Rising Tide of Nationalism? Blame the secularists

The Guardian’s ongoing war against rationality continues. After a columnist equated secularism with totalitarianism last week, this week, we are being blamed for the rising tide of nationalism:

There is a danger that the rising tide of secularism, and of narrow English and Scottish nationalism, itself often strongly secular in spirit, combined with its counterpart, the growth of various forms of fundamentalism, will erode the open, hospitable and capacious concept of Britishness in which minorities of various kinds have felt welcome.

There was a time when a “liberal” Christian would pride himself on his secularism, but clearly we have moved on (you can sense the bile rising in his gullet as he was forced to type the hated word). But is secularism truly at the heart of nationalism? Leaving aside the rest of the world for a second, if that is the case, why do nationalists concentrate so much of their energies on evoking religious purges and culls from history as justification? I’m not aware of nationalists in Northern Ireland being any less religious than unionists, but perhaps I’ve missed something (I’m sure Ian Bradley is comforted to have a liberal man of the cloth of the stature of the Rev Ian Paisley on his team). Why do Scottish and English nationalists wrap themselves in the crosses of Saints Andrew and George if they are so driven by secularist concerns? And why are the faith-friendly Cameroonies flirting with nationalism and silly notions like English Votes on English Matters (and, for that matter, religious Lib Dems such as Simon Hughes), while most people in politics associated with metropolitan liberal secularism are so sceptical?

Last time I looked, we had a Church of England, a Church in Wales, a Church of Ireland and Church of Scotland, but no “British” church. Only the former is “established” in the constitutional sense of the word. If religion, and specifically Anglicanism/protestantism, is such a unifier, why don’t they practice what they preach?

Religious anti-secularists are getting increasingly divorced from reality as they continue to make their outlandish claims in an attempt to prove that simply wanting to keep public life and private faith seperate is somehow sinister. The paranoid part of my brain suspects we are looking at some kind of wedge strategy at work.


  1. I too find his argument for the linking of English or Scottish nationalism with secularism (or atheism more accurately) strange. Surely one of the things that in past times defined the Welsh and Scots (and for that matter Cornish) nationalist identities in opposition to the English was their rejection of Anglicanism and its forebears.

  2. While you are correct to say that they seem to be attacking atheism, it is interesting that they keep attacking “secularism”. I think there is something more fundamental going on here: a rejection of the principle that religion and government should be kept at arm’s reach, a fundamental building block of liberal democracy.

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