'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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Cover Supervisor Needed Nottingham/Derbyshire

£3360 - £16800 per annum: Randstad Education Nottingham: Cover Supervisor requ...

English Teacher

£6720 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Nottingham: Urgently Required. En...

Supply teachers needed in Cambridgeshire

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad are looking ...

Geography Teacher

£6720 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Nottingham: We are currently recr...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor’s Letter: The political arms race is underway

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
 

Common sense and cars don’t always mix

Hamish McRae
Brits who migrate to Costa del Sol more unhappy than those who stay at home

It's not always fun in the sun: Moving abroad does not guarantee happiness

Brits who migrate to Costa del Sol more unhappy than those who stay at home
Migrants in Britain a decade on: They came, they worked, they stayed in Lincolnshire

Migrants in Britain a decade on

They came, they worked, they stayed in Lincolnshire
Chris Addison on swapping politics for pillow talk

Chris Addison on swapping politics for pillow talk

The 'Thick of It' favourite thinks the romcom is an 'awful genre'. So why is he happy with a starring role in Sky Living's new Lake District-set series 'Trying Again'?
Why musicians play into their old age

Why musicians play into their old age

Nick Hasted looks at how they are driven by a burning desire to keep on entertaining fans despite risking ridicule
How can you tell a gentleman?

How can you tell a gentleman?

A list of public figures with gallant attributes by Country Life magazine throws a fascinating light on what it means to be a gentleman in the modern world
Pet a porter: posh pet pampering

Pet a porter: posh pet pampering

The duo behind Asos and Achica have launched a new venture offering haute couture to help make furry companions fashionable
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: The mutiny that sent a ripple of fear through the Empire

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

The mutiny that sent a ripple of fear through the Empire
Hot stuff: 10 best kettles

Hot stuff: 10 best kettles

Celebrate St George’s Day with a nice cup of tea. Now you just need to get the water boiled
Sam Wallace: Why Giggs is perfect fit as Manchester United boss... in the longer term

Sam Wallace

Why Ryan Giggs is perfect fit as Manchester United boss... in the longer term
Renaud Lavillenie: The sky's the limit for this pole vaulter's ambitions

Renaud Lavillenie: The sky's the limit for this pole vaulter's ambitions

Having smashed Sergei Bubka's 21-year-old record, the French phenomenon tells Simon Turnbull he can go higher
Through the screen: British Pathé opens its archives

Through the screen

British Pathé opens its archives
The man behind the papier mâché mask

Frank Sidebottom

The man behind the papier mâché mask
Chris Marker: Mystic film-maker with a Midas touch

Mystic film-maker with a Midas touch

Chris Marker retrospective is a revelation
Boston runs again: Thousands take to the streets for marathon as city honours dead and injured of last year's bombing

Boston runs again

Thousands of runners take to the streets as city honours dead of last year
40 years of fostering and still holding the babies (and with no plans to retire)

40 years of fostering and holding the babies

In their seventies and still working as specialist foster parents