Final thoughts on our Christian country: why did they say it?

Here is the video of The Big Questions yesterday where Richard Dawkins, Jonathan Bartley and I defended secularism and argued this is not a Christian country. Here also is a video from earlier last week with me and Anne Atkins discussing the same issues on the BBC.

Looking back on the week I think there is one really important unanswered question: why have politicians from Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles to Baroness Warsi to the Prime Minister seen it as important and legitimate policy to declare that Britain is a Christian country and secularism is illiberal and intolerant?

I can think of three possibilities but welcome suggestions of any others:

1 It is an attempt to develop a Christian right that will be a future security for the Conservative party as the religious right is in the US. There are already Christian lobby groups in the UK which behave like those in the US and advance the same range of concerns (anti-choice, against assisted dying for terminally ill people, against comprehensive sex and relationship education for young people etc) which have been working with individual Conservative politicians.

2 They think that this message plays well to their already existing support base. (I know that, when we were last recruiting Conservative members of the All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group, many potential members were concerned that their own local parties would not like them to join, so certainly the perception that such bases are Christian by inclination if not by religion is strong).

3 They really believe it. They just can’t understand that most people in the UK don’t rely on religion generally or Christianity in particular for their values and do just fine. So, when they are searching for some unifying values to promote, in response to what they see as a values deficit in society, they can only resort to Christianity. I think this is the scariest interpretation as it means they really mean what they say rather than it just being tactical, and the threat of actual public policies based on their false beliefs is much greater.

Any other interpretations?


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