I was reminded of this by former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey’s extraordinary article in today’s Daily Mail. One can think of many reasons for criticising David Cameron, but “aggressive secularism”?
...it was a bit rich to hear that the Prime Minister has told religious leaders that they should ‘stand up and oppose aggressive secularisation’ when it seems that his government is aiding and abetting this aggression every step of the way.
At his pre-Easter Downing Street reception for faith leaders, he said that he supported Christians’ right to practise their faith. Yet many Christians doubt his sincerity. According to a new ComRes poll more than two-thirds of Christians feel that they are part of a ‘persecuted minority’.
Their fears may be exaggerated because few in the UK are actually persecuted, but the Prime Minister has done more than any other recent political leader to feed these anxieties.What is Cameron’s crime? It seems to boil down to the issue of gay marriage; freedom for gay people means persecuting Christians, apparently.
Carey needs to understand two things. First, ‘secular’ does not mean ‘anti-religious’; secularism is in the interests of everyone, religious and non-religious, since it is about creating a space we can all share, a space of mutual tolerance, a space where religion is neither privileged nor persecuted. Second, if your idea of religious freedom is contingent on being able to persecute others, that is no freedom at all.
There are more legitimate worries, such as the spread of faith schools and attempts to teach creationism in schools, not to mention the growth of violent religious fundamentalism. Carey has nothing to say about these trends, which somewhat contradict his silly claims.
When people are being stoned to death for blasphemy, then they can complain about feeling persecuted.