Dangerous Baggage

Nullius addictus jurare in verba magistri

Beware Of The Dogma

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Sitting behind the wheel of my car cruising along the H3 away from the train station, I find myself considering what my Grandma would say to me if she was sat in the car. How would a conversation with her develop as I told her about my day campaigning for a secular Europe?

At first the police seemed to outnumber the supporters, but it soon became apparent that the numbers were going to grow into the hundreds. A good turnout for a cause that is accelerating the momentum it already has, but a reminder that there is still a fight ahead, most likely a battle of will and attrition.

The placards being handed out were standard, non-offensive and to the point; distributed to those of us that turned up empty handed with the naive view that just being present was enough – not finding the time to individualise your message is a little half-hearted really. Plenty of people had spent time creating some lovely, witty and original banners, others a little less time on some very obvious banners, and others, like me, spent no time making nothing.

The conversations and opinions that wander around this gathering as the crowd meanders through the streets, are always the great and most interesting part of a day like this. A fascinating array of people and a cacophony of opinions bouncing between a large group of delightful, happy and yet driven and opinionated people. My mind drifts briefly to the looting and violence (not rioting or protesting) that took place in this very city a month earlier – and then to the mostly peaceful student march before that, that a small percentage of the population brought disgrace upon. I found myself semi-consciously hoping that wouldn’t happen today, wondering if maybe secularists possessed a kind of intellectual snobbishness that would prevent a descent of this kind. Who the hell am I to say though – what goes, goes.

The various personal placards were an easy topic of conversation; which one’s are clever? Which are inappropriate? These conversations are natural on a day like today – the equivalent of middle-class suburbanites discussing the weather. There was a serious outcome to these conversations though, in that contemplating the appropriateness of a particular message forced casual wanderers to really consider what the day was about – why exactly were we walking along these old London streets. The truth that the nature of those present would inevitably bring an anti-religion feel to a march like this, dawned on me. And some of the placards and messages seemed to reinforce this. The “Law Sharia – Diarrhea” seemed to really drive home that some people had truly missed the overall message of the day.

For me and many others this was not a day for religion bashing – especially not attacking anybody’s core beliefs. Confronting the social implementation of those beliefs – perhaps. Addressing the issue of forcing those beliefs onto others – certainly. But actually making a verbal attack on a person’s faith was not the aim. I make this point not to be a pain in the ass and pick fault with other people’s efforts, but because alienating Muslims or Christians is potentially a hinderance to the cause of the day and not only diluting the message but possibly damaging it. A point made prevalent during another discussion about what practical benefit a religious person would gain by attending the march. What could a religious person possibly reap by the separation of church and state? This was the reason we were all here after all. I looked around in the hope of seeing a few clergymen from some church, waving a banner and campaigning against religious privilege, disappointingly I saw no such group but I still hope that they were there, somewhere.

Surely then this most fundamental argument about freeing church from state, or the other way around, is an argument in favour of religious freedom – I wonder whether it is the dilution of this freedom with the religious loathing of the faithless that had caused so many of the faithful to stay away or not make their identities known? But if there are some religious out there that want religion separated from their country’s government then they should be welcomed to the cause with open arms – rather than having their faith mocked. That being said – there are obvious reasons to stay away but fighting for religious freedom because it’s the right thing should trump all that anyway.

As the crowd of wanderers finally found a resting place opposite Downing Street, a number of passionate speeches over a drearily, inaudible PA system began. The full hour of speeches is here. A particularly impassioned one by Maryam Namazie (21:00 to 28:45) really hit some powerful points about the people living under Sharia in modern day society. There was a particularly well made point about Muslims oppressed by their own religion, they are indeed our allies and possibly one of the most important allies we have. A notion I will take to heart and concentrate on more in the future.

A tall, middle aged man in the crowd was handing out leaflets containing pro-christian, right wing material. A simple 2 page A4, stapled leaflet that looked like just another secularist handing out an advert for their website. I stood straining to hear one of the speakers while trying to scan read this leaflet and suddenly realised what it was promoting. The idea that secularism was actively harmful to society and a whole 2 pages dedicated to ‘proving’ the notion that homosexuality causes peadophilia. Some of the gay community were visibly upset by this material. It was in poor taste and in order to keep the peace the police took the man to one side, away from those obviously affected. No one got angry, no raised voices and no threats from those waving the rainbow flag nor anyone else.

This man’s bigoted views have just as much right to be aired as my own, however ridiculous, offensive or plain ignorant they may be. However, there is no contact detail on the literature, no name nor organisational affiliation, just a string of simply falsifiable ‘facts’, propaganda style writing and citations that I refuse to reprint due to the anonymous nature of the material.

A pity I can’t challenge these views directly, I’m more than willing for someone to express offensive, false or even stupid ideas, but they shouldn’t be immune from criticism nor ridicule. In this case all I can do is discuss the material but make no direct retort – which is simply resolved by defining these previous 3 paragraphs as all I have to say on the matter until I’m challenged by someone willing to put their head above the water – In the meantime I’ll work through the material in my own time as a learning experience.

He is not the messiah - he is a very naughty boyCowardice and ignorance do appear to correlate.

While walking down Whitehall towards our final standing destination, a cyclist riding past the secularist group stopped his bike in order to read one placard that read “He is not the Messiah, he is a very naughty boy”, with a picture of the pope. The man holding the placard chatted with the now dismounted cyclist for 2 minutes before the young man lifted the barrier and walked along with the rest of us, bike in hand, for the final leg of our journey. How simply satire can inspire. My favourite amusing message though was ‘Beware Of The Dogma’.

What a wonderfully colourful and uplifting day, a vast array of bright personalities, critical and diverse opinions and inspiring strength. A cause well worth all the effort of those involved. A cause worthy of a continued fight and something everyone involved should take a pride in being a part of.

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Written by matthaughton

October 3, 2011 at 9:22 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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