Sounds like a good-news headline, doesn't it? Unfortunately my subheading for this is
Baroness Warsi Accuses Government of Launching a 'State-sponsored Attack Against Religion'
Speaking at the Tory Party Conference in Manchester yesterday, the shadow 'community cohesion minister' (yes, apparently there is such a creature, I wasn't previously aware of this either) roundly attacked the Labour government for marginalising religion and becoming "increasingly sceptical of an individual’s religious belief."
Now of course we have to take to into account the fact that she was addressing the Tory party rank and file, which I should expect would contain the highest proportion of Christians in any social grouping you care to throw together short of a general synod, but I do none the less find it moderately disturbing that the woman who will almost certainly become responsible for fostering good community relations in a few months time is of the opinion that the best way to do this is with more religion, not less.
To analyse some of her speech:
“We’ve all seen the stories, how appalling that in Labour’s Britain a community nurse can be suspended for offering to pray for a patient’s good health."
How appalling that a dedicated, state employed carer should a) offer faith healing services and b) give the patient the creeping suspicion that medicine won't work; might as well just say "you're rogered without God's help."
“How awful that a school receptionist could face disciplinary action for sending an email to her friends simply asking them to pray for her daughter."
A good use of her time and school resources? Is it not religiously intolerant to expect colleagues to share your delusion? Ask friends in your own time, or go to the Church and ask a professional to pray for you.
“At the heart of these cases lies a growing intolerance and illiberal attitude towards those who believe in God.”
Intolerance of those who believe in God? Which newspaper does she read? She wants to try looking at the world from our side of the fence for a while. Granted atheists have a comparatively very easy time of it in this country, but we're hardly rushing around brutally repressing those who choose to believe in fairy-tales. Perhaps she has a little difficulty in distinguishing between well-deserved ridicule and intolerance. And as for 'illiberal' - well, I surely need hardly explain that the least liberal members of our society are far and away the most religious.
She added: “It’s an agenda driven by the political elite, who have hijacked the pursuit of equality by demanding a dumbing down of faith.
“It’s no wonder that this leads to accusations in the media that our country’s Christian culture is being downgraded."
Again, which newspapers? The Torygraph and the (spits) Express. Oh and the Mail of course. So the faceless 'political elite' have 'hijacked the pursuit of equality' have they? Is this the same political elite that have presided over a boom in the number of faith schools? What on Earth can she mean by 'hijacking the pursuit of equality', any way? I hope I'm not just being really dense, and missing some great subtlety of argument here, but it seems to me that promoting religious faith is a one-way ticket to greater inequality, less tolerance, and a more fragmented and multicultural society than could be achieved by reducing the influence of religion in people's lives. Am I just naive?
“For many their faith brings them closer to their neighbour, it’s the driver for their voluntary work, the basis of their social action."
If their neighbour shares the same faith as them, it will bring them closer together, yes, as they almost certainly will because so many of our communities are divided along religious lines. And we're back to that time-honoured argument that faith-heads use: faith is good because it gets people doing good things, like volunteering and caring for others. Bullshit. Good people do good things, without having to be told and without the expectation of reward. If you're doing good things to curry favour with the almighty, that doesn't make you good, it makes you a creep.
“And for many, faith is the basis for some of the best schools in our country.”
Which is an absolute bloody tragedy, if you ask me (which no one did, but hey). Why must so much time and effort be wasted learning ancient stories? In our national curriculum as it stands today, a fourth-year (14-15 yr old) pupil will spend 2 hours learning about evolution. TWO HOURS to learn the bedrock of modern biology in the whole of the school year. It doesn't matter how many hours are spent in biology classes learning about anatomy, photosynthesis, ecology etc if students are given two hours in a year to learn about the development of life, and spend the same time each week learning what God said to Moses, or Mohammed, or Krishna.
"State multiculturalism is forcing Britain’s diverse communities to still define themselves as different, patronisingly special and tempting them to compete against each other for public funds."
I'm sorry, I just have to reject this as total drivel. Yes multiculturalism is bad, in my view, because it allows people from all backgrounds to remain in little cliques of their own culture, and it would be far, far better for them and everyone else if they could get along and integrate. The idea behind this creed - that people should basically be treated equally, whatever they believe - is noble enough but open to abuse by hardliners, as we have seen (we are expected to 'respect' men who beat their wives because it says in the Quran that you're allowed to do so, for example), but it simply isn't working. This is not, as Lady Warsi would have you believe, because the Government is attempting to suppress religious freedom; far from it. Multiculturalism abounds and is perpetuated precisely because our political leaders lack the balls to enforce the temporal laws of our country, when those who say their divinely inspired 'laws' should take precedence, claim to be oppressed and discriminated against. The very last thing we need to tackle multiculturalism is the promotion of yet more religion. Only through the enforcement of our secular laws and values can we reduce levels of community fragmentation, and learn to treat each other as equals.
“It’s the madness of political correctness which fails to teach our children British history in case it offends, and is the madness of translating documents into a multitude of languages instead of actually teaching people English.”
Whence cometh this madness? Is it not the same madness that inspires idiots to remove Three Little Pigs from school libraries for fear of causing offence? That suggests removing an advertising campaign using a dog's picture for fear of causing offence? This is the political correctness which she decries - a correctness born of treading on tip-toes to avoid 'offending' some religious cretin or other's precious nonsense. Again - more religion, more respect for this crap, will inspire more of this political correctness, not less. Religion should be just as open to discussion, to criticism, to critical evaluation as are politics, literature, art, science and any other endeavour of thought. To reiterate, increasing levels of religiosity in this country will further fragment our society along lines of distrust, disdain and outright hostility born of nothing more substantial than believing your ancient crap is better than X's. This is not a road I want to see my country going down.
To finish on a note of agreement though - to show I'm not just being gratuitously contrary - I do agree that people who want to come and live here should be made to learn English.