Wednesday, 25 March 2009

It’s the Christians who practise intolerance

The voices are becoming more shrill. Bishops and commentators and some parliamentarians have got themselves the same hymn sheet from which they are singing very loudly. The refrain, in essence, is that a monstrous regiment of British secularists is denying Christians the right to practice their faith freely while poisoning the well of social policy with immoral initiatives.

The outgoing leader of UK Catholics, Cormac Murphy O'Connor, recently spoke of "the new intolerance directed against those who maintain pro-life and pro-family views". They fret about Godless Britain across the pond, too.

This week, Peter Glover, in the online journal First Things, wrote of "an anti-Christian bias in Britain". And he felt moved to add that "by making Christian practice difficult, if not outright illegal in British public life, the British courts and public authorities have contributed to an increasing awareness that a vacuum exists where the nation's Judaeo-Christian spine used to be".

And then there is the gospel according to Christine Odone, former editor of the Catholic Herald and a still trenchant commentator on all matters theological. She rails against what she characterises "God-bashers", suggesting "for them it is not enough to exclude those who do not subscribe to their soulless scientism, or one-dimensional rationalism. Pariah status is only the first step in the punishment they mete out to those who refuse to follow their lead".

At which point I want to say: hang on - just who is practising intolerance here? Within the past couple of weeks the papal visit to Africa has been dominated by the pontiff's criticism of condom promotion in the campaign against HIV/Aids, and of countries where abortion has been made legal.

Where are the legal and moral rights of those who take a different view? Why should it be acceptable to suggest that those who do not embrace a particular world view are bound for the big bad fire? It seems to me you could make an entirely coherent case that the people under threat in Britain are the secularists. It is extremely irritating, to put it no higher, to be labelled extremist for holding the view that contextualised sex education is important, and that it is not for any church to condemn contraception use within communities who do not subscribe to the same beliefs. Read more
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