Monday, February 26, 2007

For 'secular fundamentalism'

There is, for me, a blood-pressure raising article by Stuart Jeffries about 'Britain's new cultural divide', which he claims is between those who believe and those who don't. In a theme that is now becoming familiar, Jeffries describes a clash of 'fundamentalisms', with the religious on one side, and 'militant atheists' like Dawkins, Hitchens etc. on the other. Take this, for example:
""We are witnessing a social phenomenon that is about fundamentalism," says Colin Slee, the Dean of Southwark. "Atheists like the Richard Dawkins of this world are just as fundamentalist as the people setting off bombs on the tube, the hardline settlers on the West Bank and the anti-gay bigots of the Church of England. Most of them would regard each other as destined to fry in hell.

"You have a triangle with fundamentalist secularists in one corner, fundamentalist faith people in another, and then the intelligent, thinking liberals of Anglicanism, Roman Catholicism, baptism, methodism, other faiths - and, indeed, thinking atheists - in the other corner. " says Slee. Why does he think the other two groups are so vociferous? "When there was a cold war, we knew who the enemy was. Now it could be anybody. From this feeling of vulnerability comes hysteria.""
Recognise your position in this triangle? Neither do I. This is, I reckon, on account of the fact that it doesn't exist. I have my disagreements with the way in which Hitchens and Dawkins approach the subject of religion but to suggest their 'fundamentalist secularism' is in some way akin to the demented theocrats who would rather immolate themselves and innocent commuters than live and raise their children is absolutely outrageous. Take this piece of tripe, for example:
"The intolerance for people of faith, though, might not seem to be the preserve of only angry atheists such as Dawkins and Hitchens. Instead, there is a widespread fear that religion is being treated as a problem to British society, best solved by airbrushing it from the public sphere."
By 'airbrushing' we can assume that what is meant here is measures like the separation of religion from the state with, for example, the denial of public subsidy for religious segregation and indoctrination in public schooling. The sort of system, in other words, that has been enjoyed by citizens of the American and French republics since the 18th century. The idea that this is merely the secular counterpart to the theocracy of the Taliban is a damnable lie that has to be challenged. For what are the 'fundaments' of secularism? Not a state like Stalin's Russia or Mao's China that insists to the point of coercion that people be atheists - only one that holds religion to be a private matter and where the government is constitutionally compelled to be neutral on matters of faith.

The reality, in contrast to the falsehoods propagated in this insidious article, is that this vision of the secular state is at the opposite end of the spectrum to the religious states of history, as well as those still in existence in Iran and Saudi Arabia. Because whilst the latter insist that men believe, the former does not. While they may be, and are, imperfect in many ways - and while people of goodwill may disagree concerning the proper boundaries of public religious expression - in such states liberty demands that a distinction should be made between what is a crime and what is a sin. Anyone who claims this is in someway equivalent to living under a theocratic or communist tyranny is either an ignoramus or a fucking liar.

Update: Jim Denham on the same subject.


dearieme said...

It's from the Grdniaau, so the smart money is presumably on "fucking liar".

Laban said...

moderate the language, please. Children may be reading.

Loose canon Slee is one of the main cheerleaders for the gay agenda in the CoE, so the point of his speech is to say to the secular Guardian man 'hey - I'm one of those nice Christians who has lots of values in common with you - apart from the Jesus bit of course'.

The funny thing is he's as hysterical as anyone. Don't want a homosexual Bishop ? Then you're "the Taleban wing of the Church".

Obviously not getting a job as a Bishop is exactly the same as being crushed to death under a stone wall.

Anonymous said...

Stuart Jeffries is obviously off visiting planet Jeffries, so has a less than fully developed concern for the real world.

I don’t recall Dawkins advocating blowing people up, or stoning anyone to death recently, must have missed that.

I think his view is that religion has no discernable credible evidence in fact to substantiate it and that it is more akin to FakeViagra SPAM, or the hula-hoop craze.

Not quite what I understand by the term “fundamentalism”.

The big problem is not so much “The intolerance for people of faith” as Jeffries claims.

To the rest of us it is more like “The intolerance of people of faith”.

Or perhaps “Rabid hatred” might be a more accurate term than “intolerance”.

Phil A

Anonymous said...

Neither Jeffries nor the people he quotes claim Dawkins advocates blowing people up. They claim Dawkins and his ilk are as fundamentalist in their upholding of their own creed, and as fundamentally intolerant, as the people who do that.

That the climate of hate for religion fostered by the likes of Dawkins could lead to persecutions of religion people, will not be doubted by those who remember the history of the Soviet Union.

Billy Coconut

Anonymous said...

Billy Coconut

Dawkins has never advocated banning people from believing in religion. All the major religions have fundamentalists who would mandate their religious beliefs, and all at some stage have fundamentalists who have killed people for refusing to believe what the fundamentalist believes. It is mostly Muslims doing so at the moment, but I believe only the Sikhs do not have it written as a religious obligation in their holy writings, and even they have been involved in extremist actions.

To lump Dawkins and Hitchens (and by implication me) in with that lot is ridiculous. It does imply that they have done something evil or at least massively intolerant, on a similar level to the murders by religious fundamentalists. They haven't.

The approach of secularists, who simply deplore the brainwashing of the masses, are shall we say fundamentally different.

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