A report on the British Academy series of public debates on faithby Sameer Rahim / May 19, 2016 / Leave a comment
Who cares if Britain isn’t a Christian country?
28th January 2016 in London
Opening the debate, Diarmaid MacCulloch, Professor of the History of the Church at Oxford, questioned whether Britain had ever been a unitary Christian country. At least since 1656, “these islands have been officially multicultural.” Catholics were a persecuted minority and Protestantism was divided. This required the kind of compromise that forms the basis of parliamentary democracy. The Church can act as a “referee” between faiths, he said, “despite the present idiocies of the Church of England’s leadership,” adding that on sexuality, church leadership has been “wooden” and “unimaginative.”
Iain McLean, Professor of Politics at the University of Oxford, said that British Christians often diverged from their leaders: 80 per cent support assisted suicide, for example, in line with the population; 47 per cent support same-sex marriages compared with 60 per cent of non-Christians. It’s just that “those who are opposed tend to be fervently so.”
Polly Toynbee, Guardian columnist and Vice President of the British Humanist Association, said she “welcomed the decline of religious belief.” Religious schools were “profoundly divisive.” The presence of bishops in the House of Lords “makes us the only theocracy in the west.” She objected to Radio 4’s Thought for the Day for taking only the “mild and sweet voices” of faith.
Mona Siddiqui (above), Professor of Islamic and Inter-religious Studies at the University of Edinburgh, contended that Britain is still largely Christian, even though “religion has lost its public hold.” Bu…