Pope Benedict XVI and Baroness Warsi, seemingly the self-appointed Minister for Promoting Religion, have two things in common, despite being followers of different faiths. Neither of them understands what secularism is, and they are both terrified of it.
A secular state is one in which a person’s religious views are nobody else’s business, least of all the government’s, and where people of different religions, or of none, can coexist without interference (provided that the practice of a religion doesn’t curtail the rights of others, such as killing people for not worshipping the same deity in the same way).
Warsi, a muslim, should be grateful that she can practice her religion in Britain. In some Islamic countries non-muslims would be persecuted. Not the imagined persecution that exists only in the minds of some religious people in Britain, but real persecution, sometimes involving real torture and death.
The Pope too should reflect that the open practice of his particular denomination was once a criminal offence and, but for secularism, he would not have been allowed into the country, let alone feted by dignitaries.
Yet so desperate are they that their delusions are going out of fashion, they attack the very thing that allows them freedom of conscience.
And religion does seem to be going out of fashion, particularly the louder and more intrusive forms of it. A poll commissioned by the Richard Dawkins Foundation For Reason and Science, conducted by Ipsos MORI, suggests that religion is not as pervasive as recent census results might have us believe.
The poll was commissioned in anticipation of the 2011 census result, in which, as usual, there was a question about religion. It has long been suspected that the answer to that question was skewed by people who put “C of E” (or whatever religion applied to their family) just because that was what they always put, and they didn’t know the could do otherwise.
The poll would seem to confirm this, and to confirm what I’ve been saying for a while: the religious nutters making all the noise bear no relation to the real people I meet every day.
For more information about the RDFRS’s poll, click on the links below.