Coffee House

Briefing: Britain — a Christian country?

22 April 2014

12:54 PM

22 April 2014

12:54 PM

Is Britain still a Christian country? There is no straightforward answer to that question, as David Cameron discovered to his cost this weekend. The ongoing row began with an article the Prime Minister wrote for the Church Times last week, arguing that Britain should not be ashamed of its Christian ethos:

‘I believe we should be more confident about our status as a Christian country, more ambitious about expanding the role of faith-based organisations, and, frankly, more evangelical about a faith that compels us to get out there and make a difference to people’s lives’

In response to this, fifty notable public figures — from Tim Minchin to Terry Pratchett — wrote to the Telegraph warning that the Prime Minister’s remarks will cause ‘alienation’. Alastair Campbell has even blogged he doesn’t think the PM is being sincere about ‘doing God’. Cameron is still trying to defend his remarks, while onlookers are scratching their heads about whether he is right.

In Westminster, the leading politicians are agreeing with Cameron. Ed Miliband was reported recently as also saying Britain is a ‘Christian country’. On Daybreak this morning, Nigel Farage agreed with the Prime Minister, saying: ‘I’ve been saying for years that Britain should be more muscular in its Christianity’. Nick Clegg has stayed quiet so far, although he stated before the last election that Christian values were ‘central’ to Liberal Democrat policies.

The British Social Attitudes survey has provided an insight into Britain’s social trends since 1983, including religion. According to last year’s survey, the number of people who state they belong to the Church of England has almost halved in recent decades; from 37 per cent in the late 1980s to 20 per cent last year. Most people now state they have ‘no religion’:

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Young people in particular are assumed to be more sceptical of religion, and polling from YouGov backs this up this notion. A majority do not affiliate themselves with any religion:

But nearly half either believe in God or some kind of ‘higher spiritual power’:

Tying in with the overall decline of religion, church attendance has also fallen. Since the first BSA, the number of people stating they attend a religious service at least once a month has dropped from 21 per cent to 15 per cent:

As Harry Cole argues, many parts of Britain’s constitution and political structures still have a Christian basis, hence why our leaders still consider us to be a Christian country. As the surveys above suggest, it’s not so clear outside of Westminster. Douglas Murray argued in last week’s Spectator that even atheists believe that our nation needs to have some kind of moral foundations. In this respect, the Prime Minister is right. Christianity continues to provide that for Britain.

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Show comments
  • Jackthesmilingblack

    18-29
    21-24
    Shouldn`t you be sorting that out, Seb?

  • Bonkim

    It would be right to say that Britain has an anglo-saxon protestant heritage – whether that is Christian or not – or whether Christianity as practised around the globe is true Christianity would be difficult to accept.

  • Radford_NG

    Jesus was a British national.His maternal grandmother,St.Ann,was a Cornish princess.That side of the family were sea traders who came here to buy tin.The 12 year old Jesus came here with his uncles;hence Blake’s poem`Jerusalem`:”And did those feet in ancient time /Walk upon England’s mountains green/And was the Holy Lamb of God in England’s pleasant pastures seen?”

    • Radford_NG

      This is known as :
      “The Matter of Britain”.

  • Conway

    Is that the first time Cameron has ever handled a drill? Did he have to ask “which way up does this thing go?”

    • Bonkim

      He is driving screws in.

  • cartimandua

    Well I tell you. I am working on creating a lovely little woodland area. I cannot plant it yet because we have Japanese Knotweed.
    You have to get the knotweed under control first you really really do and its not so very difficult.
    Just assert our values on gender equality, child protection, and a care for animal welfare
    Bob is indeed your uncle.

  • Tom M

    The photo above the article:
    Another nail Dave?

  • Tom M

    Whilst the polls suggesting that many people “have no religion” that doesn’t mean they don’t subscribe to Christian values of one kind or another.
    If the question was posed in a slightly different way drawing comparisons between the requirements of some other religion and Christianity I think you would find an awful lot of people supported Christian values without necessarily admitting to being religious.
    This only being a confirmation that Christianity is deeply embedded in our culture whether we admit to it or not.

    • SgtVimes

      But you are still presuming that the values you call Christian are exclusive to the Churches of England and Rome. As I’m sure murder was frowned upon in Pagan times could you not also argue that Christians are living by Pagan values?

      • cartimandua

        It wasn’t much “in pagan times”. One is left with the group survival mores of some (not all ) animals.

      • Tom M

        I’m presuming nothing of the sort. What I’m saying is that this country has been “brought up” for generations with Christian values. They are apparent everywhere in our culture. That these exist in other religions and cultures, no doubt true, is neither here nor there that’s not what was taught in this country.
        If I put my original point another way and pose a question asking people if they subscribed to mainly Christian values or Islamic values or Buddhist values I would be prepared to wager that most people would unequivocally say Christian and do so without claiming to be religious.

        • SgtVimes

          The question is where did those values come from? They must have existed before Christianity for them to be written down in the book of Exodus. In a thousand years will we be saying that everyone boils an egg according to Delia’s values because she put in a book something that people had been doing for centuries before hand?

