Category Archives: religious/humanist conflict

The Institute of Ideas think-tank has accused fellow secularists of engaging in a “New Atheist witch-hunt” over the Pope’s upcoming British visit

The Institute of Ideas think-tank has accused fellow secularists of engaging in a “New Atheist witch-hunt” over the Pope’s upcoming British visit. They say that the tenor of the criticism of the pontiff and the Catholic Church “is in stark contrast to their own professed views on tolerance.”


Religious leaders published by think tank

In December 2008 the Institute for Public policy Research published Faith in the Nation: Religion, identity andthe public realm in Britain today A collection of essays by the Archbishop of Westminster, the Chief Rabbi and other senior faith leaders ‘to express their views on Britishness, multiculturalism and the role of religion in the public realm.

The executive summary describes the document as ‘timely’

A growing sense of antagonism between some religious voices and a chorus of liberal secularists in the media and elsewhere is spilling over into political debate on such topics as faith schools and human embryology, and has arguably had a stunting impact upon our understanding of the place of faith in democratic society…. Continue reading

So what is secularism then?

A subject close to the O Project’s heart– can religious and non-religious people work together on the secularist project? Giles Fraser accuses the National Secular Society (NSS) in the Church Times of “trickery…with respect to the word ‘secular'”:

I contend that the core meaning of secularism is the belief in the separation of Church and state. Religion, the secularist contends, ought not to have a place in shaping the laws or political realities by which we live.

…The NSS often employs this meaning of secular, especially when it is trying to look grown-up in making representations to government. Thus it says it wants “a society in which all are free to practise their faith, change it or not have one, according to their conscience”. It goes on about the importance of public space being open to all, irrespective of faith.

Yet, not far below the surface, another meaning of secular breaks out. Continue reading

Two very different religious responses to the ‘new atheism’

Dines D'SouzaFirstly we have Dinish D’Souza. He’s not at all happy with the likes of Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris and responds to their descriptions of the harm caused by religion with counter-claims that actually atheism is behind history’s mass murders. This is also the man who just days after the Virgina Tech high school killings rather insensitively decided it would be a great opportunity to attack atheists for apparently not doing anything, which drew this sensitive response from an atheist professor at the college). In short he’s pretty rabid in his hatred for atheists.

Anyway he’s now laying into Pat Condell, who although quite witty and charming is pretty hardline in his attacks on religion – on his website he states: “Hi, I’m Pat Condell. I don’t respect your beliefs and I don’t care if you’re offended.”; The trouble is that Condell and D’Souza are almost a perfect match, confirming the very worst they see in each other’s beliefs. The video post of Condell that D’Souza includes on his site responds to the angry ‘burn in hell’ comments he has received from earlier videos and so the cycle continues. Continue reading

Hitchens refuses to engage authentic religion

God is Not Great by Christopher HitchensChris Hedges, author or “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War On America” reviews  Christopher Hitchen’s God is Not Great  for the Philidelphia Inquirer!

“…Unencumbered by serious theological or biblical knowledge, Hitchens taunts religion with the same bigotry and ignorance that fundamentalists use to delegitimize those who do not submit to their rigid belief system.

What he and the other writers of the new atheist manifestos, such as Sam Harris or Richard Dawkins, attack is not religion, but the ossified forms of religious orthodoxy that have been misused for centuries to instill fear and obedience. The charlatans and demagogues who today dominate Christian radio and television stations, the James Dobsons and Pat Robertsons, continue a long and sordid tradition of claiming divine sanction to justify personal enrichment and empowerment. Piety, like blind patriotism, is an effective cover for the corrupt and the venal.

There is a case, of course, to be made against institutional religion. But there are great theologians from Paul Tillich to Ernst Kasemann to William Stringfellow who skewer institutional religion, indeed brand it as a dangerous form of idolatry. They write with a deftness, nuance and erudition that shame the tired cliches that pad out this book.

…Hitchens, as a secular fundamentalist, endorses the myopic and disastrous imperial agenda beloved by the Christian Right. He does so because he imbibes the same toxic mix of self-aggrandizement and intolerance. He supports the war in Iraq and the waterboarding and torture of Muslim detainees.

Hitchens’ blind embrace of American imperialism and disregard for the rule of law makes him no better than the apologists for radical Islam and Christianity he seeks to discredit. His moral certitude and arrogance are no different. The consequences are as dangerous.”

O Project article calls for non-religious to be included in ‘inter-faith’ dialogue

I have an article published in Catalyst today – “Faith no More?” – looking at inter-faith dialogue and calling for non-religious groups to be included. 

Faith No More?

Catalyst is a magazine at the forefront of new thinking on race relations and racial equality today, both in Britain and abroad.

Ignore Islam, ‘ex-Muslims’ urge

Mosque  roofDominic Casciani reports for the BBC that “A group saying it represents large numbers of “ex-Muslims” is urging policy-makers to ignore the faith. Campaigner Maryam Namazie said 25 founding members were being named at the body’s Westminster launch, representing people scared to speak. The Council of ex-Muslims believes it represents the views of a majority of secular-minded Muslims in Europe….”