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Saturday, 12 November 2011

Why secularists make Christians angry (and vice versa)

A report from Premier Christian Media is highlighting how Christians feel more persecuted. The rise of secularism is one thing that is blamed for this.

But it’s cause and effect. If Christians (and other religions, notably Islam) didn’t make ridiculous demands, secularists would be less vocal. It becomes a game of ping-pong, with each side trying to hit the ball harder each time it comes to its end of the table.

If secularists complain that there’s too much religion on TV, say, that’s probably because there is (disproportionately so), and the BBC and other broadcasters are guilty of kowtowing to these beliefs, instead of – as I’m sure would be quite acceptable – making interesting programmes about religion to enable us to increase our knowledge, just as we might seek to increase our knowledge of cooking by watching Jamie Oliver. (No, scrub that. TV cooking is just a spectator sport for morons, but I digress.)

I’m not saying secularists are always right – and often one wishes they’d stick to secularism if that is their only remit, and stop pontificating on spiritual matters or issues of ontology and theology. After all, secularism is just a case of wishing to chuck the churches and other religious organisations out of public decision making and put them on a level playing field with any other group that seeks the ear of those in power.

If secularists have “humanist” in their name, then that’s a different matter, because the term “humanism” seems to have such a wide scope that it invites its devotees to say just about anything. However, not all humanists are as freethinking as they like to make out, and some so-called freethinkers can be quite dogmatic, as a glance at the letters pages of the Freethinker will confirm.

But, on the whole, secularists pure and simple or secularists who are humanists, rationalists and/or freethinkers have the moral high ground as far as this humble blogger is concerned. Religion is a huge power game, and should be put in its place. It’s far removed from the simple sets of beliefs that probably gave rise to it. Spirituality is a personal thing, as is belief in gods and other supernatural agencies.

Most secularists would argue that people should be allowed to enjoy their beliefs, practise their rituals, celebrate their festivals, honour their deities – as long as they don’t wish (a) to push it all down everyone’s throat or (b) to restrict others’ freedom, either to have religious beliefs or not to have religious beliefs.

And that, if anything, is the strongest case for keeping religion in the private sphere. I’m sure few people object to a bit of sentimental hokum at Christmas, say. I for one like the sound of carols, and the odd crib scene in a town centre doesn’t send me into a vapour; church bells can be pleasing to the ear, provided they don’t keep one awake or frighten the horses. Christianity was here a long time before it began to decline, and it’s informed much of our culture.

If I saw a harmless display celebrating Diwali, say, I’d think the same.

But religionists who shout and throw their toys out of the pram can turn mild secularists into raging, uncompromising fanatics, complete with pitchforks and torches.

3 comments:

truthspew said...

The religious don't like when you mention those 'other' verses in the Bible.

You know the ones I'm talking about. Some can be found in Leviticus, others in 1st Timothy, Corinthians, and Romans. (Essentially any of the twaddle pushed by Saul of Tarsus himself!)

And the other thing that is becoming evident over time is that EVERYTHING in the Bible was made up. So it IS a work of fiction.

Rainbow said...

"Most secularists would argue that people should be allowed to enjoy their beliefs, practise their rituals, celebrate their festivals, honour their deities – as long as they don’t wish (a) to push it all down everyone’s throat or (b) to restrict others’ freedom, either to have religious beliefs or not to have religious beliefs."

Precisely what I think. if one wants to believe in the virginity of Mary, it's ok, provided he doesn't demand everyone to be a virgin.

Diesel B said...

I'm with Andy on this one. While Christianity is clearly limited and actually quite flawed, it is nonetheless the foundation of our post-Christian secular beliefs. Modern secularism and humanism has grown out of the progressive Christian tradition, as represented by the South Place Ethical Society and the Putney Debates, for example. Like it or not, we stand on the shoulders of this progressive Christian tradition and hopefully we are an improvement on it. Alien religious traditions are something quite different, although if their practitioners fit themselves around our core values and way of life, rather than try to supplant them, I personally have no problem with their presence here.