Secularists attack Christianity as a “surrogate” for their real fear: radical Islam, the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury has suggested.
Dr Rowan Williams also said government initiatives tend to treat church vicars and Muslim imams as though they were the same, The Daily Telegraph reports.
And he criticised those who stereotype religious believers as either a “fanatic” who wants to subvert everyone to their agenda, or a “woolly liberal” who will agree to anything.
Dr Williams, who will step down from his position as Archbishop of Canterbury at the end of this year, was speaking at a church service in Surrey.
He was asked about the debate over secularism, “do you think that the real issue for them isn’t necessarily Christianity but actually radical Islam, that it is more of a reaction against radical Islam and we are a surrogate for that?”
He answered, “I think there is a lot of truth in [that]. It is the last decade that has seen the great rise in anxious secularism, a real suspicion of religion in public.
“And I think it is 9/11 that has brought that to a head. We are also in a culture where a lot of people simply don’t know how religions work.
“I sometimes think the problem with a lot of government initiatives is that they assume either that vicars are imams in dog collars or imams are vicars in turbans.
“[They assume] that there is one way of being religious – either you are a sort of committed fanatic who wants to subordinate the whole of society to your agenda or you are a sort of woolly liberal who can be persuaded to go along with whatever is happening in society.
“The Church isn’t either of those things”, he said, adding “it is the assembly of Christ’s friends with good news to share”.
But Dr Williams said the controversies surrounding secularism had led to a “stirring” at the grass roots of Christianity.
He said he was hopeful because he saw so many good and extraordinary things going on in local churches, saying the church is a place that people can trust.