Christianity in Public Life

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:17 pm on 11th March 2009.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Paul Goodman Paul Goodman Shadow Minister, Communities and Local Government 4:17 pm, 11th March 2009

I was ticking off three reasons for today's scepticism and hostility towards organised religion, including Christianity. I ticked off the rise of violent extremism and fundamentalism. The third reason is a general anti-establishment movement against religion, to which the hon. Member for Gateshead, East and Washington, West referred, when she mentioned the Jedi knights, which as she knows the 2001 census found—extraordinarily—to be the fifth-largest religious denomination in the UK.

As my hon. Friend Mr. Streeter said, Christian and religious believers obviously have no monopoly of virtue, and it would be deeply insulting to atheists, agnostics and people of no faith to suggest otherwise. He was quite right about that. However, I would simply observe, as a constituency Member of Parliament, as well as a Front-Bench Member, that if the faith institutions and Churches disappeared from my constituency tomorrow, much of the tapestry of civil society would simply unweave. The contribution of Churches and Christians, now and over the centuries, to schools, hospitals, charitable work in prisons and voluntary work generally, which many people have illustrated, has made Britain a better country, and continues to do so. If by an act of the imagination Christianity were removed from its place in the public sphere—a settled place that is respected, particularly in England—this country would be the poorer for it. I look forward to hearing what the Government have to say, in particular about their faith strategy, and once again I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Bedfordshire on securing the debate.