Killing the cliche

If this doesn’t do it nothing will.

In the last few years secular liberals have been uncompromising in what they say about religion, and the targets of their criticism have squealed and complained as loudly as if they felt real flames licking round their feet. The churches answered criticism in the past with murder; if they still had the upper hand would they now restrict themselves to their critics’ choice of weapon – words?

Let us look at some comparisons. In Afghanistan the Taliban stop girls going to school, beat up women who show a millimeter of skin, ban music, kill gays, and in general force their choice of life and belief on everyone, thus illustrating the less charming aspects of enforced observance of religious orthodoxy under which most of humanity has suffered for most of history. By comparison, secular liberals of Europe and North America say that they think religion is a load of nonsense and that religious folk should keep their fantasies to themselves. Some comparison, eh? Some jihad! Its effectiveness, though, is a sign of insecurity among the faithful. Mark Twain defined faith as ‘believing what you know ain’t so’, and the level of insecurity among the faithful when criticised suggests that almost all of them really agree.

Although I don’t remember when she said it, Ophelia pointed out that the cliche that won’t die is not only a fatuous moral equivalence but also an attempted transfer of complicity: the cleric avoids having to defend the actual, provable intolerance of his traditions by claiming that they are mirrored in abstract in the secular heart. It’s the vampire forcing his victim to suck his blood: you are implicated and must sink or swim with me.

But read the rest of A C Grayling’s refreshing and apologetic defence of basic values.

Secularists in the west say to the apologists of the religions: your beliefs are your choice, so take your place in the queue. They also say: you’ve had it your own way for a very long time – and committed a lot of crimes in the process – and you still fancy yourself entitled, but you aren’t. You don’t smell too good at times, so don’t try to tell me what I can read, see on TV, do in my private time, think or say. In fact, keep your sticky fingers off my life. Believe what you like but don’t expect me to admire or excuse you because of it: rather the contrary, given the fairy-stories in question. And when you are a danger to the lives and liberties of others, which alas is too frequently the wont of your ilk, we will speak out against you as loudly, persistently, and uncompromisingly as we can.

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