Thursday 12 July 2007

Equivalence of extremisms revisited

I've just heard Oliver McTiernan, speaking on 'Thought for the Day' on Radio 4's Today programme, repeat the old canard about 'extremists on both sides' in the course of a discussion of religion and secularism. Not only did he argue that secularists want to remove religion from public life (when all they do is question its currently privileged position), he actually went so far as to suggest that 'secularists want to eradicate religious belief.'

I was amazed at the ignorance this displayed about the nature of secularism, and wondered if a secular commentator would be allowed to get away, unchallenged, with an equivalent falsehood about religious believers (e.g. stating that 'religious believers want to destroy freedom of expression') on the BBC. If McTiernan knew the first thing about secularism, he would know that one of its cardinal principles is freedom of belief - and unbelief. I don't agree with every position taken by the National Secular Society, but I don't recall them issuing death threats against religiously-inclined novelists, organising aggressive demonstrations against nativity plays or producing placards that threaten to behead believers.

Once again, the 'equivalence of extremisms' argument is being used to divert attention from the real extremists and to allow religious believers to avoid confronting the fundamentalists in their own ranks.

1 comment:

Final Conflict said...

yeah! quite right! there's been no secular extremists after all.

No massacres in Revolutionary France. No genocide in the USSR. No outrages in Civil War Spain. No murders in Bolshevik Hungary... etc. etc.

What twits secularists are.