Letter from the Deputy Editor: Does it really matter what our "official" religion is?


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The Independent Online


When David Cameron asserted in his Easter message last week that Britain was “a Christian country”, religious groups rushed to support him. Hindu Council UK said that it was “very comfortable” with the statement, and the Muslim Council of Britain agreed that the UK was a country with “deep historical and structural links” to Christianity.

But plenty of public figures stood up in disagreement. In an open letter they said that characterising the country as Christian would have a negative effect for politics and society, adding that it “fosters alienation and division in our society”. And Nick Clegg waded into the argument by calling for an end to the link between Church and state. But does it really matter what our “official” religion is?

For more than 1,400 years various forms of Christianity have been the dominant religion in what is now the UK. Different denominations have emerged from schisms over the centuries, probably the greatest of which occurred in the 16th century when Henry VIII rejected the supremacy of the Pope, leading to the founding of the Church of England.

The 2011 census revealed that 59.5 per cent of people living in the UK considered themselves Christian, although a subsequent YouGov poll found that just 29 per cent of people questioned described themselves as “religious”, while 65 per cent said they were not.

But religion aside, Britain is more multicultural than ever. These isles are home to many different faith communities, living in harmony, who do so much to make us a stronger country. Whatever your beliefs, surely that is more important.