In defence of secularism

Edmund Adamus, director of pastoral affairs at the Roman Catholic diocese of Westminster, London, is apparently upset at modern, liberal secular society, claiming (inter alia) that:

Our laws and lawmakers for over 50 years have been the most permissively anti-life and progressively anti-family and marriage, in essence one of the most anti-Catholic landscapes, culturally speaking – more than even those places where Catholics suffer open persecution.”

This is nonsense.  It was secularists – atheists, agnostics, non-believers, liberals, and anti-bigots – who led the campaign in Britain for Catholic emancipation, the right to vote, and the right to sit in Parliament, granted in 1829.   It was secularists who achieved the right for Jews to sit in Parliament from 1858 and the right to vote in 1867, something that the same political party currently ruling Britain stymied for a quarter century.  (The bill emancipating Jews passed the House of Commons in 1833, but was repeatedly blocked in the House of Lords by Conservative peers and bishops.  What reasonable person with knowledge of this history could belong to such a party?)  It was secularists, not the religious, who led the campaign which ended the deaths of women in illegal back-street abortions and gave equal rights to people regardless of their gender or colour or sexual orientation.  It was even  secularists who passed a law in 2001 – yes, 2001!  – that finally allowed Catholic priests and former priests to sit in the British Parliament.    If not for secularism and the progressive extension of political and social rights to all citizens, regardless of their religion or race or gender, Edmund Adamus would not even have the freedom of speech to voice his obnoxious opinions.
Few things make me angry.  Religious bigotry and racial prejudice are among them.  So too is this stupidity of religious conservatives, unable to see where there own self-interests lie.  Their interests are best served by a secular society and state which guarantees equal rights to all, not special rights to some on the basis of their religious beliefs or their gender or any other biological or social construct.  Britain is still not entirely there yet, with the fact of unelected, unrepresentative, and unaccountable Church of England Bishops still sitting in the House of Lords (and thus voting on legislation that impacts us all), and the country’s denial of religious freedom for the Head of State and his or her immediate family.  But the great progress in extending freedom to all that has been made these last 200 years is due to secularism and secularists, not to religious bigotry or obscurantism.

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