The first time I set eyes upon the glorious House of Lords chamber, in the summer of 2013, I was an ignorant tourist in the UK. With blissful awe I gazed on the golden decorations, the wooden benches, the leather seats, the red armrests. The red armrests which only seemed to be added to one bench. But the question why did not race through my fifteen-year old mind. Only much, much later did I find out the Bishops were granted those seats. The Bishops? Yes, the Bishops.
A Whitehouse Consultancy April 2015 survey found that 34% of 225 prospective parliamentary candidates (PPCs) contesting marginal seats describe themselves as atheists. More than four in ten PPCs (42%) have no religious denomination. The Green Party (49%) and Labour (48%) have the highest percentages of atheist candidates.
Fewer than four in ten (37%) of PPCs believe in a deity: 16% Church of England (of these, 41% were Conservatives), 12% Roman Catholic, 2% Jewish, 2% Buddhist, 2% Muslim and 3% other religions.
Chris Whitehouse, Chairman of the Whitehouse Consultancy, said:
“Given recent findings on Britain’s religious beliefs, it’s unsurprising that a majority of parliamentary candidates are either non-religious or atheist.”
Chris Street, President of Atheism UK, noted that:
“The April 2015 Whitehouse report does not identify individual PPCs.
After the last general election in June 2010, Atheism UK wrote to all 650 MPs about their religious beliefs. We asked ‘Are you Atheist, Agnostic, Religious (practising), Religious (lapsed) or Other?’. Only six of the twenty six MPs that responded said they were currently atheist. Atheism UK report suggested that ‘openly stating ones religious beliefs in the world of politics, where votes count, is still a delicate subject’.
Followers of Jesus Christ believe that every human being is created in the image of God. But we are not made in isolation. We belong together in a creation which should be cherished and not simply used and consumed. This is the starting point for the Church of England’s engagement with society, the nation and the world. All that we say here follows from this.
Human beings are not created or made; they have evolved. There is no creation; there are the laws of physics and there is evolution.
It is astonishing that, when every Church of England bishop claims to have long-since accepted evolution as a fact, the House of Bishops is still blatantly using the language of creationism.
It should also be noted that this “Pastoral Letter” is addressed to the “People and Parishes of the Church of England” – not to the public at large – and the People and Parishes of the Church of England are a dwindling and increasingly irrelevant rump.
A whopping 60% of 18-24 year olds have ‘no religion’ compared to 42% of the British. With each new generation, people are less and less religious, confirmed a February 2015 survey by YouGov. (Figure 1)
A 150 minute debate about the role of religion and belief in British public life is reviewed by Chris Street (President, Atheism UK, since June 2014). The House of Lords debate on Thursday 27th November 2014 was initiated by Lord Harries, a former Bishop of Oxford.