Theos “Doing God” Report Recommendations a “Recipe for Disaster”

The Theos report was criticised today by The National Secular Society (NSS) as “a recipe for disaster”. Vice President of the NSS, Terry Sanderson, said:

“The ideas put forward in this Theos report are a recipe for disaster. This report is self-serving, self-deluding and a recommendation for the imposition of a new authoritarianism on an unwilling population. The idea that religion should play an even bigger part in the public arena than it does already is one that will bring a backlash. The British public does not want its life to be dictated by religious institutions, which it sees as nasty, small-minded and controlling.

“This antipathy manifests itself in many ways. The vast majority of the population have no connection with a church and neither do they want one. Church attendance has been in decline for sixty years and is forecast by Christian Research to decline to just 2% on an average Sunday by 2040. A Home Office Report shows religion ranked ninth in factors important to identity. If religious programmes are shown on terrestrial TV channels there is a mass exodus to digital channels (according to Ofcom); they have no interest in religion – christenings and church weddings are in steep decline. There is widespread resentment when religion tries to impose its will on to the general population – as was seen with reaction to the recent attempts to censor and ban plays, TV programmes and art exhibitions.

“Polls show that the majority don’t agree with faith schools, want voluntary euthanasia legalised, want the abortion laws kept liberal, don’t want to persecute homosexuals, and don’t want religion foisted on their children at school. Many religious groups want to impose the exact opposite.

“For all our sakes, religion must not be handed power. History has shown that it will inevitably abuse that power. Only last week the Catholic Church forced the government to back down on admissions quotas to improve cohesion in faith schools. The change has a potentially huge adverse implication for community relations in the long term. In the last few days, a Church of England amendment to the education bill to lift existing bans on discrimination against non-religious staff in publicly-funded ‘faith’ schools was forced through Parliament.

“When Ireland was a virtual theocracy – which was until relatively recently – we saw the emergence of grotesquely cruel ‘faith-based’ institutions like the Magdalene Laundries. Children were sexually abused by the clergy with impunity – the scale of which is only beginning to emerge now. The Church attempted to control every aspect of personal life and behaviour. We have had this experiment, it does not work, and this report should be treated with the suspicion and contempt it deserves.”

Mr Sanderson said that the emergence of the Islamic community in Britain as an assertive force was another reason to worry about giving power to religion. “The churches’ own statisticians predict that there will be more worshippers in mosques than in churches by 2040. Do the Christian churches really think that Islam will be happy for them to speak on their behalf, as they claim they are at the moment?

“We have the potential for serious religious conflict in this country. The authors of this report are living in the past if they think that giving more power to the churches will halt that. We must act to stop it now by ensuring that secularism is enshrined constitutionally. The ideas put forward in this Theos report are a recipe for disaster.”