In December 2008 the Institute for Public policy Research published Faith in the Nation: Religion, identity andthe public realm in Britain today A collection of essays by the Archbishop of Westminster, the Chief Rabbi and other senior faith leaders ‘to express their views on Britishness, multiculturalism and the role of religion in the public realm. ‘
The executive summary describes the document as ‘timely’
A growing sense of antagonism between some religious voices and a chorus of liberal secularists in the media and elsewhere is spilling over into political debate on such topics as faith schools and human embryology, and has arguably had a stunting impact upon our understanding of the place of faith in democratic society….
Given the tense stand-off that has developed between ardent secularists and some members of the faith communities, and the neglected potential for discussion of faith and Britishness, we thought it important to promote a more sensitive and less polemical discussi0n of these issues. More dialogue of this sort needs to happen between the faith communities and different branches of government, as well as with the secular public culture at large
Although the collection itself misses ot on such engagement itself leaving it to an ippr writer to attempt an objective oversight (but with no engagement of non-religious identity fits into this vision of multicultural Britain. Indeed much of the document appears to be a defense of religion in modern Britain
Many of the faith leaders express concern about what they see as the emergence of a more aggressive and well-organised secularism in recent years. Murphy-O’Connor’s essay is especially critical of the way he believes that some secularists have come to caricature the role of religion. He writes that: ‘… religious belief of any kind tends now to be treated more as a private eccentricity than as the central and formative element in British society’. He laments the rise of a fundamentalist
streak within the secularist position, which, he suggests, is
as intolerant and damaging as religious fundamentalism: ‘the intolerance of liberal sceptics can be as repressive as the intolerance of the religious believers’.
According to the summary Murphy-O’Connor’ argues that ‘Such secularisation should strengthen and bind faith communities together.’ suggesting a worryingly defensive position that fails to seek engagement with people not in ‘faith communities’
Inderjit Singh,’contends that the concept of secularism has been transformed from a belief that in society no one religion should dominate, to one in which religious beliefs and convictions are said to offer nothing positive’ which is a fair assesment that offers some hope for a reimagined secular state that can be supported by such religious leaders.