""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.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:
"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.""
"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.