17th September 2010
There doesn’t seem a more appropriate time than today, as the Pope visits our country, for my heartful, humble confession. Although religiously agnostic, I wear one of these round my neck –
It was given to me recently when I was explaining to a friend how angry I felt that Christians in a purportedly Christian country had been reprimanded, possibly even sacked for wearing crucifixes. I said that if I had a crucifix, I’d wear it, despite my having lost belief decades ago. A few weeks later, for my birthday, I received one from my friend. I have worn it ever since.
My anger was not that my country’s historical religion was being insulted. Unlike some from other historical religious backgrounds and cultures, I am not so touchy.
No longer feeling able intellectually to accept the existence of a deity, (which surely must be at the root of any and all religions) the thought of what the crucifix, the cross actually stood for today, hadn’t crossed my mind. Until recently.
I realised that I was angry because my country had capitulated to, let’s pull no punches, the political INcorrectness where common sense, religious and cultural inclusivity and even moral relativism had all been sidelined and Islam now ruled – OK?
Observation will confirm that it wasn’t Judaism, Sikhism, Buddhism or any other ‘ism’ that made many Christians hesitate before clasping their religious jewellery around their necks. It was today’s ISLAM, and its potentially deleterious effects on our culture and above all else, on our democracy.
First mosque in Britain was in 1860, in Cardiff As at 2007 there were approximately 1500 masaajid (mosques) in Britain. Do a search for the number of Christian churches. Perhaps you will have better luck than I. I have had widely differing results online, from 1,600 to 16,000. Whatever is the exact number we KNOW that many Christian churches are closing and few, if any, are being built. The opposite is the case for mosques.
DOES THIS MATTER?
Some tell us we should have no concerns about this. That we are a mature, broadly secular, irreligious nation and that this our present religious direction shows liberal democracy as its best. Let a thousand flowers bloom, they say. WE are big enough, inclusive enough, civilised and understanding enough to encompass all; bring us your weak and oppressed, we will give them succour, equal rights, the democratic vote, a place to worship and a place where they can enjoy their separateness while still being part of our big society, as it were. So utter the irreligious, the careless and those blind to any and all of the reasons that our Christian religion is fundamental, ABSOLUTELY FUNDAMENTAL to the health and ongoing well-being, even survival of our DEMOCRATIC society.
My crucifix, as much as anything else, is a celebration of secular democracy.
IN DEFENCE OF SECULAR, CHRISTIAN DEMOCRACY
Unlike the Pope on his visit to Britain today, or even Mr Blair before he came to terms with the creeping nature of a certain mindset ingrained, possibly, within Islam, I do not describe “secularists” as “militant”. I do not even accept that the words secularist and atheist are interchangeable. The Pope’s message to Britain today seems to be that secularism itself is a sort of dismissal of belief. Therefore by default secularism is being painted as an anti position.
For me, secularism is a particularly PRO position. It is PRO inclusive democracy. It is PRO DEMOCRATIC SECULARISM whether or not one has any religious belief. It is PRO in the way that a largely Roman Catholic country like France is avowedly PRO-secularism.
The fact that some secularists in the west are determinedly anti-religion does not equate to their being ANTI-secularism as a political ideal.
And above all, being PRO-secularism does not equate to being anti-religion. I’m testament to that.
It seems to have taken far longer than it should have done for some of us to understand that we may well be the unsuspecting victims of our own liberalism. Why, you might be asking, why do some of those who describe themselves as “devout atheists” – WHY do they fail to see that if WE don’t defend our democratic and secular Christian roots, who will?
Aside: I’ve just been watching the Pope speak in that bastion of western history, religion and democracy – Westminster Hall. I will no doubt write a little on his thoughts shortly. Suffice it to say, I drafted most of this post before he spoke.
CALLING ALL SECULARISTS – WEAR A CRUCIFIX WITH PRIDE
It’s not that difficult and not at all uncomfortable to wear a crucifix even if one is not a practising or deity-accepting or -knowing Christian. For instance, inasmuch as history proves that Jesus existed and that he was according to all reports a good man, I am one of his followers, if that is the right word.
It was Christianity, in one denomination or another, which shaped our laws, parliamentary system and democracy, not Islam. It was Christianity which taught us to love thy neighbour. It was not Islam. It was our liberal, secular, inclusive Christian base which helped us open our doors to all, irrespective of their religious beliefs. It was Christianity which did not baulk in recent years at the burgeoning of Islamic mosques, just as we had not baulked as Jewish synagogues were built on our land three centuries ago.
Christianity is THE religion which SHAPED our secular democracy. Islam, at its most fundamental, recognises no man-made democracy. Its laws are shaped ONLY by its good books. In the future, who among democratic western Muslims will have the audacity, the wisdom, the courage to stand up against the good book’s teachings?
Few, is my conclusion. Few, since few outside Christendom do so today. (Tony Blair Faith Foundation)
See an Islamic website – Islamic Invitation Centre – if you need confirmation of this.
It so happens that I was given a “bare” crucifix, without the body of Christ. I’d still have worn it in the same spirit if it had Jesus and his suffering depicted on it.
May your God and democracy go with you.
- Not atheist, not religious: Typical Briton is a ‘fuzzy believer’ (guardian.co.uk)
- Pope Benedict XVI visit: A religious motorway pile-up | Michael White (guardian.co.uk)
- Pope visit: Cherie Blair says Catholic’s shouldn’t apologise for their views (telegraph.co.uk)
- Rory Fitzgerald: The Pope’s UK Visit: “Aggressive Secularists” Are Making Britain an Intolerant, Bigoted Nation (Again) (huffingtonpost.com)
- Obsequious Telegraph editorial loves Queen, country, and Pope (humanistlife.org.uk)
- Pope flies in amid row over aide’s race remarks (guardian.co.uk)
- Pope visit: Benedict urges multicultural UK to keep sight of Christian heritage (telegraph.co.uk)
- Pope Benedict XVI was talking about the Nazis, not Richard Dawkins | Andrew Brown (guardian.co.uk)
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