Religion in a multi-cultural society

We have some concerns about the phrase "multi-cultural society" because it could imply a society of difference. We prefer "a common culture to which we each contribute according to the rich variety of our backgrounds." However, we are not going to argue about it.

We support freedom of religion and freedom from religion.

We want everyone, including children, to make a free and informed choice about what to believe - after all, there is no gene for religion and you can't make a choice out of ignorance. We therefore support education about religion in schools. "Free" obviously means "without undue pressure".

Each year the British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey asks people about various aspects of their lives and it has become the main source of information for those which wish to see how attitudes change over time.

Shifting attitudes towards religion

BSA survey number 28:

In relation to those surveyed:

"Half (50%) do not regard themselves as belonging to a particular religion, while the largest proportion (20%) of religious affiliates belong to the Church of England. Nearly two thirds (64%) of those aged 18-24 do not belong to a religion, compared with 28% of those aged 65 and above."

"More than half (56%) of those who belong to or were brought up in a religion never attend religious services or meetings. Just 14% attend weekly."

BSA survey number 36:

"The past two decades have seen international conflict involving religion and domestic religious organisations putting themselves at odds with mainstream values. Against this backdrop, we compare religious identification, behaviour and belief among the British public. We find a dramatic decline in identification with Christian denominations, particularly the Church of England; a substantial increase in atheism and in self-description as 'very' or 'extremely' non-religious; and very low confidence in religious organisations, but tolerance of religious difference."

Despite the Church of England being the established church we are effectively a secular country.

This is a good thing because:

a secular country is the only country that guarantees religious freedom.

It is worth comparing this freedom in a secular country with the lack of freedom in a theocratic country such as Saudi Arabia or the way in which state policies are determined by dominant religions in some countries.

Ireland and Poland are excellent cases to examine. Ireland has rejected hundreds of years of dominance by the Roman Catholic Christian sect - as is clearly demonstrated by its changes of law to extend women's rights. Poland has recently passed laws to restrict women's rights under the influence of the increasingly dominant Roman Catholic Christian sect.

We live in a society where people have a wide variety of religious and non-religious world views and where everyone must be free to believe what they wish, and to practise what they wish, as long as:

  • they do not cause or call for harm to others,
  • they do not attempt to impose their world view on to others,
  • they allow everyone to make a free choice about being religious or not being religious.

This seems fair to us so we support a secular democracy where:

  • There is no established state religion.
  • Everyone is equal before the law, regardless of religion, belief or non-belief.
  • The judicial process is not hindered or replaced by religious codes or processes.
  • Freedom of expression is not restricted by religious considerations.
  • Religion plays no role in state-funded education, whether through religious affiliation of schools, curriculum setting, organised worship, religious instruction, pupil selection or employment practices.
  • The state does not express religious beliefs or preferences and does not intervene in the setting of religious doctrine.
  • The state does not engage in, fund or promote religious activities or practices.
  • There is freedom of belief, non-belief and to renounce or change religion.
  • Public and publicly-funded service provision does not discriminate on grounds of religion, belief or non-belief.
  • Individuals and groups are neither accorded privilege nor disadvantaged because of their religion, belief or non-belief.

We expect our elected representatives to declare any religious or non-religious affiliations that may influence their comments on topics under debate.