Brendan O’Neill is an atheist…

but he justly comes to the defense of Jacob Rees-Mogg and confronts the suggestion that Catholics should simply be banished from public life in Britain.

That Rees-Mogg is being singled out for a more savage-than-usual Twittermobbing and media criticism is clear if one compares him with Muslim public figures. There are many Muslims in public life who hold similar views to his. But the likelihood of any Muslim ever appearing on the front page of the Guardian next to the word ‘bigot’ is literally zero. What we can see here is an extraordinary double standard on religion. A combination of a long-standing liberal fear and loathing of Catholicism with a censorious reluctance ever to criticise Islam, even traditional forms of Islam, means Catholics can be demonised far more harshly than Muslims for believing similar things on marriage and abortion.

Indeed, today we have the perverse situation where to criticise Islam’s repression of women is treated virtually as a speechcrime, as Islamophobia. So not only does the chattering class hold back on criticising Islam – it pressures everyone else to do likewise. How about we have a truly equal and secular form of freedom that allows all religion to be criticised, and all people to hold whatever religious beliefs they choose?

I’m wondering if the stinging critics of Rees-Mogg even got to the end of his Good Morning Britain interview. Because if they had they would have heard him make a very important point, a killer point in fact. He said he holds traditional Catholic beliefs on abortion but recognises those beliefs will never be socially acted upon, because the ‘democratic majority’ thinks differently. There you have it. No need for controversy. Because he isn’t seeking to impose his views on us or to change the laws of the country; he’s just going to carry on believing them. This is what it means to live in a tolerant country: people can believe anything they want, but they cannot force anyone else to believe those things. What’s the problem here? Unless we’re saying we have a problem with the very fact that there are people who have certain thoughts in their minds. If we have a problem with that, then Britain is in very serious trouble.

The hatred of Catholicism in English culture is bred in the bone.  It’s ironic that it takes an atheist to say, “Not cool, man” in a way that seems to get Brits to pause in their knee-jerk hostility to anything Romish.

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