… the religious themselves are.
A fair amount has been written lately about the ‘militant secularism’ remarks by baroness Warsi. I won’t waste more time dispatching of these stupid and bigoted ideas, as this has been done convincingly by others already. Suffice it to say that if current secularists and atheists are seen as ‘militant’, then students, NHS staff, London underground drivers, and members of the Scottish Labour Party, to name but a few, must be deemed positively terrorist – what with like, taking to the streets and protesting en masse, or demanding things. The temerity!
Compare this to ‘militant’ secularists who, er, write articles in newspapers, or take to the court (where, may I remind Warsi and her ilk, the LAW is upheld, nothing more, nothing less). Compare this classic cartoon:
What I want to say here, briefly, as I don’t think it has been said, is this:
Nobody can forcibly take (religious) beliefs away
Why is this realisation important?
Because is this discussion the religious (mostly the christians) make it appear that it is the atheists/secularists (NB these are of course not the same at all, but the distinction is usually lost upon the frothing-at-the-mouth antiatheists) who are forcing the believers out of their churches, taking their bibles away, and thereby effect a decline in religiosity. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. The only people that can make christians stay away from church, are those that attend in the first place. The only people that can unregister from a church’s membership are those that are a member to begin with. As was once said wittily but truthfully: “If people don’t want to come out to the ball park, nobody’s gonna stop ’em” (Yogi Bera) – the inverse applies here: if people wanted to go to church, no atheist is gonna stop them.
As indeed christians are making that decision for themselves, blaming outside forces is silly. The question that people like Warsi forget to ask (conveniently and deliberately, because to put up a strawman enemy and attack it is so much easier than confronting your own failures as a religion, political movement, or public figure), is why this is happening in the first place.
It’s the arguments, stupid!
If outside pressure is to have any credit, the most likely explanation, then, is that the arguments put forward by secularists and atheists are seen as increasingly valid, and the religious are acting upon this. And if there were no truth in these arguments, I don’t see the problem the church has – all it has to do is simply indicate where these arguments are flawed, and people will start coming back to the churches. Well, I say – good luck with that.
On a side note, and despite loud claims to the contrary, most mainstream media are still overwhelmingly biased towards religion, so to think that people are giving up their beliefs because they are ‘bombarded’ with anti-religious messages, is simply insane. If anything, religious people are on the whole surrounded by reinforcing, yay, indoctrinating, messages, constantly reminding them of how awesome their beliefs are. The fact that atheist messages come through at all, and are even accepted as valid, says a lot about the relative merits of the arguments either side puts forward. However ‘militant’, in loudness of arguing, there still is no contest between atheism and religion.
Also, of course, the continued failings of every major religion are not helping their own cause either, being in turn (or simultaneously) backward, stubborn, wrong, and downright criminal. In this age of internet and fast-spreading news, religion is its own worst enemy – ‘with friends like these, who needs enemies‘.
In short, instead of incessantly trotting out the ‘loud militant bad’ canard, the conservative right slash christian defenders of the faith would be better off asking themselves some tricky questions about exactly why christianity is increasingly seen by its own members as non-viable. Whether they do or not, and whatever answers they find if they do, the outcome to me is likely to be the same regardless.