Alastair Campbell once famously proclaimed that Labour doesn’t ‘do God’, despite Tony Blair’s strong religious beliefs. And, until now, David Cameron appeared to have taken a leaf out of the spin chief’s book.
The Prime Minister has ditched that dictum by declaring that Britain should be “more confident” about its status as a Christian country, and that churches should play a greater role in society, because faith could be a “guide of a helpful prod in the right direction” towards morality.
In an article for the Church Times, he argued that churches are “vital partners” to politicians, who should draw on evangelical values to “change the world and make it a better place.”
Should politics and religion mix?
CASE FOR: Faith is good for society
First and foremost, it’s important to be clear that David Cameron is not attacking other faiths or non-believers. In his article he argues that being “confident” about Britain’s status as a Christian country doesn’t mean that Christians should look down on other religions or non-believers, and admits that some Christians don’t live by a moral code whereas many atheists and agnostics do. But Britain is a historically Christian country and part of our identity. This should be preserved.
There is nothing sinister in David Cameron’s address. Faith is important. It gives us strength in difficult times and can help us become better people. It drives charity and social action in society. It can improve Britain physically and morally. There should be no shame in standing up for beliefs which are ultimately meant to be good for civilisation.
The Prime Minister is simply buttressing Christian values – responsibility, hard work, charity, compassion, humility, love – which, if adhered to, would improve society. And it is his job to improve society. Where’s the harm in that?
CASE AGAINST: Politics and religion shouldn't mix
Britain is an increasingly secular country. In a 2013 British Social Attitudes survey, 48 per cent of respondents said they did not belong to a religion (compared to 32 per cent in 1983) and just 20 per cent said they belonged to the Church of England. This suggests a need to separate the church and the state.
What about the atheists, agnostics and those of other faiths? David Cameron has been tasked with leading an entire country. Giving weight to Christianity - a religion which certainly doesn't represent all of Britain - could alienate these people and may even cause them to be discriminated against.
Layering politics with a Christian agenda could also complicate difficult issues, such as abortion and same-sex marriages. If David Cameron openly endorses Christianity, there is a danger that laws will become biased towards Christian values.
Ultimately, politics affects every instance of our lives, whether we like it or not. We shouldn’t be forced to have to engage with a particular religion. Faith is a personal choice and it should be practiced in private.