The virus should be an opportunity for us all to pull together, irrespective of faith or the lack of it. Which is why a number of responses by the secularist organisations have been especially disappointing. For instance, early on in the crisis, when the government included “religious staff” caring for their congregations among those key-workers who were entitled to send their children to school, the National Secular Society objected.
They wanted the availability of childcare to be removed from religious people working to support their communities. Many rightly objected to this petty piece of anti-religious point scoring, and — credit where credit it is due — the NSS apologised:
“We understand how our commentary could appear insensitive at a time when many religious staff are supporting the vulnerable. We should have paid more regard to this and apologise for any offence we caused by not doing so.”
This apology was appreciated. Thank you.
But it’s not the only example of secular organisations using this crisis to take a pop at religion. Take Humanist UK’s chief executive Andrew Copson’s characteristically snide reply to a tweet from historian Tom Holland. Holland’s recent bestseller, Dominion, was an exploration of the extent to which western culture has been saturated by Christian assumptions. This was Copson’s sarcastic response:
In my recent Confessions interview with the former Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks he told me that: “Christian-Jewish relationships in Britain are so stunningly good, I am minded to say that they are better here than anywhere else in the world.” And indeed they are. But this is not good news for the secularists who require us to think of different religions as at each other’s throats, thus to present themselves as the safe space where all can get along.
That is why some secularists understand it to be in their interest to undermine the healthy inter-faith relationships that we have in their country. If different religions all get along, the secularist argument for itself is much weakened. So they seek to poison the well of inter-faith conviviality. And they need to be called out for doing so.