In defence of militant secularisation

In a recent speech the Tory Party Chairperson Lady Warsi said:

‘My fear is that, today, militant secularisation is taking hold of our societies. We see it in a number of things: when signs of religion cannot be displayed or worn in government buildings, and where religion is sidelined and downgraded in the public sphere.

‘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.’

By the way, telling people they can’t carry conspicuous religious symbols or pray at their workplaces or discriminate against gay people because it’s part of their religious beliefs is the ‘militant secularisation’ Warsi is speaking of.

She’s taking her message to the pope who has in the past argued against ‘aggressive forms of secularism’ likening it to the evils of Nazism.

How absurd.

‘Militant secularisation’ is a direct response to religion’s encroachments and intolerance not the other way around. And there is nothing more totalitarian and intolerant than religion in political power. Just look back to the Spanish inquisition of centuries past or today’s Islamic inquisition.

In fact, a secular society allows for religion and atheism but as a private belief. It protects all people including believers since even believers don’t all think alike. Take the example of 23 year old Muslim writer Hamza Kashgari who faces execution for his tweets on Mohammad, Islam’s prophet, versus the Saudi state or those calling for his head.

People can believe what they want but religion in the state, and educational and judicial system has nothing to do with personal belief; it has to do with political power.

Finally the religious lobby is feeling the pressure and it’s about time!

After all let’s not forget that the demand for the separation of religion from the state is because religion is harmful when it is part of the state. And keeping it out is a precondition for safeguarding the most basic rights and freedoms.


  1. Rob says

    Should we read anything into the Valentine’s Day timing of Warsi’s overture to the Vatican? Looks like a match made in heaven to me. She wants to import some of that papal wisdom to help her get sex education taken RIGHT OUT OF OUR SCHOOLS.

    To borrow her own words: ‘God, what is she on?’

    Still, she’s not so popular with the egg throwing, knuckle dragging Islamist types:

    On the other hand here’s a sensible article, essentially defending secularism and equality before the law in the UK as a means to prevent religious strife. We don’t want another civil war thanks:

  2. Mriana says

    I thought it was all absurd too. I couldn’t believe what I was reading, but then again, it is not uncommon for the religious to twist things in a manner that makes Secularists the bad guys. *rolling eyes* It’s insane, but they do these things just so they can get their way, which is quite childish, IMO.

  3. Iain says

    Given the way the Torygraph’s been trying itself into knots of apoplexy for the past week someone seems to have noticed the pressure.

  4. bjartefoshaug says

    Here’s something I posted in the Guardian comments section (in response to the debate between Richard Dawkins and Will Hutton:

    It should be pretty clear by now that anything other than discrimination in religion’s favour will be construed as anti-religious discrimination or “imposing atheism”. The appalling thing is that in the west in the 21st century “secularism” (i.e. the absence of any religious bias from politics) still needs defending at all.

    In Saudi Arabia Hamza Kashgari faces prosecution, and possibly execution, for being insufficiently deferential when tweeting about Mohammed. In Indonesia Alexander Aan is in jail (after being violently attacked by the religious mob) for making an atheist remark on Facebook (atheism is officially a crime in Indonesia). In India Salman Rushdie had to cancel his appearance at the Jaipur literary festival because of death threats. In Amsterdam muslim extremists stormed a book launch by muslim reformist Irshad Manji, threatening to break her neck. In London the Atheism, Secularism, and Humanism Society at Queen Mary College had to cancel a meeting after a muslim began filming the attendants and threatening to kill them. And some people want to tell us to that “militant” secularism is really the problem here (Notice the double standard btw: Atheists are called “militant” if they use logic and humour, whereas militant believers use threats and violence.)

    Atheists are not the ones who are advocating a double standard. We are not singling out religious beliefs for special criticism. We just don’t see why they should be singled out for special protection, and we are confident that no religion could survive in the absence of the astronomical double standards that are now applied in their favour. The moment we start judging religious claims by the same standards of logic and evidence by which even the believers themselves judge secular claims, then religion will have been dealt a mortal blow. Even weak scientific hypotheses generally have more going for them than any religious claim ever had (the argument from design is just embarrassing, and all the other arguments for God’s existence are even worse), yet no scientist worth his weight in salt refrains from criticizing a weak hypothesis (or indeed a strong one) for fear of causing offence. Those who have good reasons for what they believe, appeal to those. Appeals to “respect for the beliefs of others” are only ever heard when there are no good reasons to appeal to. But a belief can hardly become any more worthy of respect for being based on bad reasons. As Sam Harris so eloquently put it: “Faith is nothing more than the license religious people give one another to keep believing when reasons fail”.

    There is an equally appalling moral double standard. As a thought experiment, imagine a ruler of some foreign country (preferably a white, western, secular one, otherwise we might just have to “respect his culture”) who said and did all the same things that the biblical god supposedly said and did (ordering genocides, demanding rape victims to be stoned, threatening to force anyone who disobeys him to eat their children etc.). Now imagine the reaction if someone in our part of the world publically sided with this disgusting monster. My guess is that they would be met with public outrage and charges of “hate-speech”. Leftist radicals would organize protests wherever they went, and we would see attempts to have their views censored. Substitute our imaginary dictator for an equally imaginary god, and much of the indignation suddenly turns against those who criticize the same evil. If this is not hypocrisy, then nothing is.

    Even if the Bible represented the very best of its day (which it clearly didn’t), the best of the Iron Age is still awful by the standards of the 21st century and should not be allowed to influence modern life in any way. If you believe in a god who literally said and did everything that Yahweh is supposed to have said and done according to the Bible, and in spite of this you still take God’s side, then there is nothing you can accuse anybody else of that is worse than what you, yourself actively favour. Religious moderates and liberals, on the other hand, may not promote intolerance and violence themselves, but through their disingenuous whitewashing of their holy texts they give legitimacy to books and doctrines that definitely promote intolerance and violence. And just in case you wonder, I have read the Bible, and if there is any overarching message to be derived from this disaster area of a book it’s that God is not a moderate.

  5. says

    I always find it ironic when the current Pope, a man who fired on Allied aircraft in a professional capacity while wearing the Gott Mit Uns belt buckle of the Wehrmacht soldiers’ uniform, criticises secularists for World War II.

  6. says

    What a horrible piece of work Moroness Warsi is.

    It is secularism – the secularism which she finds so intolerant, militant and aggressive – that allows a Muslim woman to be a peer and a member of the cabinet.

    If she wants to see what happens when religions have power then I suggest she invest in a history book of the UK. Or she can see it with her own eyes by visiting Pakistan today.

  7. Martyn N Hughes says

    Secularism seeks to defend people of all faiths and none whereas state sponsored religion will only seek to defend itself.

    Baroness warsi should know this but I suspect this unholy alliance between Warsi and the vatican is nothing more than the final cries of a dying animal.

    Have you ever heard some animals cry when close to death?

    It makes more noise in those final moments than it ever did in its life.

  8. Fetid Cheese says

    Militant secularism/atheism is a non-term similar to Islamophobia. Usually used to muddy the waters and in an attempt to silence people.Just as those who use the term Islamophobia do not recognise the rational/free thinking/science/reality phobia in their midst so Warsi refuses to see the militant (insert religion of choice here) catholicism of the pope. Of course, this is using the “voicing your opinion assertively and with conviction” as the definition of “militant” when in fact there are many religionists who are militant in a truly militant way. I suppose the next thing might be militant egalitarians and militant pacifists etc

  9. Jalil says

    A secular society would be a safer place for all of us to live in. It “allows for religion and atheism but as a private belief. It protects all people including believers.”

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