Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Militant secularisation - worse than militant theocracy.

There are some things you hear about that you need to do a double take with sometimes.  Take an article I read today, for example.  Lady Warsi, a British MP, has called for Christianity to be given a more central role in society and government after the latest furore over the removal of prayer sessions before council meetings.  She claims that British secularisation is "that at its core and in its instincts it is deeply intolerant. It demonstrates similar traits to totalitarian regimes – denying people the right to a religious identity because they were frightened of the concept of multiple identities."

It's not strange to hear a religious conservative stand against secularisation; at the most harmless level you can take it, they believe supporting religion is standing up for core nationalist values, that religion plays a massive part in creating the identity of a culture and society.   However, the danger with allowing religion into politics and parliament is that it's supporting one particular religion over another; religious favourtisism has never been a fair system in government and usually involves other religions being at a disadvantage at large.  Using a theocratic system I am familiar with, the Brunei government favours its Muslim citizens, allowing better benefits to them over their smaller Buddhist, Christian. Hindu and atheist citizens.  Their reasoning is that Brunei is a Muslim country, built on Muslim values.  It's by no means a fair system.  And that's in a country where a non-Muslim population is at a significantly small ratio that an uprising against that unfairness would probably take many years to overcome.  In England, where religious diversity is far more, well, diverse, favouring one religion over another would light a powder keg of dispute.  In fact, not unlike the powder keg that one Guy Fawkes had attempted. 

And it's not just favouring Christianity as a whole that Lady Warsi is advocating.  She's organising a delegation to the Vatican to argue that "Europe needs to be more confident in its Christianity".  Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't a trip to the Vatican itself an advocation for Catholicism being the preferred Christian denomination?  Historically, England turned Protestant under King Henry the Eighth in protest against Roman Catholicism.  Doesn't that imply that Protestant Christianity is far more important to English heritage than that of Catholic Christianity? 

Lady Warsi says she doesn't want a theocracy but that faith should play a bigger role in politics.  In what way?  It's fine if a person wants to practice their faith in private.  The problem secularists have with religion in politics and public office is that it interferes with maintaining government neutrality and fairness.  If faith was allowed to dictate what was moral, that risks pulling the country back several decades, if not centuries.  Religion as a whole has massive disdain for hot political topics such as equal rights for homosexuals and women as well as abortion and marriage, to name but a handful.  By allowing the religious right to advocate their faith in office, the worst case scenario would be to face having to fight for rights we already have. 

In the midst of this whole debate, there is one thing that strikes me as ironic.  Lady Warsi herself is a Muslim.  I wonder how her Muslim constituents must feel about her pushing for putting Christianity over her roots in Islam.

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