Monday, 26 December 2011


This letter is published in today's Leicester Mercury:
Christianity: Cameron's Wrong 
David Cameron's speech on December 16 about Christianity is deeply worrying for those of us, including many Christians, who are working together to promote the shared values and sense of community that we need. 
It misrepresents the past and shows no understanding of the present. It might be said in excuse that it was put together to please a particular audience, Anglican clergy, on a particular occasion, the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, but I fear that it is all "spin" in pursuance of a personal fantasy which, if realised, would be to the detriment of us all. He links the Bible with parliamentary democracy, but the Church has often been opposed to democracy. 
In the 19th century it opposed the extension of voting rights and the right of elected MPs to sit in parliament regardless of belief; it opposed freedom of expression, of religion and of belief; it opposed the introduction of state schools free of Church control; it opposed access to universities, and, importantly for women, it opposed publications about birth control. 
History must not be twisted, and its proper acknowledgement by members of the Church gives reassurance that we are being dealt with fairly by decent human beings and can move on together – we get similar assurance from the revulsion expressed by Catholics at the abuse of children by some clerics. 
Cameron says we need values: of course we do, and Christianity has much to contribute as have other religions. But the surest way to fail to promote these values is to tie them to a privileged religion. Out of practicality, in a country as diverse as ours and where most people are not religious, values must be based on our common humanity. 
He tries to create a bogey man of a neutral secular society where anything goes, implying that only Christianity will save us. This is cheap: we have a big task ahead building a good society. It will involve upbringing, education, law, and business, and to succeed it must be a society that both cares for its members and makes them responsible active members; a society where life is measured by well-being and community, not just GDP, profit, and markets – it will need us all to contribute. 
And it must be said here that we are not a Christian country: we are a country that belongs to all who live here and where all share equally in deciding its future. 
That brings me to my final, and vital, point: are we not making too much of religious identity? 
Someone's religion does not tell us everything about them – we all have many interests and affiliations that link us. Are we not in danger of using heritages that should enrich us to make boxes that separate us? 
Allan Hayes, director, Leicester Secular Society.

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