Baroness Warsi has written a piece for the Telegraph today, which is an interesting new angle on the secularisation debate. Writing in advance of a trip to the Vatican, she says
I will be arguing for Europe to become more confident and more comfortable in its Christianity. The point is this: the societies we live in, the cultures we have created, the values we hold and the things we fight for all stem from centuries of discussion, dissent and belief in Christianity.
These values shine through our politics, our public life, our culture, our economics, our language and our architecture. And, as I will say today, you cannot and should not extract these Christian foundations from the evolution of our nations any more than you can or should erase the spires from our landscapes.
Quite striking, coming from a Muslim. Someone reminded me yesterday that there's part of the Lords prayer (I think) inscribed on the walls of the House of Commons, so to eradicate prayer from Parliament you'd have to repaint the place as well as rejig the timetable.
BBC summary here. And linking to the Bideford case, a piece from the Guardian which argues that the NSS may have shot itself in the foot, and that the case is a victory for religious freedom.
The British Humanist Association response to Baroness Warsi is oddly out of touch:
The British Humanist Association (BHA) described Baroness Warsi's comments as "outdated, unwarranted and divisive".
"In an increasingly non-religious and, at the same time, diverse society, we need policies that will emphasise what we have in common as citizens rather than what divides us," said BHA chief executive Andrew Copson.
well, yes, but there are some issues in our society which just affect women: is it divisive to focus on them? What about tackling stigma on the mentally ill, or youth unemployment, or children with special needs? Being a diverse society doesn't mean a lowest common denominator humanism, it means affirming and valuing people in their diversity, and valuing what that diversity brings to the common society. It also means that the whole values the parts in their diversity, rather than trying to eradicate them all. And part of what we have in common is a Christian heritage in our society, whatever you happen to think of that. So the BHA response makes for a good quote, but rapidly unravels.
And be careful what you wish for: the USA has a much more rigorous separation of religion and state, whilst at the same time having a much more publicly confident Christianity, right up to Presidential prayer breakfasts. Imagine the stick Cameron would get for holding one of those in Downing Street?
We are a post-Christian society, and I'm all for a debate about what's appropriate from our past and what isn't. But it should be a renegotiation, not a land grab by one side or another.