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'Outdated and divisive'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 983.

    All those who are hell bent on getting rid of religion, ask yourself some questions..
    Is it ok to kill, steal, lie, cheat, maim etc

    If you answer no to these questions then you are Hypochrites, you have christian values.
    If you answer yes then you seriously need help.

  • rate this

    Comment number 982.

    Warsi calls us humanists “totalitarian” when our very goal is to work towards a more just, inclusive society. She implies that we aim to “deny people their religious heritage”. We certainly don’t, I have nothing against personal faiths, as long as they remain at home and at Church, and don’t meddle with my life or my kids lives or education.

  • rate this

    Comment number 981.

    Religious 'hate' is a crime... How about Secularism 'hate' or Atheism 'hate' being a crime? I'm Atheist and want a Secular society, and I now feel offended that Baroness Warsi is persecuting my beliefs in public. she cant be allowed to say this. If I attacked Islam in that way, I would be arrested for religious hatred! How about some protection in law for the modern, reasoned, scientific thinker!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 980.

    I'm not particularly religious but I'm British, and my Monarch is head of the Anglican Church - the UK is an Anglican state - that is where my allegiance lies and it is what my father and grandfather fought for and the freedoms all religions enjoy in this country. Baroness Warsi is right - strange that a Muslim has to teach us that lesson.

  • rate this

    Comment number 979.

    The only people who have recently tried to convert me to their religious point of view are... Richard Dawkins and his faithful flock.

    The irony is he has created, under any other name, a religious cult. He is becoming a symbol for everything he claims to oppose; including shouting down any opposition.

  • rate this

    Comment number 978.

    Religous faith is nothing more than belief without evidence. It cannot be a good thing to be governed by the credulous.

  • rate this

    Comment number 977.

    Given the spending cuts, I don't see how we need to be spending money on religions that can fund themselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 976.

    If religious views were fully removed from local and national politics, how many people would care if you wore a burka or a cross?

    All of the 'Well finally!' comments seem to be because Warsi's idea of the status quo is the secularist idea of invasive religious politics.

    No-one wants to ban religion, or worship. We just want the misleading 'religious heritage' movement to leave us be.

  • rate this

    Comment number 975.

    @461.dmcc - "Name me a war started by a secularist or atheist."

    WWII - Hitler
    Iraq II - Dubya Bush


    "This is what us rational people like to call 'progress'."

    And I call arrogant and lazy with the new atheist orthodoxy rammed down my throat, on public money, by the likes of Richard Dawkins. Its the secular inquisition.

  • rate this

    Comment number 974.

    43. HMMurdoch

    "More people have died in the name of [a] God than from any disease or natural disaster."

    As a scientist I find this kind of statement immensely irritating.

    What are the ACTUAL figures? The FACTS? Anybody?

    Without proof that statement is just another load of un-scientific mumbo-jumbo.

  • rate this

    Comment number 973.

    Churchs commit a lot of effort to outreach projects, including supporting charities,youth groups and vunerable families over Christmas.
    This is done without forcing our faith on anyone.
    How many on here can say the same.
    Easy to knock people, much harder to stand up and do something about the problems we ALL face

  • rate this

    Comment number 972.

    @444.davidgw964: "our PM and the last one are Christians..."

    They claim to be, but they don't follow the teachings of Jesus. Does Cameron give his money away? No? Then he's not a True Christian(TM).

    Most religious people are only religious as far as it suits them to be, which is generally merely to hope that there's some invisible magical power that can bail them out when things get sticky.

  • rate this

    Comment number 971.

    If the headline read instead, "Militant religion a threat to secularisation" that would be a more accurate portrayal of the real danger facing most societies across the world (including in the West) today.

    Secularisation shouldn't be misrepreseted: it is not about undermining religion, but about respecting those of all faiths, and none, equally.

  • rate this

    Comment number 970.

    Why should the government be supporting or funding faith schools? This is indoctrination and brainwashing in the extreme; we should be teaching people to think for themselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 969.

    The majority of comments PROVE the uk / britain is clearly NOT a christian country. In fact this is just another episode- in our long history- of the general public having a type of religion shoved down their throats .

  • rate this

    Comment number 968.

    Those of us who are lifelong atheists and require no religion have always had to endure the medieval illogicality of the church and its spidery tentacles - reaching into various areas of British secular life . In recent years that discomfort has been compounded by the increasingly visible presence of Islam - Baroness Warsi's home religion. Why was she made a baroness anyway?

  • rate this

    Comment number 967.

    She misses the point of secularism. It isn't that all religion should be stamped out, it's that in a democracy the government should represent everyone, whichever religion or moral code they subscribe to. It is preferable to have a government that engages in moral discourse while recognising different positions and beliefs than one that attempts to enforce a single religious doctrine on a people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 966.

    Far from being under threat religion has not had to justify itself for 1000's of years. As a result of science but maily education we look now look critically at what holy men have invented over the years. Religion was the spiritual branch of the fuedal system and society is finding it very difficult to throw off its guilt ridden legacy. Stop teaching 4yr olds mythology in religious schools.

  • rate this

    Comment number 965.

    412. Kiwi Diablo
    >>>Religion has been the cause of most wars and deaths over the course of our history. Lets wipe it out and we're one step closer to world peace.

    If that was ALL religions had done, your suggestion might have some shred of validity (irony notwithstanding). But, religions at times promoted artistic, educational & social progress as well as the bad things, so it's not that simple.

  • rate this

    Comment number 964.

    @78 'always blurting'
    What an accurate user name. How offensive to state that one can't be 'happy, modest and pleasant' without being Christian. You may be happy, but modest and pleasant? - not with that attitude.


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