Militant secularists fail to understand the rules of secular debate

A secularist, he says, is someone who appeals to natural reason, and not to divine law. And this kind of reason is by definition something shared by both sides in the argument. But the militant secularist takes for granted that “the religious” have no access to reason. There can be no reasoning with his opponents. All he can do is to repeat himself more loudly until the idiots understand.

The ‘new Atheism’ has become one of those totems of ‘liberalism’ that so many loudly proclaim but rarely seem to quietly contemplate. It was both funny and sad that much of the response I witnessed to Warsi’s comments consisted of lazy humour pushing the equally lazy line that religious people are all stupid, infantile bigots and atheists (or should that be ATHEISTS! as the particular breed I’m speaking about never shut up about it) are calm, rational beings. Self-awareness was not a strength of this argument, as one ‘rational’ person to another took a single sentence from Warsi’s quite lengthy speech, leapt to their own convenient conclusion about what it meant and used it to ridicule all religious people as being less intelligent than themselves. Even many who were presumably attempting a more conciliatory tone couldn’t resist a dig (e.g. ‘I will fight for the right of people to believe any silly fairy story they want’). Amongst the most egregious ‘jokes’ hurled in response to Warsi were those suggesting that ‘militant secularism’ had no historical acts of violence to rival the Crusades or ‘suicide bombers’. Where to even begin with the sheer stupidity of that line of thinking?!

It’s a shrieking, oppressive form of ‘debate’ which serves no purpose other than to make people feel better than other people. I would argue that no-one is truly ‘rational’ but any attempt to be so would surely quickly have to realise that stupidity and bigotry are not the sole preserve of the religious, or indeed particularly connected to the religious at all. I was raised as a Catholic, in a Catholic family, at a Catholic school. My boyfriend was raised as a Protestant. Our families remain Catholics and Protestants, as do many of our friends. The idea that any of these people lack the ability to make up their own minds about things but instead believe whatever they are told to (which is another problem given the many competing strands of thought in most major religions) is preposterous, offensive and dehumanising. In short, it’s about as far from ‘rational’ as it’s possible to be. 

Militant secularists fail to understand the rules of secular debate

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