For the past two years, the “Commission on Religion and Belief in British Public Life” has been putting together a report on the proper role of religious in society. The 19-member committee, which included Andrew Copson of the British Humanist Association, was to make policy recommendations as well.
They issued their final report today, and it’s causing massive headaches for those who thrive on Christian privilege.
The report (which wasn’t available in full at the time I wrote this) makes clear that Britain is no longer a Christian country in any meaningful sense and should be systematically de-Christianized:
It says that the decline of churchgoing and the rise of Islam and other faiths mean a “new settlement” is needed for religion in the UK, giving more official influence to non-religious voices and those of non-Christian faiths.
The report, by the Commission on Religion and Belief in Public Life, claims that faith schools are “socially divisive” and says that the selection of children on the basis of their beliefs should be phased out.
The report backs moves [to] cut the number of Church of England bishops in the Lords and give places to imams, rabbis and other non-other non-Christian clerics as well as evangelical pastors.
There are currently 26 unelected bishops from the Church of England in the House of Lords.
The report also called attention to recent demographic changes. Specifically, it pointed out that there are more non-religious people in the country now than ever before, more religious people who are not Christian, and fewer people who claim any sort of Christian affiliation at all.
Given all that, why do Christians in the country have so much political and educational power? It’s a criticism many atheists there have been making for a long time and you have to feel good about seeing it put forth in such an official way.
Even the coronation of the next monarch didn’t escape notice:
The last coronation, of Elizabeth II in 1953, was an explicitly Christian ceremony in Westminster Abbey, with the monarch swearing to uphold Protestantism and protect the Church of England and its bishops and clergy. Tellingly, the queen has reigned over a significant decline in adherence to, and influence of, the established church.
The bigger question now, though, is whether any of these recommendations will actually be implemented. Right now, there’s nothing but backlash from those in power (hardly a surprise):
The Church of England said the report was a “sad waste” and had “fallen captive to liberal rationalism”.
A spokeswoman for the Church of England said: “The report is dominated by the old fashioned view that traditional religion is declining in importance and that non-adherence to a religion is the same as humanism or secularism.”
Of course, the report said nothing about the importance of religion (or lack thereof), only that people were no longer as pious as they used to be. Even those who are religious in Britain don’t necessarily subscribe to Christianity.
It’s worth noting that at least one non-theistic group wasn’t satisfied with the final report, only because they believed it didn’t go far enough:
The National Secular Society said the commission’s report failed to give due weight to the “religious indifference” that permeated British society. “What we have at the moment is a secularised country, but one still dominated by a disproportionate level of religious influence. This report would see that interference strengthened at all levels of society,” said executive director Keith Porteous Wood.
He added: “Disestablishing the Church of England should be a minimum ambition for a modern Britain in the 21st century.”
He has a point. Separation of church and state should be a given in the 21st century. To have a national religion at all is something of an anachronism at this point, isn’t it?
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Brian for the link)