Former british MP Ann Widdecombe is upset. After some semi-intellectual rhetorical stunts she claims that Christians are persecuted and militant atheists are the reason for her stupidity. You may recall that Widdecombe is the Minister who converted to Catholicism because the Church of England allowed the ordination of women as priests. So she has some serious fundamentalistic street cred to call her own. In a somewhat less endearing continuation of her public performance from the ‘Intelligence Squared’ debate (with Hitchens and Fry in 2009), she begins her rant with a number of astonishing assertions:
Christians now have quite a lot of problems, whether it’s that you can’t display even very discreet small symbols of your faith at work, that you can’t say ‘God bless you’, you can’t offer to pray for somebody, if it’s an even bigger stance on conscience that you’re taking, some of the equality laws can actually bring you to the attention of the police themselves
Not to put too fine a point on this: Widdecombe is lying through her teeth. You can wear a crucifix to work, you can say ‘god bless you’, you can offer to pray. Now, what people think of you if you do one of those things is another thing.
If you are brought to the police’s attention, you may have violated a law – a law that was passed to protect someone: so yes – if you, for example, openly call for discrimination of gays, the police will come knocking on your door. Thank God!
So I think it is a very difficult country now, unlike when I was growing up, in which to be a Christian, an active Christian at any rate.
What she is actually bemoaning is her loss of privilege to insult and shame religious dissenters, something she is trying right now with her outcry of false injury. It’s not difficult to be a Christian in the UK. It’s only become harder to be adored on the grounds of just be a Christian. Today people also look at what you do and judge you by your actions. Being pious alone doesn’t cut it any more. Hurting others because of your beliefs is no longer tolerated. That’s a good thing, Ann.
a concern about “political correctness” meant people were reluctant to express their faith to others because “they think strong belief offends them”.
So that is what bothers her. She’s furious that the empty phrase “I’ll pray for you” no longer engenders respect, but a look of concerned pity instead. She’s angry that it becomes more difficult to get people to admire her, to inflate her ego with vacant pious gestures or meaningless acclamations of faith (like, for example, converting to hard-core Catholicism because women were being ordained as priest).
In short, she blames atheists for the fact that she’s become afraid to say what she really thinks – because people would think she’s an ass.
Well, the reason people think that is not because of militant atheists – it’s because people increasingly employ common sense and reason. People becoming atheists is merely a result of that.