I have to hand it to this Comment is Free article for saying something new. Your average piece criticising secularists usually waffles on with some drivel about how they’re just as fundamentalist as the other side therefore blah, or logic isn’t enough to understand the universe and love is great and blah, or they fail to appreciate how happy religion makes some people therefore everything’s dandy and the rivers would run with chocolate if only people would stop arguing. And blah. The CiF piece, though, suggests it’s all a vast conspiracy. You might want to put any drinks down before reading.
In recent years these unpleasant people have had a strategy of exploiting Britain’s innate politeness. They realised that for a decade overly sensitive souls (normally called the PC brigade) had bent over backwards to avoid giving offence. Trying not to give offence was, despite the excesses, a noble courtesy.
But the fundamentalists saw an opening. Because we live in a multiconfessional society, they fostered the falsehood that wearing a crucifix or a veil or a turban was deeply offensive to other faiths. They pretended to be protecting religious sensibilities as a pretext to strip us of all religious expressions. In 2006 Jack Straw and BA fell into the fundamentalists’ trap.
But Britons are actually laissez-faire about such things. And so the fundamentalists deployed an opposite tactic. Instead of pretending to protect religious sensibilities, they went on the offensive and sought to give offence. The subsequent reactions to the play Behzti in Birmingham, to Jerry Springer the Opera and to the Danish cartoons were wheeled out as examples of why religious groups are unable to live with our cherished freedom and tolerance.
My, haven’t we been the busy bunch. And so devious! It’s a fun read, and ends by claiming that secularists want to tell everybody what to wear and what to say. I like the part where it says religious believers are great because they can differentiate sin from crime. At no point is any evidence presented, obviously, and it’s a bit like getting stopped on the street by somebody who wants to give you a leaflet explaining how the US government is responsible for 9/11. You nod, smile, back off as quickly as possible and aren’t really happy until you’ve washed your hands.
The article was apparently printed in today’s Guardian. Yuck. B4L says everything that’s necessary.