Some poignant irony to be considered. The very nation that has been blurring the line between church and state for centuries now, forced to admit what all of us have known for a long time now- religion’s increasing anachronistic status in public life.
Separation of church and state should be a no-brainer in matters of constitutionalism, especially in this day of increasing multiculturalism. It makes sense, when a country contains a host of different people of different cultures and faiths, all falling under the authority of the state- it makes sense for the state to stay neutral in matters of religion.
And despite having a state religion and falling under the authority of the monarch; Britain has been growing increasingly de-Christianised over the past few decades, aided by a rise in atheism, humanism, and secularism- but also by the growth of other religions such as Islam.
A commission set up a couple of years ago to investigate the impact of religion on public life in Britain has released their results, and it is one that Christians in the UK might find a little hard to digest. The Commission on Religion and Belief in British Public Life , headed by former senior judge Barnoness Butler-Sloss, noted that Britain is no longer a Christian country, and that fact should reflect in British public life- which for so long has been run as a Christian country would be expected to run.
The Commission therefore recommended the scrapping of exclusive faith schools, as having schools selecting pupils based on belief serves as a means of social divisiveness.
This lies at the heart of one of Richard Dawkins’ biggest gripes about religion, which comes down to labelling children who are too young to know any better- as, say, Christian children or Muslim children. Putting children in faith schools segregates them from the other, and instils in them very early on that entrenched us vs. them mentality of religion that always leads one to look down on those not in the collective.
“It is in our view not clear that segregation of young people into faith schools has promoted greater cohesion or that it has not been socially divisive, leading to greater misunderstanding and tension.” the report writes.
“Selection by religion segregates children not only according to different religious heritage but also… by ethnicity and socio-economic background. This undermines equality of opportunity.”
The school also touched on another overtly Christian portion of public life, which is the requirement for daily themed Christian worships in all schools. This, without fail, would also alienate school children who aren’t Christian and might not wish to participate in this activity.
Another major recommendation is one which I also think atheists would massively enjoy, which is that the teaching of religion should be rapidly revolutionised. For eons only the positive aspects of religion has been taught, with teachers skirting over it’s sadly all too present negative aspects.
But religion, like most human constructs, can be and has been a force for both tremendous good and atrocious evil, and nobody is being helped by educating kids in a half-ass*d way that brushes over portions of the truth. Intellectual honesty demands being told everything, to make the eventual decision for kids as informed as possible.
The report noted that the contents of religious syllabi tended to portray “religions only in a good light, focusing on the role of religions in encouraging peace, harmony and caring for the poor and the environment, and omitting the role of religions in reinforcing stereotypes and prejudice around issues such as gender, s*xuality, ethnicity and race, and the attempts to use religion as a justification for terrorism.”
The report raised several other concerns with overtly Christian policies affecting public life, public life that should be fair for everyone, religious and non-religious alike. The report also notes why over the past few decades, Britain has grown remarkably non-Christian.
“Three striking trends in recent decades have revolutionised the landscape on which religion and belief in Britain meet and interact.
“The first is the increase in the number of people with non-religious beliefs and identities. The second is the decline in Christian affiliation, belief and practice and within this decline a shift in Christian affiliation that has meant that Anglicans no longer comprise a majority of Christians.
“The third is the increase in the number of people who have a religious affiliation but who are not Christian.
Needless to say, the Church of England is not very enthused with the report. A spokeswoman for the Church said the report perpetuates a stereotype that religion is declining in importance, and that the report has been hijacked by humanists.
Unfortunately, as a mere report that requires government to act on it, it is unlikely to see the light of day anytime soon. The Express reports that a source close to Education minister Nicky Morgan expects the report to receive very little consideration, as Morgan is one of the biggest champions of faith schools and anyone who thinks she is going to pay attention to these ridiculous recommendations is sorely misguided.”
The commission was set up by the Cambridge-based Woolf Institute, which studies relations between Christianity, Islam and Judaism- and is made up of members of all the major religions across the UK. Its patrons include the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.
The recommendations were reached via public consultations over the past two years.
Every modern country should have no state sponsored religion. That is what people deplore most about Jihadist groups, who want to impose Islamic law, Sharia, on everyone else. It’s wrong when Christians do it, and its wrong when Muslims do it as well. Recommendations to make public policies tolerant of all faiths and non-faiths should be not be seen as an outrage, as the Church of England is choosing to view it.