Theo Hobson Theo Hobson

In defence of Britain’s humanist values

In yesterday’s Guardian Giles Fraser dismisses Louise Casey’s report on social division. Its desire to ‘integrate’ communities is serving liberal capitalist ‘hegemony’. And he dismisses Sajid Javid’s call for all Britons to affirm ‘the shared values that make Britain great.’

This, says Fraser, ‘is actually another way of saying that all must be obliged to pay homage to the real god: the economy.Thank goodness there are communities that dissent from ‘the dominant model of middle-of-the-road liberal secular capitalism’. He concludes that Muslims should be thanked for maintaining ‘their religious convictions and way of life. They refuse all that nonsense about religion being a private matter. They stand strong against the elimination of diversity. And we are all immeasurably richer for their resistance. 

As usual, Fraser’s desire to knock ‘liberalism’ is excessive. Why should the shared values of the majority be dismissed as a mere veneer for capitalism? Why should we not be allowed to affirm our belief in human rights, equality before the law, religious liberty? Why should these not be seen as positive things? In my opinion, we should affirm our core common creed, which I call ‘secular humanism’ – not treat it as an empty sham. Yes, we must do so carefully, acknowledging that it is not simply superior to the claims of distinctive religious communities – which are generally the source of good humanist values. Yet nor should we be ashamed to affirm universal humanism, the British version of which is our common creed, if anything is.

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