David Cameron osculates the rump of faith

After Tony Blair, I thought that government osculation of religious rumps would cease, but prime minister David Cameron, it seems is up to the same old tricks.  According to Britain’s National Secular Society, he’s bending over backwards to praise Christianity:

Prime Minister David Cameron held yet another reception at Downing Street for religious leaders this week.

In an effort to build bridges after the controversy over his proposals to introduce same-sex marriage, Cameron said he was “looking forward to the enthronement of the new Archbishop of Canterbury”. He said the inauguration of the new pope had been “a great week for Christians”.

He told the religious big-wigs: “This government does care about faith. It does care about the institutions of faith, and it does want you to stand up and oppose aggressive secularisation.”

But does it care about non-faith? Apparently not, since it opposes “aggressive secularization,” whatever that is.

But Cameron seems to privilege one faith over others:

The prime minister reminded his audience that in a “difficult budget” today, the government had reaffirmed its commitment to increasing overseas aid. He said he’d raised religious freedom on visits to Egypt and Pakistan. “Wherever we go, we stand up for the right of Christians to practice their faith,” he said. . . .

The prime minister said he viewed Easter as the most important Christian festival.

“It’s all about, for me, the triumph of life over death,” he said. “Which in politics is always useful.”

Ba-BOOM! He’ll be here all year folks (which is unfortunate).

h/t: Gattina

21 Comments

  1. NWalsh
    Posted March 22, 2013 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    We have a nutter in charge here in Canada too. He just declared a new department headed by the minister of religious freedom. UGHH.

    • Mary Canada
      Posted March 22, 2013 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

      Yes, quite interesting and with a $5 million budget ‘to start’.

    • Dave
      Posted March 22, 2013 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

      Reminds me of the Ministry of Silly Walks (and about as useful).

  2. Brygida Berse
    Posted March 22, 2013 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    Well, since in the United Kingdom there is no separation of church and state (as the British sovereign is also the supreme governor of the Church of England), I wouldn’t expect anything else from the prime minister.

    • BigBob
      Posted March 22, 2013 at 10:16 am | Permalink

      Agreed, what else was he supposed to do? The Prime Minister, (not just Cameron or Blair, but any PM) is obliged to hold these receptions for all kinds of odd-ball organisations from time to time, including the church. Nothing new there. “looking forward to the enthronement of the new Archbishop of Canterbury”? Probably. He has to crawl to these people because they and their views still matter, even in this day and age.
      “we stand up for the right of Christians to practice their faith” – that’s probably because it’s the established church in Britland.
      To be honest, the NSS piece reads like it was written by someone who parachuted in minutes before. Downing Street does this all the time.
      However, the government “does want [them] to stand up and oppose aggressive secularisation”. Now that I object to. If that becomes official policy, and secularisation is to be discouraged, then we have an issue and that really would be news.
      Bob(Big)

      • Posted March 22, 2013 at 10:29 am | Permalink

        The Prime Minister … is obliged to hold these receptions …

        No he isn’t, which organisations the PM chooses to meet with is up to him, and is thus revealling.

        He has to crawl to these people because they and their views still matter

        Exactly, whereas presumably Cameron doesn’t care so much about the views of the non-religious and secularists (who he labels “militant”).

        Downing Street does this all the time.

        Which is exactly the problem. Now, when was the last time a PM went out of his way to say something positive about the non-religious and those in favour of secularism?

        • Posted March 22, 2013 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

          In fact, Cameron was redressing a balance by hosting this reception, as PM receptions for other faiths were already established.

          Which doesn’t excuse his expressed sentiments here.

          (Or having Baroness Warsi in the Cabinet as Minister for Faith and Communities.)

          Perhaps we should petition him to have a reception for “nones” (on Darwin Day?). But I wouldn’t hold my breath… 

          /@

      • Veroxitatis
        Posted March 22, 2013 at 11:41 am | Permalink

        “Britland” — Not strictly true. The Church of England is established only in England. On the other hand, the official who presides at the opening of the annual General Assembly of the Church of Scotland is the Lord High Commissioner who is for the time being the Regent and personal representative of HM The Queen. She rather likes to keep it in house. Recent Lords High Commissioners have been the Sovereign in person, Prince Charles as Duke of Rothesay, the Duke of York and the Princess Royal.

  3. Dominic
    Posted March 22, 2013 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    I find it hard to believe that Cameron really believes (???), but he is a politician as that last sentence shows, so anything he can do to keep in with his Tory core is important.

    • Mike Lee
      Posted March 25, 2013 at 6:52 am | Permalink

      Cynical opportunism – a common practice of politicians around the world….

