A leader in The Irish Times last Saturday took to task those, including British Cabinet Minister Baroness Warsi, who are concerned about the growth of a militant secularism that seeks to push religion to the margins of society.
The Irish Times believes there is nothing to worry about, that such concerns are grossly exaggerated. But the leader writer would do well to read a new book published this week called ‘We Don’t Do God: The marginalisation of public faith’, by George Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, and Andrew Carey, his journalist son.
The book gives example after example of the ways in which religion is being marginalised in Britain and elsewhere. The only conclusion one can draw after reading such a book is that The Irish Times is in denial about the problem.
In denial and deeply confused because the editorial also draws a distinction between “three quite different and distinct agendas – atheism, secularism, and pluralism”. The Irish Times comes down in favour of pluralism but not in favour of atheism or secularism.
Does this mean that in fact the paper does have a problem with certain manifestations of atheism and secularism after all and recognises that these can pose a threat to pluralism, in which case the concerns raised by people like Archbishop Carey are valid, or is there in fact no problem at all?
The next time The Irish Times addresses this issue it needs to do a whole lot more study first and then speak more far coherently on it. It could do worse than to start with ‘We Don’t Do God’.
P.S. Last September one of the Irish Times' most influential columnists, and a long time critic of the the Catholic Church, Fintan O'Toole admitted to the Irish Catholic that there was a culture of hostility in the Irish media towards religion.
O'Toole, the assistant editor for the Irish Times, said that the media's coverage of religion was “snobbish and dismissive” and admitted that people were “quite right to be upset about that and critical of the attitude - I think it is there”.
He added that he had “a lot of sympathy” with people who feel that religion is badly represented in the Irish media. He said: “In general, I don't think the complaint is inaccurate. I think it's a reasonably well-founded complaint that the media in general do not reflect that reality.”
And he acknowledged that most Irish journalists tended to be less religious than the country as a whole.
Maybe he should have a chat with the writer of that editorial.