William Rees-Mogg in the TimesOnline (thanks to all who sent this in) addresses the fashionable moral equivalence that would see all religions as presenting more or less the same threat to generally accepted modern notions of human rights. I address the same question from a different angle here.
From the earliest days Christianity has been opposed to slavery. In his Letter to the Galatians, St Paul wrote: “As many of you that have been baptised in Christ, have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek: there is neither bond nor free: there is neither male nor female. We were all one in Jesus Christ.” Undoubtedly Christians have compromised with slavery “” as with other social evils “” in the course of history, but the orthodox Christian doctrine is one of liberty and equality.
The Christian belief was the inspiration in William Wilberforce’s long campaign to end the slave trade. His Bill received the Royal Assent on March 25, 1807, 200 years ago. That was the most important of all the great reforms of the 19th century; essentially it was a Christian reform, inspired by the Protestant conversion of Wilberforce himself. March 25 was the old New Year’s Day; it is also the feast of the Annunciation of Mary, the Mother of Jesus.
We live in an age when modernists regard religion with something approaching panic. It is like the Devil’s attitude to Holy Water. There was a comic example of Christianophobia in The Sunday Times yesterday. Michael Portillo, who used himself to be seen in Brompton Oratory, was hyperventilating at the idea of David Cameron going to church. “I worry,” he wrote, “because men of power who take instruction from unseen forces are essentially fanatics . . . I would be more reassured to hear that the Tory leader goes to church because that is what it takes to get a child into the best of state schools, not because he is a believer.”
Perhaps this neurotic response to Mr Cameron’s habit of going to church reflects Mr Portillo’s recognition that religion is again becoming an important influence on society. Many of the current news stories show that religion is back in public consciousness; for those who feel uneasy about religion, that is unwelcome.
Islam is, of course, the alarming religious issue that will not go away. In the 20th century the world failed to adjust to two major belief systems, nationalism and Marxism. Now we face a similar global challenge from Islam, which opposes Judaism in Israel, Hinduism in India, Buddhism in South East Asia, Christianity in Europe and America and modernism in the whole advanced world. We certainly cannot say that all religious influences are benign; al-Qaeda is a religious cult, but a perverted one.
Religion turned William Wilberforce into a Protestant saint, but Wahhabism has turned Osama bin Laden into a devil.
Read it all.