THE BLOG
14/02/2012 17:13 GMT | Updated 15/04/2012 06:12 BST

The New Inquisition

As the Atheist Movement continues to fight against the voice of faith in public life here in the UK, Christians - and those of all faiths for that matter - need not batten down the hatches, but rather practice their faith and talk about it openly, unapologetic and unafraid.

There is a ruined castle hidden high up on a French mountain top where a group of Christians were starved, tortured, pummelled and poked. The Cathar community in Montaillou were as hardy as they were resourceful but still the inquisition got the better of them.

Some Christians in Britain may be feeling under siege at the moment. And whilst the rage and the zeal of The Atheists is not violent, it is certainly virulent. The campaign against Christianity and now Christians themselves has all the hallmarks of an organised campaign.

Last week the National Secular Society was gleeful in its triumph over the court case regarding prayers at council meetings in Bideford, Devon. The arguments for and against this practice continue to be rehearsed. It does not require Christians to hide for fear of attack. If anything, Christians are given a space and a voice to talk about the nature of prayer.

There is a tendency here in Britain to feel squeamish at that very word: tambourines, holding hands and vapid platitudes spring to mind. A prayer at the start of a meeting is a pause for thought, a moment of quiet to prepare for discussion and decision making where vulnerable people's lives may be further damaged, especially in these number crunching crises we're facing. It is unsurprising that there are prayers called Collects said daily in the Anglican church; they were written literally to draw people and all things together before moving on. Prayers aren't wish lists; neither are they batons with which to bludgeon everyone into submission.

The National Secular Society are delighted by the Bideford court case ruling; they say that a debate about secularism is a good thing. This is a worrying comment as they seem to be uninformed about the word on their identifying badge. Look it up: Secular means 'of the world' and not, 'against any suggestion that there is more to the universe besides flesh and blood.' History shows that the Christian faith has never been one of little folk hiding away in a sacred space wishing non believers would leave them alone so that they can all be holy.

Richard Dawkins is another atheist on the rampage. Those who identify themselves as Christians are now being asked to describe just how Christian they are: do you read the Bible on your own? Do you go to Church? What do you think about homosexuals? Such questions betray ridiculous assumptions about beliefs, that is that every one of us has a zeal equal to theirs. The nature of belief does not require a checklist. Maybe Richard Dawkins should write new 10 Commandments for Christians. I'm a priest and I doubt I would make the grade.

As a priest I am often confronted head on with dogmatic assumptions. Recently a man raged in my face that as a woman, I should keep quiet and take off my collar because the Bible dictates me to shut up and submit to men. Other times people start talking in hushed tones the moment I step onto the tube in my black regalia. It is always a fascinating experience and proves each time that faith continues to provoke and fascinate.

As a University Chaplain I work in the world serving every student and not just my own flock. Established or not the Anglican Church has always sought to serve everyone - of all faiths and none. Ask to see any parish priest's diary: nursing home, hospice, school governing body, crematorium, homeless drop in centre. It is quite likely that not one person the priest serves - yes serves - will know which church the priest comes from. Notions of 'us and them' is a lazy caricature.

The Cathar Christians on the mountain at Montaillou all died out but the ruined castle remains. As the Atheist Movement continues to fight against the voice of faith in public life here in the UK, Christians - and those of all faiths for that matter - need not batten down the hatches, but rather practice their faith and talk about it openly, unapologetic and unafraid.