Monday, 13 September 2010

Humanists blast 'secular witch-hunt' over Pope's visit

The splendid Institute of Ideas, home of authentically free thinking -- or at least, as free as reason can take you without Grace -- has added its voice to the growing backlash against some of the more primitive elements of the "Nope Pope" squad.

Claire Fox (photo), director of the British humanist think-tank which organises the annual 'Battle of Ideas' debating weekend, says: ‘While many reacted with horror at France and Belgium with their intolerant ban on the burqa, the response of some secular campaigners shows that such demonization of religious groups is alive and kicking in the UK."

"Hysterical, oft-repeated arguments such as that the Pope is “leader of the world’s largest paedophile ring” have more in common with contemporary heresy-hunting than the free-thinking spirit of Enlightenment secularism," says Fox, adding: ‘There are many reasons to criticise religious leaders, and plenty are coming from within the Church itself, but secularists really should take the opportunity to remind themselves of the Enlightenment values they claim to stand for – such as tolerance, freedom of thought and conscience and a human being as a rational subject - rather than focusing on what they hate about the Church and, by extension, Catholics.’

A number of Catholic Voices are involved in Battle of Ideas debates on secular tolerance and religious freedom. An IoI-organised debate on 7 October entitled 'Papl plots, burqa bans: what does it mean to be secular today' features CV Peter Williams. At the BoI festival on 30-31 Octover CV coordinator Austen Ivereigh is one of the speakers at “The Catholic Church: more sinned against the sinner?” debate, while CV patron Fr Christopher Jamison is speaking on the 'Trust in an age of cynicism' panel.