In a time where faith appears to be waning and secularism is on the rise, a newly published report commissioned by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson has highlighted the need for improving Britons’ understanding of religion and safeguarding faith in the country.
Titled “Does government do God?,” the independent review underscores the importance of engaging with religious communities and addressing the challenges posed by an increasingly secularized landscape.
The title of the report is a nod to a memorable remark made during the tenure of former Prime Minister Tony Blair, where his top spin doctor cautioned against converting to his wife’s Catholicism, suggesting that the British government “doesn’t do God.” Although Blair eventually converted after leaving office, the phrase has lingered in public consciousness.
Recognizing the significance of religion in society, Boris Johnson appointed Colin Bloom, a former director of a Conservative Party evangelical group, to lead the review in 2019. Bloom’s task was to explore how the government could effectively connect with faith communities and promote a better understanding of religion among the British public.
The report, published four years after its initiation, highlights several key findings. First and foremost, it emphasizes the urgent need to enhance religious literacy among the general population. It reveals a lack of knowledge and understanding about various faith traditions, including the major world religions, which can hinder social cohesion and lead to misunderstandings. The review calls for educational reforms that prioritize religious education and equip individuals with the tools to engage in informed dialogue.
Furthermore, the report acknowledges the challenges faced by religious communities in a society where secularism is gaining ground. It emphasizes the need for robust legal protections to safeguard the rights and freedoms of individuals to practice their faith without discrimination or prejudice. The review suggests that existing legislation should be strengthened to ensure that religious beliefs are respected and accommodated within the public sphere.
In addition to legal protections, the report calls for greater recognition of the positive contributions made by religious communities. It highlights the important role faith groups play in promoting social cohesion, providing welfare services, and contributing to the public good. The review recommends that the government actively engage with faith organizations and involve them in policy discussions, ensuring their voices are heard and their expertise utilized.
The publication of this report comes at a time when Britain is witnessing a decline in religious affiliation and an increase in secularization. While the coronation of King Charles III may give the impression that faith still holds sway in the country, the review’s findings underscore the need for a concerted effort to improve religious knowledge and protect the rights of individuals to practice their faith.