Humanist think-tank blast ‘a secular witch-hunt’ against Pope Ratzinger

TAKE a very deep breath before you read this. A press release just received from the humanist think-tank, the Institute of Ideas, is not a windup.

The Institute accuses fellow secularists of engaging in:

A New Atheist witch-hunt – in stark contrast to their own professed views on tolerance.

Speaking to launch a series of religion-themed debates at this year’s Battle of Ideas festival, Institute of Ideas Director Claire Fox said:

Clare Fox

While many reacted with horror at France and Belgium with their intolerant ban on the burqa, the response of some secular campaigners shows that such demonization of religious groups is alive and kicking in the UK.

The Institute argues:

Hysterical, oft-repeated arguments such as that the Pope is ‘a leader of the world’s largest paedophile ring’  have more in common with contemporary heresy-hunting than the free-thinking spirit of Enlightenment secularism.

Fox added:

There are many reasons to criticise religious leaders, and plenty are coming from within the Church itself, but secularists really should take the opportunity to remind themselves of the Enlightenment values they claim to stand for –  such as tolerance, freedom of thought and conscience and a human being as a rational subject – rather than focusing on what they hate about the Church and, by extension, Catholics.

Fox was speaking at the launch a series of religion-themed debates at this year’s Battle of Ideas festival, which aims to:

Create a more clear-thinking and rational debate on the role religion plays in a secular society.

The festival features a range of debates across the UK and beyond on the question of secular tolerance and religious freedom.

One Battle of Ideas debate to be held at the Royal College of Art, London, will be The Catholic Church: more sinned against the sinner? where humanist lawyer (and Catholic-born) John Fitzpatrick and US-based libertarian commentator Wendy Kaminer will be joined by humanist philosopher Peter Cave and Catholic commentator Austen Ivereigh.

I received the press release shortly after a British woman, Sue Cox, who was raped as a child by a priest, told ITV news how outraged she was by Ratzinger’s visit. She said she had three reasons to oppose the state visit:

As an abuse victim, the proud mother of a gay son, and a taxpayer.