Posts Tagged 'secularism'

Some thoughts on anti-religious feeling and racism

For several years now I have had the concern that some anti-religious sentiments may be fuelled by underlying racist attitudes towards certain groups. A recent article in the New Statesman discussing struggles against racism in the context of the British Asian community included some thoughts on this theme from Pragna Patel of Southall Black Sisters.

Pragna Patel, a founding member of Southall Black Sisters, describes the Southall Story as a timely reminder of the need for a secular approach to fighting racism and oppression. “The state assumes that racism is no longer an issue, and that the real problem is the lack of cohesion brought about [by] the failure of migrant communities to integrate. Within our communities, anti-racist struggles have been reinvented as struggles for recognition of religious identity.”

In the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 attacks and the 7 July 2005 bombings, there has been a backlash against multiculturalism. Yet paradoxically, as Pragna Patel notes, the state, in the name of cohesion, has actually encouraged a “faith-based” approach to social relations. “We are fragmenting as a society into separate religious enclaves in which powerful and religious bodies hold sway. This is deeply anti-democratic, misogynistic and homophobic.”

As a society, I think we need to be very careful not to conflate the religious with the political whether through racist attitudes or through crass generalisation. Religion and belief may be a part of the individual’s identity but individuals and even groups are much more complex than that. If you target a group and discriminate against them, you force the creation of a political identity which stands outside of society. We need to concentrate on addressing issues of equality and justice in all sectors of society instead of pointing fingers accusingly and drawing lines in the sand. We need to work together instead of singling out a target group and casting blame.

Flying the banner for a secular Europe

This Saturday I found myself carrying one half of the British Humanist Association banner at the London Demonstration for a Secular Europe. Just to clarify, the aim of the demonstration was not to create a Europe with no religion, but one where religion and politics are separate so that all religions and worldviews are treated equally and no one religion has a privileged position.

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In Memoriam: Oliver Postgate

Yesterday, Oliver Postgate, creator of many enchanting children’s television programmes, passed away. He was responsible for classic programmes such as The Clangers, Bagpuss and Noggin the Nog. As well as having a fanstastically creative mind, he also had an impassioned serious side. Postgate was a conscientious objector during the war and was actively involved with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Among other things, he also wrote a series of blog posts for the New Statesman including several dialogues between God and the Devil where the Morning Star gives his Lord a serious grilling on some of his decisions. One such dialogue discusses the importance of the separation of Church and State. Read on further here.

CFI London

On Friday I attended the official opening for the Center for Inquiry‘s new educational centre in London. The new CFI London has taken up residence in Conway Hall which has a long history of humanism having been established by the South Place Ethical Society. The CFI London is a welcome addition to its still very much active humanist community.

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