Friday, 21 January 2011

Bad Faith Award reaches the corridors of power

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The New Humanist Bad Faith Award, presented each year for outstanding contributions to unreason, finally appears to be getting the recognition it deserves. Just take a look at the opening lines of the lecture given by Conservative Party chair Baroness Warsi at Leicester University last night:
"Back in September I made a speech about faith at the Bishops Conference.

It was the first time that a Cabinet Minister had spoken so frankly about faith for many years.

I think it’s fair to say that the speech caused a bit of a stir in some quarters.

The New Humanist Magazine ran a poll of their readers which ranked me the fifth most dangerous enemy of reason last year.
I was about to think that actually, I hadn’t done too badly, when I discovered that the Koran-burning Pastor, Terry Jones, came one place below me!
But overall I believe the impact of the speech was really positive.

And the main thing I discovered by doing the speech was that there is a large, untapped appetite for a more mature discussion of faith in this country."
The speech to which Warsi refers there was the the one where she suggested that the new government will be one that "does God", a reference, of course, to Alastair Campbell's contention that Tony Blair and his government didn't "do God" (you have to hope that if there is a God, he/she/it finds innuendo rather endearing). Baroness Warsi was nominated and voted for on account of this, with many readers doubtless feeling that such outright willingness to involve religion in government would represent a backwards step for secularism. Nevertheless, it was perhaps a little harsh that Warsi, as she notes in her speech, came higher in the poll than the Florida I'm-going-to-burn-a-Qur'an-actually-oh-wait-no-I'm-not Pastor Terry Jones. Maybe voters just felt that the government's threat to secularism was a little closer to home than the Pastor's pyromaniacal provocation.

Anyway, it's nice to be noticed. Warsi's lecture was, of course, the one trailed in yesterday's papers in which she made her controversial remarks about Islamophobia becoming socially acceptable. If you have the time, it's worth reading it in full. And just in case the Baroness thinks we only nominate her for Bad Faith awards and don't actually take what she has to say seriously, here's my blogpost from yesterday in which I considered her comments on Islamophobia.
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