'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

Primary Year 5 Teacher - Lambeth - September 2014

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates based on experience: Randstad E...

C# Client-Side Developer (JMS, Integration, WCF, ASP.NET, SQL)

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Client-Side...

Technology Teacher (Resistant Materials and Graphics)

£120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: We are urgently looking for an ex...

General Cover Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Randstad Education are looking for a qua...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Ashya King in hospital with his mother  

Ashya King: Breakdown in relations led to this PR fiasco

Paul Peachey
Jim Murphy, Shadow Secretary of State for International Development holds a carton of eggs during a speech to Better Together supporters  

When the course of history is on the line, democracy is a raw, vicious and filthy business

Matthew Norman
Chief inspector of GPs: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

Steve Field: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

The man charged with inspecting doctors explains why he may not be welcome in every surgery
Stolen youth: Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing

Stolen youth

Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing
Bob Willoughby: Hollywood's first behind the scenes photographer

Bob Willoughby: The reel deal

He was the photographer who brought documentary photojournalism to Hollywood, changing the way film stars would be portrayed for ever
Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

Scorsese in the director's chair with De Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
Angelina Jolie's wedding dress: made by Versace, designed by her children

Made by Versace, designed by her children

Angelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Anyone for pulled chicken?

Pulling chicks

Pulled pork has gone from being a US barbecue secret to a regular on supermarket shelves. Now KFC is trying to tempt us with a chicken version
9 best steam generator irons

9 best steam generator irons

To get through your ironing as swiftly as possible, invest in one of these efficient gadgets
England v Norway: Wayne Rooney admits England must ‘put on a show’ to regain faith

Rooney admits England must ‘put on a show’ to regain faith

New captain vows side will deliver for small Wembley crowd
‘We knew he was something special:’ Radamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant to Manchester United's star signing

‘We knew he was something special’

Radamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant to Manchester United's star signing
'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York