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

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

Kunal Dutta
Tuesday 15 May 2012 11:42
Comments

"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'."

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in