          • cartimandua

            The values claim from an interplay between climate and the resulting social systems.
            Women were better off before Christianity in northern Europe.

  • SgtVimes

    There seems to be a lot of talk about British history and alien religions but that view into the past seems to stop at the point the alien religion of the church of Rome was foisted on a Pagan Britain. Had the Pope agreed to allow Henry VIII a divorce we would still be under the pervasive influence of the Vatican and all the ill that has bought its own community over the centuries.
    If the Prime Minister wishes to let us know what his faith is, so be it. What we need is a secular government to allow religious freedom. What would be nice would be an acknowledgement that compassion, morals and good works are not the exclusive preserve of those that attend a Christian ceremony on a Sunday.

    • cartimandua

      Where there is secular there is far more crime discord and violence because it means parity for all the sects even the worst. It is a utopian idea which actually encourages tribal conflict.

      • SgtVimes

        And a Government that aspires to one particular religion works so much better. Just look at that wonderland of peace and harmony we call the middle east.

        • cartimandua

          Only the C of E placeholds for all the values about individual worth we all take for granted.
          We developed this over centuries.
          Even “Tony” gets it that fundamentalism of any kind is a civilization killer.

          • SgtVimes

            Did those values exist in Britain before the reign of Henry VIII? Did they not exist before the Roman invasion? What about the rules in Deuteronomy about selling your daughters into slavery? When and who decided that was a non-starter? My issue is not that Christians do or do not display, in many cases, these values of common decency. It is that they are common values and should not be considered solely the property of the Christian church.

  • Frank

    “Notable public figures”??? You’re havin a larf.
    This is a very small storm whipped up in a very small teacup by something called the humanist society (arguably better called the Narcissist Atheist Group – NAG for short). Why any of the more intelligent signatories signed the letter is a mystery? Probably got overcome with the acute hysteria that comes if you are not always being noticed. Poor notable figures, at least Tachell got interviewed on TV, so I am sure he felt it was worth it.
    BTW I am sure that Polly Tonybee will want a full church memorial service when she dies!

    • DWWolds

      As soon as I see Poll’s name on anything my reflex action is to take the opposing view!

      • SgtVimes

        Doesn’t make her wrong.

        • Conway

          History would not appear to be on your side!

          • SgtVimes

            It may not be but the law of probability would suggest there is an equal chance of her being right or wrong this time.

        • DWWolds

          She is not even on the starting line when I comes to being right on virtually any subject.

  • Donafugata

    Enlightened attitudes have led many people to abandon Christianity which is fine but other, alien religions have been imported and are growing like bindweed.

    In the event of another crusade, this time to reconquer the UK, I know which side I will be on.

    • SgtVimes

      Christianity is an alien religion. Check your history.

      Are you from the George W Bush School of inappropriate use of metaphors?

  • fathomwest

    Well away from London Christianity is booming. Maybe not in the Church of England with their ‘leaders’ more concerned with women bishops and homosexuals than actual faith teaching.
    But we ARE a Christian Country and those fifty people who wrote to the Telegraph show their total ignorance of the history and constitution of this country.
    Mind you many, in the CofE, blame Major and his changing the law on Sunday opening which created the new Godless shopping malls which are now full to bursting every Sunday and religious holiday. Good Friday has lost its true meaning to many as has Easter Sunday.
    We need Christian religious assemblies in Schools a return to shops closed on Sundays and all public broadcasting companies to devote more than four hours each Sunday to Christian subjects, then perhaps people will return to the Lord.

    • SgtVimes

      I live away from London and the only church that seems to be thriving where I live is the Church of B&Q.

  • you_kid

    Church of England turnout is so low nowadays they now need to appoint the Secretary of State for Culture (an ex-banker who lost his job after the crisis?) a CHURCH commissioner ex officio. What a constitutional mess.

  • Denis_Cooper

    How unspeakably stupid to claim that this is still a Christian country when half the population now openly say that they have no religious belief at all, and many of the rest either have only weak Christian belief or they have non-Christian belief.

    And you’re only claiming this to support a man who in all probability has no sincere Christian belief himself, a shyster who is just hoping to pick up a few votes.

    • anncalba

      The culture of this country has been underpinned and shaped by Christianity for a thousand years. But, the political elite for the last 30 years or so, have done all they can to destroy any sense of what it means to be British, including denying the huge part Christianity has had in shaping what used to be our shared cultural identity. Discuss.

      • SgtVimes

        And the thousand years before that Britain was underpinned by Paganism.

        • anncalba

          As was most of the rest of the world. So what is your point?

          • SgtVimes

            My point is that it is incorrect to link common decency to the Christian religion and only the Christian religion. You don’t need to go to church once a week to display these values which existed in Britain before Christianity hit these shores.

  • swatnan

    Dave doing a bit of DIY on Easter Bank Holiday, like all the rest of us?
    Why not move Easter to May so that we all get to enjoy the Bank Holiday weather, with a trip to the seaside? And combine it with Mayday to celebrate Workers of the World?

