*No* version of secularism is the neutral space it claims to be. Once we accept that, we can move on to more productive conversations.
“At the end of the 18th century, Frances war against the Catholic church reached its bloody conclusion. By Easter 1794, the same revolution that once proclaimed freedom of conscience had forcedly closed down the vast majority of Frances 40,000 churches. What began with the confiscation of church property and the smashing of crosses and chalices, ended with forced conversions and the slaughter of priests and nuns at the guillotine.
“It is in this period, the so-called Reign of Terror, that the modern English word terrorism deriving from the French terrorisme has its origins. Terror is nothing but prompt, severe, inflexible justice; it is therefore an emanation of virtue, argued Robespierre, in what now sounds like a sick press release from Islamic State. Over in the Vendée, those who remained loyal to their centuries-old faith were massacred in what historian Mark Levene has called an archetype of modern genocide. The systematic de-Christianisation of France was not the natural and inevitable collapse of sclerotic religion and the natural and inevitable rise of Enlightenment rationality. It was murderous, state-sponsored suppression.”