I would have believed this in America, but in England? Granted, David Cameron wants to appeal to a faith-based constituency, but Britain isn’t as religious as the U.S., and when Cameron goes around touting God more often than Barack Obama, there’s something badly wrong.
And, according to the Guardian, Cameron’s gone way overboard. His explicit and publicly stated faith is detailed in a new piece at the site, “David Cameron: I am evangelical about Christian faith.” An excerpt:
David Cameron has declared himself an “evangelical” about his Christian faith as he criticised some non-believers for failing to grasp the role that religion can have in “helping people to have a moral code”.
In his third effort this week to highlight his own strong faith, the prime minister said he wanted to see a bigger role for religion in Britain as a Christian country and urged fellow believers to be more confident in spreading their views.
What’s scary is that Cameron is buying into the same fallacy that afflicts most Americans: it’s harder for atheists to be moral because they don’t have a “moral instinct” or moral code handed down from God:
The prime minister’s religious messages began last week with an Easter reception at Downing Street, at which he said religion had brought him his greatest moments of peace and claimed “Jesus invented the big society 2,000 years ago”.
He also released a videoed Easter message for the country, in which he talked about the “countless acts of kindness carried out by those who believe in and follow Christ”.
In a separate article for the Church Times, he argued that some atheists and agnostics did not understand that faith could be a “guide or a helpful prod in the right direction” towards morality.
While acknowledging many non-believers have a moral code and some Christians do not, he added: “People who advocate some sort of secular neutrality fail to grasp the consequences of that neutrality, or the role that faith can play in helping people to have a moral code.
“I believe we should be more confident about our status as a Christian country, more ambitious about expanding the role of faith-based organisations, and, frankly, more evangelical about a faith that compels us to get out there and make a difference to people’s lives.”
Yes, and some believers do not understand that faith can be a guide or malevolent prod in the wrong direction. Note, too, that Cameron sees missionizing as a duty, a God-sanctioned intrusion of religion into public life. If he kept his faith to himself, and didn’t use it as a guide for government action, it would be far better. But of course if you have a belief—an absolute belief—in God, and that’s wedded to a set of moral principles that you think derive from God, then it’s almost imperative for you to spread the Good News, in this case by making laws.
And it isn’t only Cameron:
Traditionally, UK political leaders have been more reticent than their American counterparts about religion, with Tony Blair’s former spin chief Alastair Campbell once famously proclaiming that New Labour did not “do God”. However, both Blair and Gordon Brown have always professed strong religious beliefs and Cameron has been clear that he is a churchgoer. In contrast, Nick Clegg is an atheist, while Ed Miliband on a trip to Jerusalem last week set out his desire to become the first Jewish prime minister, although he caused confusion by forgetting about Benjamin Disraeli.
“I have a particular faith. I describe myself as a Jewish atheist. I’m Jewish by birth origin and it’s part of who I am. I don’t believe in God, but I think faith is a really important thing for a lot of people,” the Labour leader said.
This is what reader Sastra calls “The Little People Argument”: we nonbelievers are smart enough and rational enough to reject religion, but it’s a great comfort for the Little People, so let us support it. Can anything get more condescending than this stand, which Dan Dennett calls “belief in belief”?
Why is this happening all of a sudden? According to the Guardian, this goddycoddling is an attempt to repair damaged relations with the Church of England, which has taken issue with Cameron’s stands on welfare (he wants it cut) and gay marriage (praise Ceiling Cat that he’s in favor of it). Regardless, it’s unseemly for a British Prime Minister to break tradition by being so open about his faith, and, especially, for insulting nonbelievers by claiming that they’re less likely to be moral.