How to make the UK a secular state

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Discussion by: RobertCallan316
There’s not many things that I can say that I’m not proud of being a British citizen. This country has done me well as a 19 year old athiest, but the one thing that deeply saddens me is that we are not a secular state, and still have bishops of the church of England having a say in issues that should be kept separate from them. What can the British people who believe this to be wrong do to try and put a stop to this so we can truly say that we promote reasonable thinking and in the UK?

27 COMMENTS

  1. Until QE2 relinquishes ‘fidei defensor’ its almost impossible as she is held in such high regard.
    Her woo-believing son will follow in her footsteps as demanded by tradition I guess.
    Still, be not discouraged- mmurray has it right. Also, there have been on line petitions which are
    the easy/lazy way to do your bit…

  2. Robert – you are 19 – be patient. Christianity will continue to decline in the UK. But you are directing your concern in the wrong direction. I wouldn’t be so worried about the C of E and bishops in the House of Lords or whether or not the monarch is the Defender of the Faith – our concern ought to be the rise and influence of Islam in the UK. When you are middle-aged (and I’ll be dead), that wretched religion will have got a grip in our land and we shall never be rid of it.

  3. I do not see why a Bill to establish the principle of separation of church and state cannot be aimed at. In the UK this would mean in particular the disestablishment of the Church of England as the state religion. If enough people supported this principle and the introduction of such a Bill to Parliament and enough parliamentarians supported the Bill, the Queen, long may she reign over us, could remain “Defensor Fidei”, but the church that she heads and whose faith she defends would cease to be the organ of state religion and would be removed from government – no more bishops in the House of Lords, and no more state funds paid for the upkeep of the Anglican clergy, and so on. The Queen’s Anglicanism would then be her private choice.

  4. I think Britain & in general, Western Europe is moving in the right direction. The two potential threats to an otherwise bright future for Britain would be rising levels of third world influence on culture & the increased jingoism & xenophobia as reflected by increase in popularity for parties like UKIP. I guess the later is a response to the former.

    One shouldn’t be proud of what one’s ancestors have achieved. But one shouldn’t forget their achievements as well.

    1. Remember the suffragettes
      …when the mullas and the hindus try to push their misogyny
      …when RCC/C of E act like bullies treating our friends & family as second class citizens

    2. Remember Turing & Eddington
      …when the faiths try to push their hatred & homophobic dogma

    3. Remember Darwin & Huxley
      …when the faiths try to stop us in our pursuit of truth

    4. Remember Bertrand Russell & Christopher Hitchens
      …when dogma & petty jingoism takes central stage in public policy

    Stand on the shoulders of giants, you have more of them than most of us :)

  5. I particularly like comments #1, #2 and #5, but the crux of the matter is, what are you prepared to do about it?

    It is all well and good saying what you want and demanding it from your political representatives, but there is no substitution for becoming the leading voice in the field you wish to influence. Obviously, we cannot all do that, but it is not for the lack of opportunity. Myself, I will be running for councillor in either my local or county elections in May this year. I have no idea how successful my campaign will be, but I am sure that in getting the word out to people I know I am making a bigger impact on the electorate than any party political wonk that you could hope to have represent you.

    You appear to know what you want, make a stand and explain your position to the largest number of people that will listen. It’s hard work, but imagine the satisfaction of garnering even a minority share of the vote. It will make it all worthwhile.

  6. Steady, persistent political (and financial) pressure.

    As mmurray hints, join the BHA and NSS. Donate to organisations who are putting on the pressure. At 19 you are probably not rich, so let older/richer people make the big donations, but if every secular teenager in the UK donated a fiver a year it all adds up.

    Write to your MP whenever these issues come up on the news. Talk to your friends about the issues. Some of them possibly still but “Christian” on the census form because their parents baptised them. I calculated if trends continue, it will be 13.5 years before the “nones” equal “Christians” on the census. Help make it happen 3.5 years early in the 2021 census.

    Challenge “Christian” friends about what they actually believe. You don’t have to be aggressive. They probably haven’t even thought about it. Once they start actually thinking it tends to unravel (but If they are hard core, then it probably isn’t worth the frustration).

    They way things are going I think the religious game will be up in the UK by the time you are 40. Assume it is a 21 year long campaign of steadily wearing them down.

  7. The biggest stumbling block is general apathy or ignorance among the British people. Most people just don’t think about religious influence in schools and parliament – they just take it for granted that it’s a part of British life. However, things are moving in the right direction and the law generally supports secularism. Bit by bit, religious privileges are being removed whenever they are challenged. We just need to stay focused. Most British people have little or know interest in religion; they are neither for nor against it. So they don’t object to the removal of religious privilege, even if they are not interested in campaigning on the issue.

  8. Hi Robert,

    It is my view (and I think that of RD) that the good old CofE is about as good as a religion can get. It is generally benign and when it emerges to challenge or defend some political or cultural policy, it does so politely and with good will. Just recently, it has become a bit more vociferous, which I attribute to us “angry atheists” on one side and the pressure it is under to defend Christianity in Britain from Islam.

