Tag Archives: secularism

Opinion: Secularism: the cure to religious extremism?

The first Turkish president, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, once stated “He is a weak ruler who needs religion to uphold his government”. Although falling short of advocating a fully secular state, Ataturk highlights the weakness of a state reliant upon a particular religious doctrine to lend legitimacy to a government.

Secularism, according to Dictionary.com, is the view that public education and other matters of civil policy should be conducted without the introduction of a religious element. In simple terms, the separation of church and state. The separation of religious influence from public policy is greatest within OECD nations such as the United Kingdom and Belgium. Article 20 of the latter nation’s constitution states: “No one can be obliged to contribute in any way whatsoever to the acts and ceremonies of a religion, nor to observe the days of rest.”

Take a moment to absorb how revolutionary that excerpt is and how controversial it would have been in 1830 when the Belgian revolution created a new sovereign, secular state within a Europe dominated by religion. However, I am not interested in assessing whether secularism has been a success in these relatively stable nations, but in examining whether it can provide a long term cure to the epidemic of religious extremism sweeping in from the Middle East.

Posted in News | Also tagged | 66 Comments

Opinion: Don’t like the exam question? Just cross it out…

The place of religious schools in a secular society is always a subject for debate, but it comes to a head when you discover that some schools are redacting questions in GCSE exam papers because they wouldn’t approve of the answers.

All schools are required to teach the national science curriculum, and are inspected on that basis by Ofsted. We are told that to present creationism as science is not allowed. Yet one school – a Jewish girls’ secondary in this case, but the same question may arise elsewhere – has chosen to cross out questions which offend their sensibilities. …

Posted in News | Also tagged , and | 23 Comments

Opinion: Down with marriage

bouquetIt’s always the smallest things that seem to end up creating the biggest noise. Take the current debate over marriage: I know it seems like a big issue, but if you really look, it’s a debate about semantics and contracts that’s become complicated by the fact that history is so unclear about its origins.

The Church thinks that marriage is theirs and that therefore they have a right to dictate who gets to do it. I used to be partly persuaded by the fact that marriage was the Church’s brand and that those of …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 13 Comments

Why won’t the Government get rid of this pesky threat to free speech that nobody wants?

On Wednesday evening, Lord Mawhinney tabled an amendment (no.155) in the House of Lords to remove the word “insulting” from Section 5 of the Public Order Act to flush out the Government’s attitude on this catchall provision with a very low prosecution threshold that tarnishes our reputation for freedom of expression.

Section 5 has served to nobble those engaged in mischievous, but harmless, pranks, street preachers, and those pouring scorn on religion, but, worse, also those speaking truth to power. Of even greater concern is the chilling effect: what, for fear of prosecution, has not been said but should have …

Posted in News, Parliament and The Independent View | Also tagged | 11 Comments

Opinion: An Unlikely Defender of the Faith

Eric Pickles recently sent forth an encyclical and counterblast to the “illiberal and intolerant secularists” seeking to overturn “the right to worship  a fundamental and hard-fought British liberty” and reverse “the fight for religious freedom in British history, deeply entwined with our political freedom”.

Our Town Clerk at once e-mailed us all a copy – on the very day, as it happened, that I went to Hertford for a County Council Meeting.

As usual, the meeting started at 10 30 a.m. And as usual those councillors who wished to pray met in the Council Chamber a little earlier at 10 20 a.m. Nothing wrong with that – their Prayer Meeting is not part …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 21 Comments

Opinion: Secularism is a friend to Religion, not its enemy

Baroness Warsi’s recent comments about secularism showed her ignorance about how it can be religion’s greatest friend, and should always be. Secularism, at its heart, represents a separation between religion and the state, which benefits both the atheist and the believer.

For atheists, secularism gives us assurance that religion will not be an officially supported part of our government system. That we will have no direct religious influence over our Government, no bishops in the House of Lords, and no official religion. Of course, we can’t stop people being elected who have religious beliefs, and their beliefs will affect their …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 36 Comments

LibLink: Education, not indoctrination – Evan Harris’ 10 commandments for RE teaching

Evan Harris, writing in the Guardian today, shares his blueprint for better RE teaching. He says that the evolution-creationism debate in schools should take place in RE lessons as well as science lessons:

Secularists like me believe that RE is a valid subject for study in the curriculum but should be about what different religions (and other world views like humanism) believe; it should not be about what ought to be believed. So Catholic schools should be allowed to use RE lessons to teach that the Catholic church opposes contraception and believes that homosexuality is a sin, but not that

Posted in LibLink | Also tagged and | 24 Comments

Evan wins Secularist of the Year 2009

We may be only five weeks into 2009, but Lib Dem MP Evan Harris has already won an award – Secularist of the Year. The BBC reports:

The Liberal Democrat was named joint winner, with Lord Avebury, for their work in abolishing the blasphemy libel law in England and Wales. Dr Harris called the law “ancient, discriminatory and illiberal” as well as not compliant with human rights and against free speech. The offences of blasphemous libel and blasphemy were abolished last summer. …

Dr Harris has also campaigned to separate religion and the state claiming the current system has a number

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    adrian sanders We once said to the other parties don’t pick up the phone unless you are prepared to concede on PR. Dropping this was...
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    Rural and urban parity of funding bill. Various funding formulas have under costed the effects of rurality on service provision including the NHS. Corrections are...
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    Psi I really hope that is a joke. This myth of the “left wing north & Scotland” and “right wing south” is ridiculous. There were...
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    I forgot to say...This is not a Party Political Matter and must remain a matter of conscience.
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    Matthew Huntbach “So you just assume they have put work in to get where they have. Are you quite sure that’s always the case for...
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    Not backing Norman but I agree with him on this.
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