Sunday 19 September 2010

Pope's visit shows religion still has something to say

The Pope flew back to the Vatican today after his historic four day visit to Britain. If there’s been one thing which has stood out for me, it’s how the role of religion and faith had suddenly taken centre stage in a national debate on the type of country the UK has become.

I actually felt some agreement with the Pope when he spoke about ‘aggressive forms of secularism’ which have become prevalent in the UK. Religion and faith have been pushed to the margins in terms of the role it can play in British life.

I think his visit has shown religion still has something to contribute to people in this country.

Earlier in the week, a colleague at work said she couldn’t understand all the fuss surrounding the Pope’s visit.

My reaction was one that thought ‘are you being serious?’ It’s a major event. The first state visit by the Pope to Britain and someone who’s the leader of an organisation with a membership of over 1 Billion people world wide.

The Pope isn’t just a religious leader he’s a major political figure; it goes without saying this is a major event. Add to that the scandal of child abuse within the Catholic Church, and the huge amount of opposition to some of the Church's views, the Pope’s visit was always going to receive a huge amount of coverage.

In our secular society, I think for many people religion has become almost irrelevant, so the Pope’s visit doesn’t appear to be of significance or have any great meaning, but judging by the numbers of people who came out to see the Pope clearly religion does still matter.

The Pope was quite right to talk about the growth of ‘aggressive secularism’ in this country. Why shouldn’t the visit of Pope be a significant event? It’s as if secularism has evolved along with atheism to say religion has no role to play in national life. That at it’s worst its corrupt, irrelevant and all a load of nonsense.

A country like Britain is a pluralistic society where different views and beliefs can be expressed freely. I feel there’s a growing atheist arrogance that sneers at the church or people who have any religious faith. It’s as if anyone who believes in God or the after life are childish idiots believing in fairy tales.

When it comes to myself I’m not religious and don’t go to church, but I would say I’ve been brought up loosely in the Christian Faith. I’m not an atheist and not quite agnostic which is really just sitting on the fence. I’d describe myself as spiritual but not religious.

Atheism is one belief system which exists alongside a number of other beliefs, but atheism is becoming increasingly intolerant and belligerent in its anti religion rhetoric.

In a true secular society there shouldn’t be the need for the aggressive name calling and belittling of religion and faith, which I think has grown stronger. Secularism should be able to accept that religion can add to the national debate but not dominate it.

You don’t necessarily have to have any religious faith or agree with the views of the Catholic or Anglican Church, but they still have a legitimate right to be heard. I was certainly interested in hearing what the Pope had to say, and see what significance his visit would have to the country.

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