- «At the weekend, I was honoured to award the Secularist of the Year prize to Peter Tatchell on behalf of the National Secular Society. From the stage, I looked across the restaurant where the celebratory lunch was held and saw only intelligent, polite people (...). I had to break the news to them that according to respectable society they were fanatics; the moral equivalents of religious bigots. On the one hand, conventional commentators held, there were Islamist militants who slaughtered without compunction, Jewish Orthodox militants who persecuted freethinking women, Hindu nationalist militants who drove artists out of India, African Christians who murdered homosexuals, Protestant militants who attacked Catholic homes in Belfast, and Catholic militants who responded in kind.
On the other hand, there were ‘militant secularists’, who… well, what? No one can say.
(...)Militant secularism or atheism has a specific meaning. From the Jacobins through to the communists, militants murdered priests or sent them to camps, and destroyed churches, synagogues, mosques and temples. Militant secularism still exists in communist China and North Korea. I and every other British secularist I know oppose it because we believe in freedom of religion and freedom from religion.
In this morning’s Telegraph the Bishop of Oxford says the Church of England wants the taxpayer to pay for at least 200 new primary and secondary schools to combat the influence of secularism. Notice that the bishop does not say that he wants to combat secularism by proselytising his religion, winning converts and engaging in the free arguments of a democratic society. He must know that that game is up. (...)
Secularists want to separate church and state, as the not noticeably militant French and Americans do. We oppose the division of children on sectarian lines, which often mean racial lines as well. We despair of a supposedly PC liberal establishment that will ignore the subjugation of women, when subjugation is conducted in the name of a god or gods. Anne-Marie Waters, one of the leaders of the campaign against Sharia law, put it well last week when she mocked middle-class women, who said in effect:‘“We are feminists. We are incredibly right-on. We read the Guardian. We disapprove of women's breasts getting a public airing and we strongly object to the fact that boards of directors are not 50% female. We will go absolutely ballistic if anyone dare understate how vile domestic violence is, or attempt in any way to justify it. We are feminists you see. Oh, but only when it comes to white women — did we mention that?’”Does that mean that a spectre is haunting Britain — the spectre of militant secularism?(...)» (Nick Cohen)