I agree, Chris. Sort of…

When I first saw this article, I saw “Christians” and “Persecution” in the title and was expecting to hear another melancholic, self-pitying article about how the nasty atheists are oppressing the good religious folk. That’s the sort of crap that gets trotted out far too much.

It wasn’t as bad as that, although there was a bit of it, particularly towards the end. But no, the main premise is one that I can agree with: People should be allowed to believe what they want, without fear of being attacked or killed. And then I saw this.

“…Christians are coming together in a new way to try to influence foreign policy.”

Wait, come back! It’s not all that scary!

Chris Patten apparently is representing a group of Christians who are worried about the religious cleansing in the Middle East.

[Chris Patten] suggested that the American government* would never tolerate a government which persecuted homosexuals the way that Christians are persecuted across the Middle East: “We must persuade our rulers to treat religious freedoms as being just as basic as other, much vaunted human rights.”

… Like always, there’s a whiff of “poor me, we’re as persecuted as the gays**, no-one respects my favourite human right enough”, but I’ll ignore it. Though I would point out that anywhere where Christians are being killed, the gays probably aren’t faring very well either.

Actually, as much as I appreciate the sentiments in what is being said by Patten, I can’t help but disagree with him on minor details. I suppose my favourite disagreement would be this: though protection of religious freedom would be a good thing, the best way for the religious to be protected would be for them not to be religious. Or at least, for their persecutors not to be religious.

Protection from being murdered for your beliefs can come about through religious freedom, but religious freedom is nowhere near as effective in these stakes as freedom from religion.

These Christians and other religious minorities are not being persecuted in a vacuum. They are being persecuted by other religions. And religions are fantastic at producing a weird out-group mentality which makes it more OK to harm people of other religions and of no religion than it is to harm your own.

But while I’d love to live in a world where this is not true, we must deal with things as they are in reality. And the reality is that lots of people are religious. So I certainly think it would be nice to try and stop religious people from killing other religious people wholsesale in the name of their religions and their unprovable deities. I’d love that.


Now that I’ve agreed with him a bit, I don’t feel quite so bad highlighting some of my other niggling criticisms of some other parts of this article. First and foremost is Lord Howell’s response to this cry for “let’s stop people from killing people”:

“Unlike Mr Richard Dawkins, I have faith in the faiths. We as a government are committed to promoting all religious groups, including Christians, around the world.”

Where did that come from? That seems remarkably out of the blue, just using Dawkins’ name as a perjorative like that. One wonders if his name had already invoked by someone else – but then, by the context, again as an insult. Man, people love to hate Dawkins, don’t they? He’s become such a hate figure for saying things which are so very mild.
“But the debate is also a sign of a growing determination among Christians in Britain to be treated as a minority that must be respected.”
And isn’t this just sinister. I don’t know if these are Andrew Brown’s words or a paraphrasing of their mission statement, but they are factually inaccurate. Broadly secular we may be, but Christianity is NOT in a minority in this country.

In the last census, in 2001, Christians were in the majority with a whopping 55% lead. They were more than twenty times as prolific as the next religion (Islam) and no other religion got above 10% – the rest was made up of the non-religious. And that number of atheists and agnostics and skeptics will have shot up since then, I know. But I refuse to believe that in such a short time, Christians have become a minority group. Just no.

When there are no longer paid bishops in the House of Lords, then you can worry about not being “respected”. No, wait, actually, you can’t.


Crap, this was supposed to be a post about how “there are religious genocides and shit going on, and they totally suck“, but it managed to get derailed into a rant about burning martyrs. And one with no pictures! This will not do! Have a funny picture of our lord and saviour:

* Yeah, because America is the pinnacle of religious neutrality.



Posted on December 14, 2011, in Atheism & Skepticism and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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