This is what always happens with religion: it is meant to make people behave better, but when they get too serious about it, it ends up making them behave much, much worse. Britain is in the thick of an acrimonious, debate about secularism and religion. Religious belief and church attendance have been shrinking for decades, yet religion continues to play an important part in our national life. Prayers before council meetings may have been banned last week by a judge, and an increasing number of our city churches are put to sound secular use as indoor ski slopes or apartments. But there are still bishops in the House of Lords, prayers are said at the Cenotaph, and the communal celebrations of Christmas and Easter have yet to become completely taboo.
These are the visible signs of a still substantial power in the land, one which retains huge influence in framing our laws, regulating our behaviour, and even justifying, in a subliminal way, the actions of our governments every time they go to war. Tony Blair’s religious motivation for prosecuting the invasion of Iraq was highly atypical: no other recent British prime minister has been so strongly influenced by his faith. Yet the underlying moral justification is always there: to be the Good Samaritan, to go the extra mile, to treat your neighbour as yourself; failing to help the Bosnians was our “un-finest hour” precisely because it was said it went against the tenets of religion.
The secularists argue that religion no longer has any business retaining such a privileged place in the commanding heights of the nation, because fewer and fewer people actually believe. Traditionalist pundits – and headline-writers – have responded vigorously. In recent days we have been told that Christianity is “on the rack”; that it has been “pushed to the margins”, “assaulted” and “attacked”; that it faces a campaign to “rip it limb from limb”; and that it is time “for Christians to fight back”.
Strange Random Secularism Quote:
- UK government minister slams ‘militant secularism’ (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Poll reveals majority of UK Christians support secular outlook (dailyatheist.blogspot.com)
- Is religion really under threat? (guardian.co.uk)
- Having no faith in the government (politicsontoast.com)
- Richard Dawkins has uncovered a very British form of Christianity | Linda Woodhead (guardian.co.uk)
- Religion for Atheists by Alain de Botton: review (telegraph.co.uk)
- Dawkins and Lady Warsi should live and let live | Giles Fraser (guardian.co.uk)
- New Humanist Blog : Secularism shares the chracteristics of totalitarian regimes: Baroness Warsi strikes again (newhumanist.org.uk)
- The Secular Problem (aljahom.wordpress.com)
- FAQ with Alain de Botton on ‘religion for atheists’ (ted.com)