Quantcast

«

»

Feb 22 2012

Why Christians Should Be Secularists Too

Martin Robbins, writing in the Telegraph, answers Baroness Warsi’s fatuous op-ed piece urging Christians and Muslim to join forces to oppose “militant secularism.” He points out the reasons why Christians should be — and many are — secularists themselves. Though his column is about the UK, much it applies in the United States as well.

Just as feminism ultimately benefits men, secularism is the best option for Christians in the long term. Sadly, a self-interested, parasitic elite within the Christian community are prepared to do anything to cling to their own positions of power, even it means misleading and undermining their own flocks.

Claiming to represent ‘ordinary’ British Christians, the Biblejackers have conjured an imaginary threat – militant secularism and the ‘war on Christianity’ – in an attempt to corral Christians behind a misleading campaign that fails to serve their best interests…

In a secular society everyone is free to have their own faith and express it as they see fit. State religion imposes one brand of faith, forcing people to participate in its traditions and skewing the political system to give its followers preferential treatment over the rest of the society.

In any case, the decline of Christianity in the UK has little to do with secularist bogeymen. “Militant secularism” is a convenient distraction for religious elites who – like many incompetent rulers through the ages – would rather place blame on some semi-mythical enemy caricature than admit their own failings…

I’m an atheist, but if I were a Christian surveying the state of my religion in modern Britain I would welcome secularism; and it seems that many already do to some extent. Secularism would shake up the church and force it to address its relevance to modern society, bringing it back to the people. Faith is in decline, and when Christians inevitably find themselves in a minority – on local councils or nationally – secularism will protect their choice of faith or religious identity.

Above all, secularism is fair. It satisfies the demand that we should treat others as we would like to be treated, and sits well with Jesus’s instruction to “render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s.” Secularism allows each of us to have our own religious, spiritual or atheist identity untroubled by the state. That’s why we should defend it, and that’s why we should be suspicious of the motives of those who attack it, be they atheist, Muslim, Christian or just a bit confused.

Hear, hear.

18 comments

Skip to comment form

  1. 1
    raymoscow

    As I like to point out to religious friends, the chances of their particular religion being in control in a religious government is pretty small. Their best bet for fair treatment and religious freedom is with a secular system.

    Does my pointing this out do any good? Not that I can tell. They still support whichever politician says ‘God’ the most, and the most regressive he/she is, the better.

  2. 2
    brianthomas

    Martin makes a good case. And I guess Jesus’ “render unto Caesar” can be used to defend secularism, though Jesus’ remarks in Luke 19:27 (“However, those my enemies, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them and kill them in front of me.”) certainly do NOT.

  3. 3
    d cwilson

    brianthomas:

    Wait, so you’re saying that the bible can be used to justify whatever bullshit you want it to? Why didn’t anyone tell me that before!?!

  4. 4
    raven

    It’s a bit ironic that this issue has come up in Britain.

    Don’t they have memories and archives in the UK?

    We all know what happened in Northern Ireland at the end of the 20th century. Chronic sectarian warfare between the Catholics and Protestants. With British troops in the middle getting killed here and there. Huge prisons full of IRA soldiers. Car bombs even in English cities.

    Northern Ireland is still in a state of war. A cold war that followed the hot one. Neighborhoods and cities are divided by huge walls. It’s quite common for Protestants to only know other Protestants and the same for Catholics. They no longer kill each other but there is nothing wrong with their memories and hard feelings run deep.

    Santayana: Those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them. For Cthulhu’s sake, this last flickering of the Reformation wars just ended a whole 12 years ago.

  5. 5
    parasiteboy

    Even though atheist would like to see religion go the way of the Dodo, I would bet that most atheist would defend anyone’s right to practice their religion freely, we just don’t want anyone’s religion forced on us or anyone else.

  6. 6
    parasiteboy

    To add to raymoscow@1 point, I also point out to people that rigid ideologies in religion and politics impedes progress and solutions to problems. If you have an issue that needs solving and one side says “I believe the solution is A because of my religion X” and the other says “Well I believe the solution is B because of my religion Y” you quickly come to an impasse. A secular society provides part of the framework to make people move beyond mere religious beliefs and into the realm of a more fact based discussion of the issues.

    It amazes me when people don’t get this idea considering I understood the benefits of a secular society even when I was a staunch catholic teenager growing up.

  7. 7
    Moggie

    The Telegraph article will be ignored by the people who most need to be persuaded, because of those three words: “I’m an atheist”. We need to see more Christians publicly and forcefully making this positive case for secularism.

  8. 8
    tacitus

    Faith is in decline, and when Christians inevitably find themselves in a minority – on local councils or nationally – secularism will protect their choice of faith or religious identity.

    This may be true — and Christians of the Warsi type are already very much in the minority in Britain — but we know and they know that faiths like Christianity inevitably go into long-term decline when they embrace secularism. I fully expect Islam will too, one day (might not be any time soon though).

    This is why Warsi, the Pope, and others will continue to rail against secularism, even if it is against their followers’ own best interests. They, and other religious leaders know that it is their only chance of keeping, or repossessing a majority hold over a population is to reject and demonize secularism’s freedoms.

  9. 9
    Reginald Selkirk

    and Christians of the Warsi type are already very much in the minority in Britain

    Maybe that’s because she’s a Muslim.

  10. 10
    barndad

    This article is in the Guardian, not the Telegraph. The Guardian is a left-wing liberal broadsheet newspaper. The original article by Baroness Warsi was in the Telegraph: a right-wing, conservative broadsheet.

  11. 11
    tacitus

    Maybe that’s because she’s a Muslim.

    Whoops. Thanks for the correction.

  12. 12
    heddle

    brianthomas

    though Jesus’ remarks in Luke 19:27 (“However, those my enemies, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them and kill them in front of me.”) certainly do NOT.

    Covenient of you to selectively omit the intro to this passage:

    While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, (Luke 19:11)

  13. 13
    DaveL

    we know and they know that faiths like Christianity inevitably go into long-term decline when they embrace secularism.

    I’m not so sure about that – in the late 18th century Baptists were a small minority that pushed hard for secularism, and they seem to have grown quite a bit since then.

  14. 14
    Modusoperandi

    heddle, the parable where “my enemies” are the Jews that wouldn’t fall in line, and the king is Him?

  15. 15
    heddle

    Modusoperandi,

    So your definition of parable is: “write something literally true, but call it a parable for plausible deniability.”

    The 1st century Christians seemed to think otherwise. There is no example of any violence directed toward unbelievers (with the exception of Peter cutting off an ear at Jesus’ arrest, prompting Jesus to (A) say, “attaboy, Peter!” or (B) rebuke him. (The correct answer is (B)). The only punishments described in the NT are excommunications directed at believers.

  16. 16
    Modusoperandi

    To be fair, Heddle, you’re clearly misinterpreting it. He didn’t mean for His followers to kill them. That’s what Romans are for. Apparently.

  17. 17
    TCC

    I could not possibly agree with this more. I really do wish more Christians would be more vocal about supporting secularism; I suspect that there are many who agree but are simply silent.

    Also, Reginald Selkirk, your award of one Internet is waiting for you at the courtesy desk.

  18. 18
    Chiroptera

    He points out the reasons why Christians should be — and many are — secularists themselves.

    I would also add that considering how the lunatic right in the US are almost s***ting themselves over the fear that Muslims are going to take over and impose Sharia on everyone, that they’d be supporting strong Constitutional protections against the state enacting religious beliefs into law.

Leave a Reply

Switch to our mobile site