I've got something to tell you. I'm an enthusiastic practising Christian who attends (a packed) church every week. And, I'm not particularly worried about the rise in 'militant secularism', as people are entitled to believe what they like. This means if my belief system offends you and you feel it's a load of rubbish - no matter how loud you shout -- or how robustly you defend your position, it will not change the fact that as far as I am concerned, Jesus Christ is a perfect saviour who came to redeem mankind.
I say this after a busy news week for discussions around faith and secularism. There was the Bideford Town Council case, where a high court ruling initially meant that the council would have to stop holding prayers at the start of its meetings. This came after The National Secular Society took the council to court when a former councillor, who was an atheist, tried to have prayer meetings taken off the agenda at the start of meetings, citing that they were a breech of his human rights. However, at the time of writing, it seems like this decision has been reversed.
Then there was Conservative party Chairman Lady Warsi's speech during an official government visit to the Pope. She spoke of her 'fear that a militant secularisation is taking hold of our societies.'
David Lammy MP also joined the throng when he said during his turn on Radio 4's Any Questions: 'I do worry about an aggressive secularism that is drowning out the ability of people of faith to live with that faith and also caricatures people of faith in a particular way.'
Finally the Queen reminded us of the fact that many of the good values that we take for granted originate from the wisdom of ancient traditions and that the concept of the jubilee is rooted in the bible.
So lots of influential people, commentators and royalty, all highlighting the role of faith in our society in different ways. As an ordinary church-goer the main thing that stuck out for me was a concern about a potential downgrading of the Christian faith.
Concern is a good thing, it shows care but I'm not convinced that my faith is on the ropes. Atheists often cite a decline in church attendance and scoff at the fact that most pews are empty on a Sunday morning. But I can name lots that are jam-packed; one in particular in Tottenham Court Road, which in the summer has people cueing up down the road to get into one its four services. My church has just had to move to a different location on a Sunday to accommodate its growth.
So I don't really recognise the marginalisation of Christianity. What I do acknowledge is that there is an increasing group of gobby atheists with it seems little else to do but to denigrate religion and remove it from the public square. I also think Christians in particular can be slow in speaking up for their faith - which doesn't help us with redress. Then there's the age old wisdom of picking your battles. Many of us don't have time to engage with tedious debate about whether God is real our not. Because we know and believe he is and we've seen the work of his hand in our lives.
To be honest, I think that when the country is in the economic state that it's in, with people losing their jobs, being made homeless and having to decide between food and fuel - It would be pretty irresponsible to start attacking Christianity.
The Office of National Statistics, integrated household survey, revealed that almost seven in ten 68.5% of the British population describe themselves as Christian. Whether secularists or atheists like it or not - this still remains a religious and predominantly Christian country -- and the one door that will always be open to people in the midst of difficult times will be the church. Not to cram conversion down people's throats when they're vulnerable. But to show love and care -- just as Jesus would have done .
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