European Religious Leaders: ‘Secularism Could be the New Terrorism’

Father Aethelwine Richards, a leader in the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of Europe, recently moderated two panels at an event about discrimination against religious minorities in Europe. He summarized the conversation by suggesting that “secularism could be the new terrorism.”

(L-R) Bashy Quraishy, Father Aethelwine Richards, Paul Herzog Von Oldenburg, and Jasvir Singh at the (via Religion News Services)

From what I can tell, there were no atheists on either panel to counter the ridiculous claim, but they were the subject of discussion among the religious conservatives who were there, according to Brian Pellot of Religion News Service:

Most panelists had harsh words for France, which has long followed the principle of laïcité, or church-state separation.

Bashy Quraishy of the European Muslim Initiative for Social Cohesion called France’s policies towards religion “secularism gone mad.” He referenced a 2004 law in France that banned the wearing of conspicuous religious symbols in public schools.

Paul Herzog Von Oldenburg, a conservative Christian from Germany and coordinator of Pro Europea Christiana, didn’t parse his words:

“We are supposed to be living in a tolerant human rights era. Instead, we live in a dictatorship of relativism, the worst form of religious persecution. Secular intolerance forces us to abandon our values, to be part of this festival of diversity. It is tantamount to apostasy.”

… all panelists agreed that France’s “harsh secularism” is the most worrisome.

Here’s a better summary of their statements: Church/state separation is bad because it means we don’t always get our way. Sure, the believers can practice their faith at home or in any number of churches or mosques or synagogues across Europe, but that’s not enough! It has to be their way, all the time, or else… “Persecution!”

It’s like they’re getting their talking points from Ted Cruz.

There are places in the world where certain religious believers (and atheists) are targeted and oppressed. That’s real discrimination. Saying that church/state separation is an affront to your faith is like saying a papercut amounts to a decapitation.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.