Militant secularisation threat to religion, says Warsi

Baroness Warsi, co-chairman of the Conservative Party Baroness Warsi has previously raised the issue of Islamophobia with Pope Benedict XVI

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Britain is under threat from a rising tide of "militant secularisation", a cabinet minister has warned.

Religion is being "sidelined, marginalised and downgraded in the public sphere", Conservative co-chairwoman Baroness Warsi wrote in an article for the Daily Telegraph.

The Muslim peer said Europe needed to become "more confident and more comfortable in its Christianity".

She also highlighted the issue in a speech at the Vatican on Tuesday.

She wrote in the Telegraph that "to create a more just society, people need to feel stronger in their religious identities and more confident in their creeds".

"In practice this means individuals not diluting their faiths and nations not denying their religious heritages."

Baroness Warsi, who is Britain's first female Muslim cabinet minister, went on to write: "You cannot and should not extract these Christian foundations from the evolution of our nations any more than you can or should erase the spires from our landscapes."

'Totalitarian regimes'

Start Quote

She (Baroness Warsi) is not Christian herself but nevertheless she sees religion as a good thing - it doesn't matter what religion as long as there's some religion and that's better than no religion. There is absolutely no logical basis for that”

End Quote Professor Richard Dawkins Evolutionary biologist and atheist writer

She wrote that examples of a "militant secularisation" taking hold of society could be seen in a number of things - "when signs of religion cannot be displayed or worn in government buildings; when states won't fund faith schools; and where religion is sidelined, marginalised and downgraded in the public sphere".

She also compared the intolerance of religion with totalitarian regimes, which she said were "denying people the right to a religious identity because they were frightened of the concept of multiple identities".

Her comments come days after the High Court ruled that a Devon town council had acted unlawfully by allowing prayers to be said at meetings.

'Outdated and divisive'

On Baroness Warsi's article and speech, BBC political correspondent Louise Stewart said it was not the first time a senior Conservative had called for a revival of traditional Christian values.

"Last December, Prime Minister David Cameron said the UK was a Christian country and 'should not be afraid to say so'," she said.

The British Humanist Association (BHA) described Baroness Warsi's comments as "outdated, unwarranted and divisive".

"In an increasingly non-religious and, at the same time, diverse society, we need policies that will emphasise what we have in common as citizens rather than what divides us," said BHA chief executive Andrew Copson.

Baroness Warsi: "People need to feel stronger in their religious identities and more confident in their beliefs"

Baroness Warsi's two-day delegation of seven British ministers to the Holy See will include an audience with Pope Benedict XVI, who visited the UK in 2010.

It is understood it is the first time a serving minister of a foreign government has given an address to the staff and students of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, the British Embassy to the Holy See said.

This visit marks the 30th anniversary of the re-establishment of full diplomatic ties between Britain and the Vatican.

'No logical basis'

Meanwhile, new research suggests Britons who declare themselves Christian display low levels of belief and practice.

Almost three quarters of the 1,136 people polled by Ipsos Mori agreed that religion should not influence public policy, and 92% agreed the law should apply to everyone equally, regardless of their personal beliefs.

It also found that 61% of Christians agreed homosexuals should have the same legal rights in all aspects of their lives as heterosexuals.

And a further 62% were in favour of a woman's right to have an abortion within the legal time limit.

The survey was conducted for the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science (UK), which describes itself as promoting "scientific education, rationalism and humanism".

Speaking on Baroness Warsi's comments, Mr Dawkins, former professor for the public understanding of science at Oxford University, told the BBC News Channel: "She is obviously a person who really wants to push religion.

"She is not Christian herself but nevertheless she sees religion as a good thing - it doesn't matter what religion as long as there's some religion and that's better than no religion.

"There is absolutely no logical basis for that."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 883.

    I'm not about to take lessons in religious tolerance from any member of a religious group. All the major world religions spend much time sniping and sneering at each other and, even though I'm a fervent atheist, I seem to have more tolerance of them than they have of each other.
    Religion deserves extinction, it does nothing good that secular society doesn't and lots of ill besides.

  • rate this

    Comment number 882.

    If a religion is so good, why's it so easy for unspeakable acts of evil to be done in its name? It is no good saying "these people are not really xxxx" because they claim they are, and sometimes they have the words of their holy books to back them up. Also, where is the absolute clear condemnation of them by their fellow believers? Truth is, they hide behind their doctrines to allow evil to occur.

  • rate this

    Comment number 881.

    'Open your mind and think for yourself'

    Oh the irony of that comment!

    You need to appreciate that atheists do precisely this instead of believing something that they have been told to believe in.

    This HYS is about secularism which is not athiesm in itself but is a belief that all things religious should be kept seperate from the state and it can't come quick enough imo

  • rate this

    Comment number 880.