  4. DrBrydon
    Posted March 22, 2013 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    It’s always easy points for a head of government to cow-tow to the religious. It will be as long as religion is generally seen as Good, and secularism is misunderstood as being anti-religion and, therefore, Bad. There are two different issues with secularization here: 1) there is a failure to understand what secular (or religion neutral) government is, and 2) a bias in favor of religion based upon the belief that it is a source of good morals and behavior. The UK, as pointed out, continues to be priest-ridden.

    To the extent that we continue to move to reinforce individual rights by supporting issues like gay marriage and abortion rights, which relgions tend to decry, it will become harder for politicians to mouth platitudes about religion.

  5. KP
    Posted March 22, 2013 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    Well, he makes Obama’s occasional pandering to faith look pretty superficial.

  6. Posted March 22, 2013 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    I’m always slightly surprised that my fellow atheists see it as odd that their leaders should pay great respect to the religion of their countries. Why wouldn’t they? Religious people are at least a substantial minority in most places; which premier, or president wouldn’t try to speak nicely to them? Grovelling? Well, it will always seem that way to us, just as Christians always imagine they’re persecuted (and Cameron is quite right to protest about their real persecution in the countries like Egypt and Sudan; atheists would be persecuted too except that, on the whole, they stay silent).
    I hate the Tories as much as anyone, but to criticize the PM for doffing his hat to our god-fearing compatriots seems a little feeble.
    I don’t think that Cameron is a god-botherer, he doesn’t talk religion (except when he has to) and is not someone to do a Blair. Like most Brits he simply doesn’t care about it, or if he does (also British) he keeps it to himself. And, of course, he’s just pissed them all off most royally by allowing, even promoting, gay marriage.
    He’s a politician. He brown-noses. So what?

    • Nick Evans
      Posted March 22, 2013 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

      Quite. Politician panders to 60% of voters. On the weeks the Archbishop of Canterbury – effective head of England’s established church – was ‘enthroned’ what would one expect any PM to do?

      Given that his Government is currently legislating for gay marriage, I’m inclined to give this ceremonial stuff a pass.

      • Posted March 23, 2013 at 3:42 am | Permalink

        Stonyground:
        The vast majority of those 60% are Christian in name only. They celebrate the most important event in the Christian calendar by eating chocolate.

  7. Veroxitatis
    Posted March 22, 2013 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    I have to confess I was unaware of the verb “osculate”, Jerry, being more inclined to the Anglo Saxon where such matters are concerned. Great thing about this site is that one learns something new every day.

  8. E.A. Blair
    Posted March 22, 2013 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    There is one thing that Cameron was right about:

    “The prime minister said he viewed Easter as the most important Christian festival.”

    Easter (which, ironically, takes its English language name from a Pagan Germanic goddess) is the central event of the various Christian cults denominations since it is the act that supposedly redeemed humankind (not, however, that you’d know it since Christianity continues to consider people to be nothing but sin-filled scumbags).

    • Posted March 22, 2013 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

      “Easter (which, ironically, takes its English language name from a Pagan Germanic goddess)… ” — Well, according to Bede… 

      /@

      • E.A. Blair
        Posted March 22, 2013 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

        Actually, the derivation is indirect; it’s pretty well established by both etymologists and historical linguists (fields in which I happen to have degrees) that the English/Germanic “Easter” is directly derived not from the name of the goddess Ēostre , but the month of April, which, in Old English, was Ēosturmōnaþ (which itself was named after the goddess, and was the month in which Easter most commonly was observed). Remember that words similar to “Easter” are only used in Germanic languages; elsewhere, the name is derived from Latin “Pascha”. Although Bede’s sources are often sketchy, the derivation was also attested by Jakob Grimm.

  9. CP
    Posted March 22, 2013 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

    UK politics is so less dominated by religion than in the US. In a Guardian interview before he became Prime Minister, Cameron said: “I am a sort of typical member of the Church of England. As Boris Johnson [a famous UK politician and Current Mayor of London] once said, his religious faith is a bit like the reception for Magic FM in the Chilterns: it sort of comes and goes. That sums up a lot of people in the Church of England. We are racked with doubts, but sort of fundamentally believe, but don’t sort of wear it on our sleeves or make too much of it. I think that is sort of where I am.”

    This is more religion as a longstanding but not dominant component of UK conservatism as the Church of England is a part of the UK establishment that conservatives traditionally exist to defend. Indeed there is an old joke: “Are you religios?”. “No, I’m C of E”.

    The good news is that the Liberal Democrat Deputy Prime Minister – it is a coalition government – is an out atheist. And maintaining 0.7% of GDP going to overseas aid despite conservative opposition is a significant achievement of the coalition.


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