In the last few days PM Cameron has started to make utterances on Britain as a Christian Nation, most likely because he wants to 'moralise' his economic policies at a time when the Church of England is criticising him over growing levels of poverty and the dependence on Food Banks more and more British citizens are having
On this Polly Toynbee, one of the most stupid and boringly partisan columnists in the British media, prattles forth in The Guardian,
'It's mostly toe-curling stuff. Alastair Campbell never gave better advice than in warning politicians off doing God: it's horrible to behold. Sincere or not, they become as sounding brass and tinkling cymbals, as did Cameron talking of "our saviour"'True, but the politician he gave that advice to most was Tony Blair whose entire time in office was marked by an evangelical zeal and kitschy uplift. By comparison Cameron seems to be quite moderate in 'doing God', though he has decided to start bringing God in order to bolster his moral credentials.
Toynbee warbles on,
'At a time of anti-Muslim attacks, when Islamist extremism is feared for its terrorist potential, Cameron's "Christian country" is soaked in white nationalist significance'.No it isn't. The most fervent Christians are often from Afro-Carribean and African British citizens who keep alive inner city churches and chapels.Moreover, at the present time, 2014, 'Islamist extremism' is not feared as much as it was under Blair in the early part of the last decade. This is guilt fuelled politics enlivened by a weird racial obsession.
'He has great verbal agility in sounding eminently moderate and reasonable while planting darker ideas. Behind a harmless love for country churches is a whiff of Lynton Crosby's culture war politics'.That's one reason why it is better to keep an established C of E. It tends to warn governments about the unethical effect of their policies. The alternative is to allow more 'privatised' faith groups and US style hucters to start to dominate the tone and direction of politics.
Asked in the 2011 census "What is your religion?", 59% said Christian – surprisingly few as most people saw it as a question of culture rather than belief.There is no reason why is should not be a question of culture, unless Toynbee thinks that secular humanists and atheists should be on some universal mission of conversion to persuade people to proclaim they are atheists on the census. It's curious Toynbee is so obsessed with beliefs.
'Take schools, where a third are under religious control. They take many fewer free-school-meals pupils and pews near good C of E schools swell unnaturally with new parents. Selection makes them popular, yet even so a majority want them abolished'.England has a free society. The case would have to be for removing funding from faith schools and not for a majoritarian form of coercion in which schools that are disliked are abolished. A majority could well want a mosque demolished or closed down in their town.
Toynbee clearly has an authoritarian outlook. The reason C of E schools thrive is because they are better at teaching subjects that comprehensives. The best thing to do is to try and raise standards in these failing schools instead of trying to level down in the name of abstract ideals of equality.
'Like all humanity, the religious are both good and bad. The C of E is good on food banks, bad on sex and death. Faith makes people no more virtuous, but nor do rationalists claim any moral superiority. Pogroms, inquisitions, jihadist terror and religious massacres can be matched death for death with the secular horrors of Pol Pot, Hitler or Stalin'.That is not borne out by Toynbee's belief in the majoritarian popular will in opposing or for abolishing faith schools. This bland generalisation ignores the fact that communism was often both both rationalistic and pseudo-religious. Nazism was a pseudo-religion and its ideologues despised Judeo-Christian ethics.
'The danger is where absolute belief in universal truths, religious or secular, permits no doubt. Politicians do well to stay clear of the realm of revealed truth. Cameron will win back few voters by evangelising for Britain as a "Christian country"'Cameron is not claiming he has any absolute belief in universal truths. He has explictly rejected doctrinal correctness. It was Blair with his missionary zeal to use military force to liberate the globe from tyranny ( one supported by a good number of militant atheists and liberal leftists in Britain ) who held to that creed.