BBC Newsnight provides a pulpit for the myth of secular neutrality

Aug 16, 2018 by

by Archbishop Cranmer:

“The best guarantee of religious tolerance is a well-organised secular state… there is a higher authority; it’s called the law,” proclaimed author Ian McEwan on the BBC’s ‘Newsnight‘, in a homily which went completely unchallenged by journalist Evan Davis (chiming, as it surely must do, with his personal creed). So, religion bad, intolerant, divisive, bigoted, backward and unenlightened; secularity good, tolerant, unifying, neutral, progressive and enlightened.

The secular regime necessitates the exclusion of all religious apprehensions of the good life from the public domain because only then may we become more tolerant, more liberal and more receptive to the appeal of rationality. The secular state is a neutral state, we are constantly told. It inculcates a non-judgemental political agenda which rejects all core values that are concerned with any orthodoxy save those which propagate and uphold the notion of liberal neutrality. And this liberal secular neutrality eschews the paternalistic, dogmatic and narrow worldview of religion to establish the framework necessary for the ongoing journey of humanity from ignorance to enlightenment. It encourages certain kinds of virtues which are determined empirically by what social and cultural conditions liberal democracy requires, and then sets about realising these conditions and developing secular civic virtues to fortify its creed.

Secular neutrality, we are told, frees individuals from inherited roles and unchosen ties; it demands governmental neutrality on tested conceptions of the good life in order to foster compassion and tolerance. It is the only solution to the challenges of social fragmentation; the only philosophical mechanism for fostering cohesion and resisting the politics of individualism and religious identity. Secular neutrality, we are told, forges a special domain of commonality, transcending multicultural plurality and religious diversity. And the bedrock of this political commonality is the secular law which is sectioned off from the comprehensive moral views that people legitimately hold. Their moral doctrine is admissible, but only in the private domain. Our political institutions must be neutral, and so must be secular, because that is the only way of ensuring justice and fairness for all people.

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