“Secularism is a principle that involves two basic propositions. The first is the strict separation of the state from religious institutions. The second is that people of different religions and beliefs are equal before the law.” National Secular Society 2014
When a religious institution is involved in government, as the Church of England and Presbyterian Church of Scotland are in British government, it both assumes religion to be an essential part of modern national identity, and privileges that religion and denomination above all others.
Humanists and many church leaders in the UK think this is out of date. In a country where those who don’t follow a religion is 50% and rising, and where we value diversity, separating the church from state – pulling Bishops out of the House of Lords for instance, and stopping religious institutions running schools – would foster a more cohesive society and put all faiths on a level playing field.
There is plenty of evidence that educating children separately on the basis of faith is socially divisive. Northern Ireland is one such case study.
Secularism holds out the vision of a society where children respect and learn about all the main faiths and philosophies, where there is keen interest in the history and expression of belief and its interplay in political, social and economic life, where individual freedom of conscience is upheld and celebrated.
And a society where people do engage in politics and challenge political decisions from an ethical position, whether religious or not, freed from the current situation where the Church of England’s formal involvement skews the debate.
Discover the National Secular Society including its page on ‘What is Secularism?’.
See how the BHA is campaigning for Religious Education (RE) to be reinvigorated so that all pupils learn about each other’s beliefs, including non-religious beliefs such as Humanism.