Why the fuck, I find myself asking with increasing regularity, do we need a ‘Minister for Faith and Communities’?
I can see why you’d need a minister for transport, or for education or defence. But for ‘faith and communities’? Do we have a minister for doubt? For faithlessness? For scepticism? Rationalism? What’s next? The minister in charge of putting the Downing Street coloured pencil-crayon collection in proper colour order?
And yet, we do indeed have a Minister for Faith and Communities, in the form of Baroness Warsi. You might conceivably be wondering how this woman arrived in government. Who voted for her? No-one, she stood once in 2005 and never did again. So why the hell does David Cameron keep her around? I suppose it’s because without her, pictures of the cabinet would look like an all-white Etonian sausage-fest. That’s understandable, I suppose.
Whatever the reason, she is now at liberty to swan around meeting representatives from various colourful regimes that know a great deal about protecting religious freedom for all; like Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. She can be relied upon to employ every possible platform to decry ‘aggressive secularism’.
This is a very peculiar use of the word ‘aggressive’ which Baroness Warsi is fond of. Clearly there are many different standards for what constitutes aggression. Actually, there are two. Religious and everyone else. A double-standard, if you will. Let me spell it out:
If you were to, say, walk into a Kenyan Shopping Mall, round up everyone who believes in the wrong God and decapitate them, then that seems as though it would qualify as aggressive to me. What about if you were to bury an apostate waist-deep in soil and then fling stones at their head until they die of cranial trauma? That practice seems quite aggressive also. What about if you burn down a church, shout ‘Allah-hu Akbar!’ and then gleefully quote a passage from the Qur’an. That seems a little bit aggressive to me, too.
Of course, Baroness Warsi has an explanation for that last one. Recently, UKIP’s Lord Pearson of Ranoch was having some whinge about Islam or something in the Lords, and asked about the persecution of Christian minorities across northern Africa and parts of the Middle East, to which Warsi replied:
“It was mostly the work of extremists who do not follow any faith, as far as I am concerned.”
Right then. Leaving aside this new vein of atheist jihad: What’s the most aggressive secular action you’ve heard of recently? When I considered this question, the first organisation to spring to mind was the EDL, chanting inane songs in the street and headbutting each other like randy pachycephalosaurs. But then I remembered that the EDL logo is a fucking crucifix accompanied by the words ‘in this sign you will conquer’ in Latin.
Perhaps you’re wondering whether or not you are a secularist. Maybe you’re not even sure what secularism is. If that’s the case, then don’t worry about it too much; you’re on the same level as the minister who’s placed herself in charge of decrying secularism.
Secularism is that thing where the church and the state are kept separate. You know, so everyone can form his or her own belief about religion without government interference. It sounds so awful, I know.
Now, perhaps you’re wondering whether or not you’re a secularist. I don’t have a test, like I did for feminism last week. Let’s see… I do have – yes, yes. Here’s a video which the National Society for Aggressive Secularism cobbled together:
The Conservative party, and Warsi and Gove in particular, have made it their mission to antagonise the shit out of the secular contingent. We might infer from that that it’s not a particularly large contingent. Let’s examine some polling data, shall we? Atheists make up a quarter of the population, according to the 2011 Census. I suppose if you don’t follow any religion then you’re probably a secularist (I say probably, because you might be insane). But what about the rest?
I don’t know if you recall, but in 2011 Richard Dawkins dispatched a cohort of evil flying monkeys to do what no Church should ever do: Ask Christians for their opinion. And the results were quite interesting. According to this poll, a mere 7% of Christians (not everybody, just the Christians) think that the state should interfere in religious matters.
Of course, you have to remember that Richard Dawkins commissioned this poll; he probably told IPOS-MORI that he’d behead them or plant an explosive device in their office lavatory unless they fiddled the numbers to suit his agenda, that’s typically the sort of tactic that aggressive secularists resort to.
Except that you can find similar numbers here, in a YouGov poll commissioned by the Sunday Times. Now, polls are tricky creatures. They vary a great deal depending on how you phrase a question. But everyone must surely concede that secularists are a sizeable minority, if not the majority of voters in this country. They are assuredly not some piddling crackpot fringe.
And yet the Conservative party seems to have just given up on winning them over. Maybe after the whole gay marriage thing, the Tories have decided to throw their core a bone and put the espousing of supernatural bullshit back onto the political agenda. Will that win them votes?
Maybe it’s all just a big game. Or a dare. Maybe they’ve noticed the embarrassing shitness of the current Labour opposition, and decided to do something totally insane just out of pure boredom. Maybe Cameron had assembled a panel of advisors, hotboxed COBRA and devised a number of insane ideas as they all got progressively baked over the course of an afternoon. “I know!” one of them might have ultimately announced, in between fits of delirious giggles. “Let’s have a minister for faith and communities!”
I thought always thought conservatism was meant to be all about minimising government interference, with an emphasis on personal responsibility, and a disdain for the ‘nanny state’. Can we apply this fucking idea a little more consistently, please?
It’s not just the Tories that are at it, to be fair. The Church of England themselves are taking their lead. You remember that organisation? They’re about to get all progressive and allow women to serve slightly higher up in their ranks, after umm-ing and ahhh-ing for the best part of a decade. You know what we’d say if a secular organisation had done that? Something along the lines of: “What the fuck is wrong with you? I’m calling the gender equalities people immediately.”
They’ve got bigger problems on their hands now though: No-one is going to fucking church! The pews are empty! But who cares, right? The Church of England don’t need to attract people to church. They have the state education system. Just like Archbishop John Pritchard, the bloke in charge of indoctrinating small children through the state education, said at a recent gathering of high-ranking church busybodies:
“…our work in schools as absolutely core to our mission. This is where the children, young people and parents already are. We don’t need to attract them to church; they’re already there, if we embrace our church schools fully.”
Oh, John Pritchard. You certainly have a gift for making me vomit a little bit in my mouth. A church school is a church. Interesting. I always thought that schools should be a place where people are educated. But not to you, apparently. To you, they’re a recruiting ground, where children can be told what to think, rather than how to think. I pity the poor little bastards. Over the coming festive period, they’re going to be trooped into an otherwise abandoned building to recite dreary hymns:
O come all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem;
Come and behold him
Born the King of Angels
O come let us adore him
O come let us adore him
O come let us adore him
Christ the Lord
God of God, Lord of Light!
Lo! He abhors not the virgin’s womb!
Stop. Hang on. I don’t recall that last bit at all. Is that really in there? That’s a bit weird, isn’t it? They must’ve edited most of it out when I was at school. I suppose they have to airbrush the weirder bits of Christian doctrine, otherwise all the children might laugh at it and point out how bizarre and strange and stupid it all is. From the mouths of babes and all that.
This sort of thing really vexed the ten-year-old me. The songs I’d heard up until that point were all about things that were worthwhile; such as the administrative perils that plague modern agriculture, or the rotational behaviour of the wheels on certain buses, or the proper method of apportioning three bags of wool. Just who was this Christ bloke and why were we being forced to adore him? Why were we being forced to invite other people to adore him?
I found myself mumbling along with the bullshit, all the while feeling a sense of profound discomfort. It was really quite disturbing. Why the fuck were these people forcing me to sing along to this inane shite? Were they insane? Or just stupid? What were they hoping to achieve? At least they achieved something: I’m now a committed secularist.
Until next week.