    I’m not even sure that technically the CofE is an official state religion. Most likely, as we have no constitution, we depend on precedent and the connection of Queen to Church, Queen to Parliament and therefore Parliament to Church. We have also been anti-catholic in our history for political reasons, preferring on the whole, to side with northern Europe v the evil and threatening (Catholic) empires of Spain and/or France. Someone could help us out there.

    But what I would do, as a first step, is draw up a list of every way in which the Church plays a part in our daily lives – as Chuch, as educator, as landowner, as lawmaker etc. It will be more than most people think and will be a good starting point for a discussion about whether or not they should continue to have automatic rights in these areas. It is also important for our general campaign as a lot of uninterested Brits will have no idea how deeply the Church is rooted into our society.

  9. one thing that deeply saddens me is that we are not a secular state, and still have bishops of the church of England having a say in issues that should be kept separate from them.

    Hmm, when I was 19 I was sad about things like not having a girlfriend, not being tall, not being a professional footballer and so on. I’m not sure whether worry or clap at the fact that today’s 19-year-olds are sad that we don’t live in a 100% secular state. Either way, there is something comical about it.

    The truth is that there are many issues that are a lot more unreasonable and a lot more damaging to our society than having a few silly old men dressed in purple muttering into their beards. I won’t detail them here because it’s probably considered a form of hate speech, especially on this left-wing liberal site. Suffice it to say that taking a fresh look at mass immigration, the benefit culture, Islamists and women’s rights would make a huge difference to life in the UK. Putting bishops out to grass would have almost no effect other than making us atheists grin for a while.

  10. In reply to #10 by GPWC:

    It is my view (and I think that of RD) that the good old CofE is about as good as a religion can get. It is generally benign and when it emerges to challenge or defend some political or cultural policy, it does so politely and with good will.

    It’s been said that Catholics lose their faith, Anglicans just can’t remember where they left it.

    I too have a bit of a soft spot for the Church of England. It’s quite posh (one gets the feeling that if at a formal dinner at Lambeth Palace the subject of gay marriage were raised there would be a moment of uncomfortable silence and then the conversation would move swiftly on to other things, but if someone used the wrong item of silverware all hell would break loose), yet it seems to personify the English character: it’s ever so slightly apologetic about itself; it gives the impression it would just rather not be there; ambiguously camp, a bit eccentric, lacking the Celtic fury that characterises religion in Scotland and Ireland. It makes one think of Margaret Rutherford furiously pedaling a bicycle on her way to meet Alastair Sim, or of the Python boys in vicars’ vestments and fishnet stockings (or maybe that was judges). Basically this sort of thing.

    I don’t get the feeling of revulsion from the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury that Pope Benedict elicits in me. The latter seems genuinely horrible, the former just a bit vague. I wouldn’t care to put it to the test but I imagine if I left my young children in the charge of Rowan Williams for an afternoon, when I returned they’d probably be okay; whereas if I deposited them at the Vatican for the day, what I’d be handed when I went back to collect them would be a bag of semen-covered bones, hair and offal bearing the tag “your children”.

    ~

    Edit: Hello again to Keith. I wondered what had happened to you. Are you still pretending to be a right winger instead of the Trotskyist I think you are? You must have been away too long if this you think this is a place for left wingers. I sometimes feel like I’m on the EDL or BNP website.

  11. Having been brought up a Catholic I am envious of anyone, like Richard, brought up in the C of E and left with a kind of affection for its wooly tolerance. If you have to be a Christian join the C of E because it doesn’t take religion too seriously, you just have to be a decent chap! We ex-Catholics, and many non-conformists carry the scars for the rest of our lives.

  12. In reply to #12 by Katy Cordeth:

    Edit: Hello again to Keith. I wondered what had happened to you. Are you still pretending to be a right winger instead of the Trotskyist I think you are? You must have been away too long if this you think this is a place for left wingers. I sometimes feel like I’m on the EDL or BNP website.

    Hi Katy. You’re right, I have been away a long time. Have you missed me?

    If it’s true what you say that this site has turned into a hot bed of right-wing extremism then maybe I’ll come back more often. After watching a documentary about them, my impression is that most EDL and BNP members are thugs and morons. Even so, this doesn’t mean that I don’t agree with some of their views. I recently watched Nick Griffin on Newsnight being sneered at by Jeremy Paxman. I was all ready to sneer along with Pax but to my surprise, I actually agreed with everything Nick Griffin said. To me none of what he said was beyond the pale. It was actually quite sensible. He even came across as being quite personable, so perhaps I had been wrong in accepting the liberal media’s view of him at face value. I’ll try and learn a lesson from that: to make up my own mind rather than letting The Guardian and the BBC tell me what to think.

    Several years ago richarddawkins.net was always the first site I came to when I switched on my computer and I was a regular commenter right from the start (2006). But in the end I was, and still am, so convinced of the rightness of atheism that there seemed little point in either reading or writing any more about it. Instead I started looking into things I wasn’t so sure about, like politics, something I knew nothing about.

