'Disaster' beckons for world without faith, warns Tony Blair

Former Prime Minister tells conference how 'obligation of humility is deeply important'

Share
Related Topics

"We don't do God," his spokesman, Alastair Campbell, insisted while he was Prime Minister. But since leaving office, Tony Blair has converted to Roman Catholicism, launched a faith foundation and yesterday gave his strongest endorsement of the church yet.

Speaking at a conference in London organised by the Holy Trinity Brompton Church, Mr Blair warned that a world without faith would be on a path towards "tragedy and disaster". He explained how his "journey of faith" began in choir school in County Durham at the age of 10 after his father Leo, a "convinced atheist", had suffered a serious stroke.

"The headmaster of the school called me into his study and he said 'I think we should kneel and say a prayer for your father'," said Mr Blair. "I said to him, 'I should tell you my father does not really believe in God'. I will never forget what he said to me – he just said to me 'but God believes in him, so let us kneel and pray'. That made a big impact on me."

Mr Blair has repeatedly come under criticism for his personal beliefs which were a continual source of anguish during his time in office. Reflecting on it last year, he said he was "too sensitive or too cautious", arriving at the conclusion that "if I started talking about religion, it was going to be difficult".

That self-doubt appeared to have vanished yesterday when, addressing the audience of 4,000, he said he believed that the sense of something "bigger and more important" was crucial for the health of society. "For a long period of time, what people thought was that as society became more developed and as we became more prosperous, that faith would be relegated, that it would become a kind of relic of the past," he said. "I think that essential obligation of humility for humanity is deeply important. It is what allows us to make progress, it is what keeps us from ideology or thought processes that then treat human beings as if they were secondary to some political purpose."

In his address, Mr Blair repeated a story of how, during his time in power, he had frequently thought of signing off his speech with "God bless Britain" but was talked out of the idea. "We had this debate on and off but finally one of the civil servants said in a very po-faced way 'I just remind you Prime Minister, this is not America' in this very disapproving tone, so I gave up."

Reflecting on the backlash he endured in the aftermath of sanctioning the Iraq war, he said there were some days he had not wanted to read the newspapers. He added that having teenage children had helped protect him from growing "hard" and "too tough" in the face of criticism. "I remember when I appeared on The Simpsons – this was when I thought I had done quite a lot as prime minister – one of my kids said to me 'you know, that is the first thing I have really been proud of'."

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Front end web developer - URGENT CONTRACT

£250 - £300 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT** Our...

Health & Social CareTeacher - Full time and Part time

£90 - £140 per day + Mileage and Expenses: Randstad Education Leeds: Sixth for...

History Teacher

£95 - £105 per day: Randstad Education Plymouth: Randstad Education Plymouth i...

SQL Developer - Cardiff - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits and bonus: Ashdown Group: SQL Developer -...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: Hislop the Younger, by-election polling and all about the olden days

John Rentoul
 

Letter from the Sub-Editor: Canada is seen as a peaceful nation, but violent crime isn’t as rare as you might think

Jeffrey Simpson
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?