Addressing voters in a pre-General Election pastoral letter, C of E Archbishops said faith has a central role to play in politics and that:
Political responses to the problems of religiously-motivated violence and extremism, at home and overseas, must also recognise that solutions will not be found simply in further secularisation of the public realm.
Terry Sanderson, President of the National Secular Society, today hit back, saying:
This is as wrong-headed as it is possible to be. A secular response is the only response that will stop this horrendous violence.
More religion, more theology means more conflict. All these religious wars are based on disagreements over tiny matters of theological interpretation. Or so it seems to those of us looking at it from the outside.
The Church asserts that only it can provide the answer. The problem is that the Church is often at the heart of the problem.
We need to put theology back into church and keep it well away from politics. The harm it causes is clear for all the see. If only they could see it, the bishops would realise that secularism is the only way to protect religious minorities from their bullying, and sometimes murderous, larger cousins.
But such a vision seems not to penetrate the bubble surround the religious hierarchies of this country or any other. That is because most religions see themselves as the true guardians of power. They consider it their right and duty to run the world.
The Church of England’s attempt to insert further itself into politics is wrong and potentially dangerous. Its hey-day has passed and there are other challenger religions that will soon be able to make claims to being more important than Anglicanism in England.
We need to make sure religion and politics are separated, and there is still long way to go in this country to achieve that.
The letter also makes the case for more “religious literacy” in education. It says:
Contemporary politics needs to re-evaluate the importance of religious belief. The assumptions of secularism are not a reliable guide to the way the world works, nor will they enable us to understand the place of faith in other people’s lives.
This is the usual misrepresentation of secularism as being anti-religious. The NSS has proposed that religious education should be reformed to help children understand religion better as a social phenomenon and as something that is important to some people.
The much misused phrase ‘religious literacy’ is too often a cover for the religious to have even more influence in schools and – as at present – frequently misuse it as a platform for proselytising. What secularists want to see is a balanced and objective approach to religion, and that is the last thing single-faith schools want to see.
Hat tip: John Dowdle