    But apart from this, a lot of the comments had become little more than mutual back-slapping from people who were just as sure of their atheism as I was. Slowly I found myself wanting to attack the smugness of it all rather than join in the general self-congratulations so I left. But once in a while I come back for nostalgia’s sake. Thanks for commenting on my presence.

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  14. You still have a freakin’ Queen.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WpMHRkIkjWY

    ‘What kind of Dark Ages nonsense is that? Do you have wizards and fairies too?’

    What endows royalty? Divine Right? Superior bloodline? How much money is spent on that pomp and imperialist identity? A secular state is a concept of The Enlightenment, so to be a secular nation is to abandon the parasitic institution of monarchy. Drop the crown, the worship and fanfare of hemophiliacs.

    The monarchy is an exercise in irrational thinking and worship. It is nothing but authority and tradition for its own sake.

  15. Thank you moderators for your kind reminder. Discussions must go straight and remain on track, just like a train, I know.

    My view of the influence of bishops in British lives is similar to that of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, namely that atheists and Christians have to work together to fight Islam and Islamism. By the way, if anyone can show me where Islam ends and Islamism begins, or how to tell a Muslim from an Islamist then I would be grateful. Perhaps an Islamist is someone who flies planes into buildings and a moderate Muslim is someone who hasn’t yet…Sorry, must keep the train on the tracks.

    I think atheists who believe that we alone can defeat Islam are deluded. The C of E is the best religion of a bad lot. Unless weakening its (already limited) power also weakens that of Islam then I’m against it. We might be sweeping away Islam’s main rival, just as the democratic movement of the Arab Spring cleared the way for the Muslim Brotherhood. Whether Christianity serves as a bulwark against the Islamisation of Europe or whether it is facilitating its rise by making us more amenable to the presence of religion in public life I find hard to tell. Maybe someone can let me know which they think is more likely and why.

    Bishops may be annoying but at least they don’t want to chop off our heads and they seem to have got over the impulse to burn heretics. If retaining Christianity results in the diminution of Islam’s power, then I would be happy for the bishops, those silly old fools, to keep the little power that they have.

  16. Yeah its a big problem when your taxes go to religous schools, and its hard to talk about the danger of Islam. Its even worse in other countries like the Neatherlands. They actually put you on trial there for talking about islam even thought they are a secular state. People wish to be multi cultural, and have open arms. Yet the dangers of islam are prevelent in there own countires. People say well what about the other democratic muslim states? I say what about them? If they arent under sharia then good for them. That means they have learned the dangers of theocracy. But even when there is no theocracy does that mean that there is no danger? Sweden, Paris, and the Neatherlands have places where you cant even enter if your not a muslim. People say this means im anti muslim. But I think there is a problem with all religouns. How can you have a country where you have theists harrassing non theists in the army?

  17. There are various things we can do.

    Join the campaigns for secularism by joining the National Secular Society and/or the British Humanist Association. If you can, donate money which will help fund campaigns.

    Vote for those parties who stand for secularism.

    Write letters to the goverment and newspapers.

    Highlight the matter with friends, family, work collegues. This will help raise conciousness of the problem and may get more people on board to help fight the fight.

    Create you’re own campaign posters, videos and articles to help raise awareness.

  18. RobertCallan316

    What can the British people who believe this to be wrong do to try and put a stop to this?

    Lots of things we can do based on our individual talents, but an absolute baseline is to join the organizations Michael links to in comment 2. Most of the huge, inbuilt, institutionalized advantage that religious organizations have comes about simply through being organizations, rather than the collection of like-minded individuals we currently are. Through traditions and rituals relating to baptism, communion, marriage etc the major churches are able to claim memberships of millions — even if most of the “members” they claim don’t recognize any affiliation with them — while the National Secular Society currently has something like 10,000 members. It’s very simple: the more members the NSS and BHA can claim to speak for, the more seriously secular views will be taken at the highest levels where policy is formed and decisions get made. Add your power to their elbows.

  19. How true and how worrying!!

    In reply to #4 by Graham1:

    Robert – you are 19 – be patient. Christianity will continue to decline in the UK. But you are directing your concern in the wrong direction. I wouldn’t be so worried about the C of E and bishops in the House of Lords or whether or not the monarch is the Defender of the Faith – our concern ought to be the rise and influence of Islam in the UK. When you are middle-aged (and I’ll be dead), that wretched religion will have got a grip in our land and we shall never be rid of it.

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  21. Firstly, if you think about it, the country is more safeguarded against Islam if it is secular than if it subscribes to an official religion.
    Secondly, its ironic that the CofE representatives in Politics generally are more honest and pragmatic than the creeps we vote into power. If all faiths were akin to CofE i wouldn’t be so irritated by religion

  22. As an American I don’t understand the appeal of the British monarchy. Sure it’s a sweet deal if you happen to be titled nobility but if you’re a “commoner” what good does it do you? The queen isn’t going to invite you to Buckingham Palace for tea and crumpets. Why are so many otherwise intelligent people so willing to buy into a value system that places them at such a disadvantage?

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