poverty and climate change and put out nice sounding platitudes. What would the noble baroness do if the Pope condemned to her and in public her Prime ministers support for gay marriage? Far too embarassing for them both.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Friday, 17 February 2012 at 2:33pm GMT

[Perhaps somewhat off-topic---or at least, LARGER topic]

In the circles I travel in, I hear (on-line) a *lot* of secular (usually atheist) LGBTs dissing Christians (sometimes qualified as "Christianists", more often not). This criticism even extends to LGBT Christians (I bear the figurative lashes!). The contempt often reduces down to that---unlike being LGBT---I (et al people-of-faith) could just "choose" not to believe.

Reading these responses by theists, there often seems to be the parallel: atheists could just "choose" to believe (indeed, much evangelism seems predicated on this).

But what if we're NOT "free to choose"? What if I can no more NOT believe in Christ, than I can NOT be queer? What if atheist can NOT choose to believe in God?

Or (conversely) is it merely a question of the right persuasive argument, meeting the right disposition to hear these arguments?

I'm honestly unsure.

Posted by: JCF on Friday, 17 February 2012 at 10:03pm GMT

From 'The Now Show' on Radio 4 17 Feb 2012. John Finnemore tackles the Militant Secularism and the role of Religion in Modern Society - and says some pretty sensible things (no, honestly). Available for download or listen again for another 6 days:

ps. The rest of the show is pretty good as well.

Posted by: Kennedy Fraser on Saturday, 18 February 2012 at 8:02pm GMT

As religious belief is all about 'faith', one can hardly blame someone for not having a particular faith. If faith really is a gift from God - that needs to be received to become active - then surely there ought to be no blame attached to anyone for being who they are - with or without belief?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 20 February 2012 at 10:05am GMT
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