    "You cannot and should not extract these Christian foundations from the evolution of our nations any more than you can or should erase the spires from our landscapes."//.
    The foundations of Britain are Pagan, the evidence is everywhere and it was here much longer than Christianity has been, and it's returning, lets keep tolerance!

  • rate this

    Comment number 879.

    No the primitive age of superstition and gods is over. They have no place in any government operation. The neutral position of no belief is the norm now. Further we need to make illegal teaching any child to any religion. It is a child protection issue. It is a form of mental child abuse. Adults only like tobacco, alcohol and porn. we have rules for child adverts, even a tv watershed. Same thing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 878.

    Baroness Warsi is right to be alarmed at the rising tide of secularism. She is among the few who grasp the need for spiritual values in human society based on concepts of right and wrong originating from a higher authority than itself. Bereft of these, society becomes governed by greed, hate, lust, and self-interest.

    How ironic that a Muslim should be defending Christian values and practice!

  • rate this

    Comment number 877.

    255. Swayneseye
    "I wonder how many non-believers will suddenly start praying when they are in their final hour"

    That would imply desperation...which begs the question, are those believers who aren't in their final hour just permanently desperate?

  • rate this

    Comment number 876.

    39% of Christians think homosexuals should have fewer legal rights than heterosexuals? And that's something we should be proud of?

  • rate this

    Comment number 875.

    I find her remarks deeply offensive.The stance that all religions take, that they are the bastions of morality is also offensive to those who are not religious and even more to those who are atheists. Warsi is defending Christianity in order to gain tolerance of the way her own religion attempts to impose itself in public life.Religion is not democratic and has no place in government or law.

  • Comment number 874.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 873.

    The Baroness doesn't understand what "secular" means. Everybody has the right to join any religion provided that it is not forced upon others. In practice the best way to ensure this is a strict separation of church and state. This does not mean that religion is marginalised in the domestic sphere. The marginalisation of religion in politics, I would argue, is good thing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 872.

    We don't need Religion, the sooner laws/policies/decisions are based on scientific fact rather than someone's "personal beliefs" the better the country/world will be.
    Less religion is what the country needs not more and if you are going to push an agenda then it should be more accepting of all religions and beliefs (Atheism for example) instead of strengthening the worse of a bad bunch.

  • rate this

    Comment number 871.

    It's precisely because of the predominance of secularism in the UK that has allowed the likes of Warsi to hold the office she does.

    To throw religion back in the face of secularism is to deny the tolerance that is the point of secularism.

    She needs to rethink.

  • rate this

    Comment number 870.

    Only 8% of those that class themselves as 'Church of England' attend church on a weekly basis. If these 'believers' can't even be bothered to celebrate their own religion why should the government force everyone else to!

  • rate this

    Comment number 869.

    Christians! Don't despair! Religion is human's way back to God (the religious Church as man sees it) where Salvation is God's way back to man (by a daily Godly walk in Love). In fact Jesus ran a discipleship teaching a 'Kingdom' way of doing things; He did not overthrow Judaism and set up a 'church'. Jesus mission was to save humans from religion/politics. He met His end via religion/politics.

  • rate this

    Comment number 868.

    I'm all for religious freedoms for individuals but when people bring it into government that's an altogether different thing. And the Baroness ought to stop the name-calling: she wouldn't like it if she were called a militant Muslim. Using the word 'militant' rather than 'passionate' does nothing but misrepresent your opponent’s position, making it sound dangerous when it is purely an opinion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 867.

    Given all that we now know about the creation of the world, the universe and of our history I find it bemusing that there are people who still dedicate their lives to mythical religious beings.

  • rate this

    Comment number 866.

    @No.278 Vince Millet
    I agree that argument is tedious. However, the dictators you mentioned viewed the religious establishment as an affront to their monopoly on power. In fact, it could be argued, much like Kim Jong-il, they ruled in part through personally cults which shares more similarities with religious doctrine and teaching.

  • rate this

    Comment number 865.

    This is a terrible one sided article. Instead of concentrating on facts, i.e. why are our MP's going to the vatican to consult with the pope on UK policy making, we're getting hysterical nonsense as the headline. I'm a member of the NSS and it makes me more determined to fight for equality in our society when I hear rubbish like this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 864.

    @295.syclone - "But they are all logically obsolete"
    @299.Whistling Neil - "religion is a historical anacronism"
    @298.Dommy42 - "Religion is the Opiate of the masses"
    @301.Death_of_compassion - "Religion ...childish things"
    @294.kwa - "The sooner this nonsense is finally consigned to history"

    You present opinion as if it were fact as a way of dismissing an alternative view; how lazy.


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