And I am in contention for the Worst Pun In A Blogpost Title This Decade. But no matter.
I like Baroness Warsi. I've seen her often on television (I don't watch much, but it's usually politics and news when I do) and generally she talks sense and doesn't suffer fools. She's someone who appears to have got where she is on merit, rather than as a member of a quota. This week she is on an official visit to the Vatican, where she will address the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy - the first time in history that this body has been addressed by someone from outside the Vatican. And she's female. And she's of Asian origin. And she's a Muslim. I'd wager that the old duffers in the Academy won't know what's hit them.
"I say, Cardinal, that sunburnt chap's a funny shape ..."And what message is she bringing to the Mother Church after penetrating so deep into its mysogynistic and anti-enlightenment heart? Let the poor of the world control their own fertility so that they can climb out of poverty? Sell a few of those priceless works of art to fund a clean water project somewhere?
No. She's going to tell them we need more religion.
I'm probably best described as an agnostic, and certainly not a Christian. But I believe in freedom. That includes freedom of thought, and consequently of religion. None of us is so brilliant and wise that he knows all the answers, and while we all have the freedom to believe what we choose, there is hope for us as a species. There may be a Heaven; there may not. It may be full of beautiful virgins; it may be full of dull characters with harps looking holy and spending all their time praising stuff. The point is we don't know, and we will never know (as opposed to believe, not the same thing at all) until the final door closes and we are in Paradise of whatever flavour, or simply back out in the street with our pockets emptied and a bad taste in our mouths. Or nowhere, and not even aware that we are nowhere, because there is no-one there to be aware of anything.
"In order to encourage social harmony, people need to feel stronger in their religious identities, more confident in their beliefs," she is due to say.
"In practice this means individuals not diluting their faiths and nations not denying their religious heritages.
"If you take this thought to its conclusion then the idea you're left with is this: Europe needs to become more confident in its Christianity."
Now we all have beliefs about all sorts of things. We couldn't live without belief. I believe the sun will come up tomorrow, although I can't prove it. I believe that a certain combination of metallurgy, chemistry and physics will, on the application of a spark, get me to work tomorrow. If we didn't believe things, we'd never get anything done. A belief is not the truth, although it is a kind of 'working' truth - assumed to be true until proved otherwise. If I sit astride the XT tomorrow and thumb the starter, I believe it will take me to my place of employment. If it doesn't, but instead transforms itself into a rainbow-coloured hippo and starts singing The Marseillaise, then I will have a re-think. (And take the car, but that's beside the point.)
But beliefs aren't facts, and behaving as if they are is the root of all the trouble. We justify treating women, or black people, or gay people, as lesser beings because we don't believe, we know that God approves. The priest told us, and he got it from an old book, which was written by people who just knew, who were told by their God that it was true, in an endless recursive cycle back to where we started. The Islamic terrorist who blows up a building with a thousand souls inside does so, not because he believes that Allah wishes it, but because he knows that Allah wishes it. That doing otherwise would be contrary to everything he has ever been taught. He has no option. When you treat beliefs as facts, there is no room for any other interpretation.
The day we grow up and start to say "I believe what I believe, and I respect your right to do the same, and as long as we don't do any harm to each other in the process, we'll all get along fine, and the world will do what the world will do at the end of it all" is the day that the human race will start to move away from terrorism, war, torturing heretics, oppressing minorities, and hating folks just because they believe that a supernatural event which no-one actually saw occurred in a slightly different way.
So, Baroness Warsi, we don't need more religion in Europe. We don't need less either. We just need to shut up about it and stop assuming we know better than our neighbour what the truth is. And then live our lives as well as we can.
Religion has its place, and it's an honorable and vital place, in the human mind. It has no place in the making of laws which affect other people, or framing constitutions that govern whole countries, or of justifying wars that end with death and distress for people who may never have heard of your version of God.