Major New Report by the National Secular Society: Rethinking Religion and Belief in Public Life

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‘The report says that Britain’s “drift away from Christianity” coupled with the rise in minority religions and increasing non-religiosity demands a “long term, sustainable settlement on the relationship between religion and the state”.

Rethinking religion and belief in public life: a manifesto for change has been sent to all MPs as part of a major drive by the Society to encourage policymakers and citizens of all faiths and none to find common cause in promoting principles of secularism.

It calls for Britain to evolve into a secular democracy with a clear separation between religion and state and criticises the prevailing multi-faithist approach as being “at odds with the increasing religious indifference” in Britain.

Terry Sanderson, National Secular Society president, said: “Vast swathes of the population are simply not interested in religion, it doesn’t play a part in their lives, but the state refuses to recognise this. Britain is now one of the most religiously diverse and, at the same time, non-religious nations in the world. Rather than burying its head in the sand, the state needs to respond to these fundamental cultural changes. Our report sets out constructive and specific proposals to fundamentally reform the role of religion in public life to ensure that every citizen can be treated fairly and valued equally, irrespective of their religious outlook.”‘

Source: http://www.secularism.org.uk/rethinking-religion-and-belief-i.html. Here you can also read, and endorse, the report.

In my forthcoming book I write that it is not just meant for readers who could be expected to sympathise with some or all of the theoretical starting points set out in the introduction, but also as a modest invitation precisely to dissenters to engage in a “respectful academic conversation” similar to what Founding Director of the Center for Christian Studies at Gordon College (now the Center for Faith and Inquiry) Harold Heie calls a “respectful political conversation”. Should this not, or no longer, be possible, then it will also prove difficult to uphold the ideal of a pluralistic public square as part of one’s democracy conception, as advocated in the book.

This is the fifth post in a new series introducing my forthcoming book on Constitutionalism, Democracy and Religious Freedom. To be Fully Human (Routledge, 2017).

For the first four posts, please see:

Symposium on Christian Democracy and America: ‘Can Christian Democracy Be America’s Next European Import?’

Journalist Ben Judah, Author of This is London (2016): ‘I Found Faith Everywhere’

The Washington Post on Why Religious Freedom Could Become the Major Religion Story of 2017

Book on Constitutionalism, Democracy and Religious Freedom. To Be Fully Human (Routledge) now available for pre-order

Respondent, The Atlantic Conversations on Religion and Public Life, St. George’s House, Windsor Castle (2007)

St. George's House

From the ‘Welcome to St. George’s House’:

‘This event is hosted by St George’s House in association with the Center of Theological Inquiry, Princeton. Our aim is to bring together a distinguished group of public leaders and scholars from the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and the United States of America to foster a trans-Atlantic dialogue on vital questions.

Our theme is topical, complex and challenging. We shall examine, for example:

– whether religion should enjoy any acknowledged role in the public sphere in a modern, pluralist democracy, or be confined to private observance;

– the potential conflict between deep-rooted tradition, tolerance of multi-cultural diversity, and freedom of expression and practice;

– whether the concepts of neutrality and even-handedness have any meaning when the State – any State – needs ethical and moral underpinning for its public values.

Many other important questions will certainly arise in debate. You are attending, not a formal Conference, but a Conversation. As always at St George’s House, all are encouraged – irrespective of any public role or responsibility – to think and speak freely and imaginatively and to be open to new ideas, secure in the knowledge that confidentiality is guaranteed. I hope that original, stimulating and potentially influential insights will emerge – and that the historic and beautiful environment of Windsor Castle will exert on you its special magic and ensure lasting happy memories of your stay.

Andrew Carter

Warden

St. George’s House.’

For the full programme, see:

https://www.secularism.org.uk/uploads/354684dc5b129a3305694252.pdf.