  • Tom Tom

    Lynton Crosby gets Cameron to state the obvious in such a way they can get rebuttals from the Loony Tunes crew in media and gay rights such that the voters think Cameron is a man on principle. ROFL.

    If we did not have Loons like Pratchet, Terry Sanderson, Nepotic Dan Snow etc where would we be when we assert the world is not flat ?

  • Raw England

    I’ll tell you what we are: A White country.

    Founded by White people, built by White people, owned by White people and built upon White values.

    And yes, we’re also a Christian country, culturally.

    • Holly

      White people also beat up their wives/girlfriends, kill their children, rape, and fill our courts on a daily basis.
      White is nothing special, any more ‘godly, and is no different from any other colour….and NEVER will be!

      I reckon, if you jump down from that high horse your’e on, you will see that it is white people who have dumped us where we are today, and the fact that it was white Labour bods who set out to deliberately destroy the things you are so angry at ‘losing’, there were not many white voters did anything much to stop the rot…..
      Like booting Labour out much earlier!

      • cbayley

        Yes, supported by heavy migration of white people to brown countries.

      • Tom Tom

        Not true Holly, I don’t know any white people who beat up their wives or girlfriends, or throw acid in their faces, or engage in genital mutilation, honour killings, or shroud their wives in winding sheets…….but I can see you do…….what a sad life you lead

        • glurk

          I cant comment on the last four points but regarding the first, yes I do both know and know of women and men who are beaten by their male and female partners. The sanctity of a Christian or any religious marriage never did stop any of that.
          I dont live in a city but in the green uplands of Little England. We dont all have our heads parked up our ar5es.
          It would do the Churches and others good to realise they dont have the rights to morals, got out of frocks and curtains and joined the rest of us.
          Incidentally, I dont care if Cameron has a god or not but Im sure his god will make him suffer if he’s using religion as a marketing tool. I never thought any God would rate whats done by the human race anyway.
          Why dont we leave the Gods to their solitary, ritualised existences and leave them in the peace we are told they keep harping on about by people who seem to have the hot line to them.

          • telemachus

            glurk

            We have to propitiate the Gods

            Then the angel of the Lord called to Abraham and said, “I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”
            *
            Cameron wishes to take the Great Northern Cities of England from the reasonable party
            *
            Fat chance

            • glurk

              Last time I had anything to do with Leeds Parish Church they may well have agreed with you but there were only 6 in the congregation.Including the Choir.

          • Tom Tom

            “We dont all have our heads parked up our ar5es”

            Oh I’m sure you do !

            • glurk

              Only on saints days and the 21st wednesday after Epiphany

      • fathomwest

        Holly you may be right. They have all lost their Lord.

    • doctorfloyd

      Moronic!

    • zanzamander

      Christ was a Jew and he looked more like your Arabian/ME nomad of today – quite distinctly not a white fellow of your liking.

      • Tom Tom

        Christ was an Orthodox Jew and probably a Pharisee but he was also traded for a convicted murderer by his own people……..whoever said he needed to be white to affect the “cultural values” of the nation ?

      • Jackthesmilingblack

        He`s from the Middle East and he looks like a God-dammed hippy. The Fox Network would crucify him.

    • you_kid

      Jesus had blue eyes. Charlton Heston proved it beyond doubt.

      • arnoldo87

        And he truly was the “son of Gawd” – we have John Wayne’s word for it.

        • SgtVimes

          He wasn’t the messiah, he was a very naughty boy.

          • Kitty MLB

            Thats the point, as a tolerant and humorous
            country we can say that about Jesus, but
            say that about Muhammed and the end will
            be nigh.

    • fathomwest

      Well said, White people are still the vast majority within this country, although the BBC etc would have you believe otherwise. The number of Asian people on our television is certainly out of proportion to the racial mix. Why no Chinese or Polish people are represented is strange.

    • SgtVimes

      Christianity was bought over by bloody foreign invaders. We’re a Pagan country.

      I’d be interested to know how exactly our skin colour should be a source of pride.

    • Daidragon

      What exactly are ‘white’ values? As a welsh speaking Briton I consider all English as immigrants.

    • Jackthesmilingblack

      So what`s your favourite colour?
      Let me guess. White, right?

  • ButcombeMan

    It is very difficult to understand why Cameron is now saying what he is saying. His pushing re-definition of marriage has undermined the Christian cultural heritage of the UK, beyond repair. It was madness, it was not in any manifesto. It was dishonest.

    .

    • Realpolitik

      Really? How on earth is this difficult to understand? UKIP are closing in and he is adopting their ideology on a daily basis.

      • telemachus

        Farage is not a Christian
        In truth he is the embodiment of the antichrist

        • Realpolitik

          Not true; Farage is nothing like you.

          • telemachus

            Thank God

            • Blakenburg

              But you don’t know him !

            • Realpolitik

              I do.

    • Conway

      Dave will say anything if he thinks it will win him votes. Fortunately, the people are not fooled as easily now.

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