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'Outdated and divisive'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 923.

    It's the violent religion that is a problem.

  • rate this

    Comment number 922.

    Baroness Warsi: "I will be arguing that to create a more just society, people need to feel stronger in their religious identities and more confident in their creeds." This is an extraordinary claim and I wonder on what it is based. A just society needs open minds and mutual connection and understanding -- strong religious identities mean closed minds and disconnection from wider society.

  • rate this

    Comment number 921.

    The hallmark of a free society is the protection of the minority against the will of the majority. If the majority of the country is Christian (which seems to be one of the arguments used by the religious side in this debate) it is therefore all the the more important to protect the rights of those that are not religious. That's what is at stake here.

  • Comment number 920.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 919.

    For those of you at work - get on with it.
    For those of you not - go and do something useful and positive.
    This debate is crazy!

  • rate this

    Comment number 918.

    416. Sheila Coleman
    Think you misunderstand. People want prayer banned in schools in the sense of scheduled assemblies, led or promoted by teachers or other staff, in which children are made to participate, sometimes against their will (as I was at my school). A student who wishes to pray can do so privately whenever, and wherever they choose. No forced religious assemblies are required.

  • rate this

    Comment number 917.

    What is it about the Conservative party and religion? Do they think on Judgement Day they will be forgiven their sins?

  • rate this

    Comment number 916.

    "I know God is very real because of experience and honest examination of the evidence. So He's invisible. So what? So is the wind - you believe that exists, don't you?"

    We know wind exists because we can see and measure its effects. We can measure wind speed in an anemometer. What device can measure a god?
    I'd love to know what your evidence is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 915.

    amazing how many people put so much energy into denoucing somehting they treat as a fariy tail. We christains are obviously not thinking right and will need to be corrected and ridiculed then legislated against because we just won't go away and, shock horror, the church just keeps on going. Huge thanks to all athiests who bring real faith and God back into the public arena.

  • rate this

    Comment number 914.

    Warsi knows full well that the non religious are no more militant and in fact much less than the religious in defending their stance. The non religious in Europe faced over a thousand years of religion dominating politics and daily life and religious leaders leaching off the people. With events unfolding in the USA those who oppose religious interference in government have a hard time ahead

  • rate this

    Comment number 913.

    Like many I have had to listen to this person for the last few years and know that she is a dangerous, self serving parody of a Conservative vote-seeker.

  • rate this

    Comment number 912.

    Those who say religion has no place are wrong and divisive themselves. Secularism is a belief forced on us every day. Those who attack religion (ie Christianity) do so extremely aggressively which often makes me question their argument. If there's no moral 'absolute truth' in life there cannot be a truth there is no absolute truth. The Christians I know love God and love others. That is no crime.

  • rate this

    Comment number 911.

    Our heritage is religious? Nope - consider personalities such as Darwin, Newton, Russell, Bentham, Mills, Watt, Brunel, Hawkings, not to mention thinkers such as Bentham, Adam Smith, Mills etc.

    REASON and SCIENTIFIC EXCELLENCE are our heritage. You want to fix our economy and society? Fix our education. Teach the kids to be like the people above, not waste their time with hocus.

  • rate this

    Comment number 910.

    Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
    Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
    Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
    Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

    -Epicurus (341 BCE – 270 BCE)

    Religious people... please read that a few times until it begins to sink in.


  • rate this

    Comment number 909.

    Reason. Logic. Compassion. Everything that religion, a superstitious belief with distasteful morals, isn't about.
    When religion is subject to the same level of scrutiny as politics or economics, it's 'militant secularism'. Stone-age beliefs do not belong in the moderm public sphere. This is common sense, not a militant view.

  • rate this

    Comment number 908.

    This statement is ridiculous and far fetched! In absolutely no way should religion be forced upon anyone, especially in Governament issues. Fact is religion is slowly dispersing in Northern Europe and its through the choice of its people! Key word being 'choice' and that is the way it will stay.

  • rate this

    Comment number 907.

    The law of the land comes from religion, If you get rid of religion where will our morals come from? the social decay we see today is the distinct lack of morals and also tied to the fall in the numbers of the church.

    If you get rid of religion then you must replace it with something else,
    I am not religious, but do try to stick to most of the moral code.

  • rate this

    Comment number 906.

    If you are against secularism then you are OK with Tony Blair going to war in Iraq because he prayed to God and he told him it was the right thing to do?

    Do you also agree with the Bishops in the Lords voting against the £26k cap on benefits?

    Obviously religion in politics is a great mix? How about we go back to killing anyone working on the Sabbath or for being Homosexual? Women submit to men?

  • rate this

    Comment number 905.

    "Jesus save us from religion"

    Actually, that is a very good thought. Believe what you personally wish to, but avoid organised religions as in these the speaker puts their interpretation on what "God" wishes us to do & may misguide if we blindly follow. Nor force our views/beliefs on another unless we will accept his forced on us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 904.

    Religion has far too much influence on politics IMO. People can believe what they like but that doesn't make it right. The extreme aspects of it are deeply disturbing and manipulative. Don't go a bundle on political correctness either. What happened to Darwinism and free speech for Pete's sake? You can be a good person without religious mantra.


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