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“Aggressive secularists” must start to live up to their name

Editorial by Terry Sanderson

The rising paranoia among religious leaders about the growth of secularism was on display again this week.

First Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor – the man who shielded one of the worst paedophile priests in Britain – was given space in the Guardian to launch yet another broadside at “aggressive secularists”, whom he said were “gaining ground in the UK”.

The paper said he “defended the Catholic Church's combative intervention last week in the debate over "hybrid" embryos, and argued that Christian leaders should hold a privileged position over the representatives of other faiths when it came to their input into public policy.”

Meanwhile, Murphy O’Connor’s newest high-profile acolyte and convert, former Prime Minister Tony Blair, gave a speech last night calling for “faith” to be given a central role in the conduct of world affairs. His deeply misguided ramblings, delivered at Westminster Cathedral, were accompanied by a noisy demonstration from the Stop the War Coalition, but as we know, Mr Blair takes his orders from a much higher authority than public opinion. After all, he was unmoved by the demonstration of a million and a half people outside his Downing Street front door when he was Prime Minister. He (and his invisible advisor in the sky) knew best, and now more than a million people in Iraq are dead.

Of course, it isn’t just the Catholics who are shaking their fist at the militant/ aggressive/ extremist/ fundamentalist (choose your insulting adjective) secularists. A Church of England bishop also launched an attack. The Bishop of Durham, Tom Wright, repeated in the Times his accusation that there was a “militantly atheist and secularist lobby” that believes that “we have the right to kill... surplus old people”.

This kind of concerted push by theocrats to increase their power and influence must be challenged. The “aggressive secularists” are going to have to become just that. Otherwise unreason will rule us all.

4 April 2008

Cormac Murphy O’Connor

Cormac Murphy O’Connor