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Will faith influence your vote?

13:53 UK time, Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Tony Blair's spokesman Alastair Campbell famously once said the prime minister didn't "do God" when talking to the media. Will religion influence your vote?

Paul Woolley, director of the Christian think-tank Theos, says that despite a commonly held view that British public life is becoming ever-more secular, parties had been "working hard to make inroads into faith-based communities and organisations".

David Cameron's "Big Society" includes a government working with voluntary and faith groups, Prime Minister Gordon Brown makes frequent references to the "moral compass" he inherited from his clergyman father and Nick Clegg has said that he is not an "active believer" but has "enormous respect" for those who are.

Will your faith - or lack of it - influence the way you vote? Do you think the politics and religion should mix? Do you relate better to leaders that share your faith?

Comments

Page 1 of 13

  • Comment number 1.

    Any candidate who starts talking about religion will most definitely not get my vote.

    If anyone thinks it's a good thing to mix religion and politics, you're welcome to go and live in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Israel, or some other such place where they do. Please don't impose it on us.

  • Comment number 2.

    If you have to justify your politics with faith, then clearly there is something wrong with them in the first place.

  • Comment number 3.

    Absolutely not. Religion and politics do not and should not be mixed.

    I am an agnostic; I don't know if the existence of a God can be proven or not. If I was a politician I would keep my beliefs to myself and certainly would not use them to influence voters.
    I will vote for the party whose policies I think can be implemented practically and will be beneifical to me, although having said that, if a politician started preaching, I think I would be rather put off.

  • Comment number 4.

    As I’m an atheist the only influence it'll have on my vote is that I won't be voting for the Christian People’s Alliance, otherwise no influence at all.

  • Comment number 5.

    As someone that is an athiest and believes everyone has the right to their own beliefs, we need parties that never confuse independent and objective law making with the interests of religion (or non-religion). I couldn't bring myself to vote for a party like the Tories that allow faith to over-influence so many key policies on equality and personal rights.

  • Comment number 6.

    No, politics and religion should be kept completely separate.

  • Comment number 7.

    Don't get me wrong I'm not religous myself, but i do respect anybody who keeps their faith in these secular times.

    Unlike many these days, I'm not an aggressive atheist, I feel no urge to attack believers.

    Having said that if any party tries to bring any kind of religon into this election they will automatically lose my vote.

    The British tradition is the the total seperation of church & state, we do things this way for a reason, because in the past religous disagreements have seriously threatened our society.

    For me Tony Blair came dsangerously close to crossing this line, and I read recently that one of the smaller parties is going to start printing the christian cross on all their literature (despite having fallen out with the C of E).

    That is a major step in the wrong direction and shows a total disregard for British history & traditions.

  • Comment number 8.

    Politics and religion should be kept well apart. I want my leaders to be guided by rational thought and the interests of all citizens, not by archaic scripts and narrow views. Look where Tony Blair's 'beliefs' got us.

  • Comment number 9.

    My lack of faith will have precisely no bearing on the way that I vote, nor do I think that it should. I'd rather have a politician who is competent and holds religious views that I don't necessarily agree with than one who isn't.

    I don't know or care whether the candidates in my constituency are Christian, Muslim, Atheist, Agnostic, Buddhist or followers of Imhotep, just as long as they do what they are elected to do.

  • Comment number 10.

    Being an atheist, I won't be voting for any party that profusely leans towards faith/s. I find religion tends to be exclusive rather than inclusive so feel that it has no place in politics, which affects everyone.

  • Comment number 11.

    Religion has no place in government. On the contrary, it is quite dangerous to allow any religious influence in government.

    That should be readily apparent, by the situation in the middle east, where religion rules.

  • Comment number 12.

    As things stand, faith will not affect the way I vote. If I was confronted by someone whose faith demanded sharia law, then it might well be affected.

    George Bush thought that God had told him that He was on his side when considering whether to go into Iraq. This I find extremely worrying.

    Faith and religion, I respect.

    Faith and religion being forced upon me - I'll vote the other way.

  • Comment number 13.

    Will religion affect my vote? Not in this election as I have seen no party broadcasting their religious views.

    But if ever a poltical party put itself up for election on the basis of their religion and associated religious rules and laws then it would affect my vote - I would vote for the non-religious party.

    Politics is an earthly medium, religion is more ethereal. The two should not mix. It is an error to suggest morals and religion are the same thing - they are obviously not. The continuing scandals involving the Roman Catholic clergy, the hypocracy of some muslim preachers are just a couple of examples on why religion and morals do not go together. There are numerous examples of 'God-fearing' politicans and religious 'leaders' of all types ignoring the teachings of their church by ignoring or redefining the meaning their respective scriptures as it suits them. Such abuse of religion is dangerous to everyone therefore keep religion and politics separate.

  • Comment number 14.

    God spoke to me and told me to vote for Gordon Brown and Labour as they wish to give away all worldly possessions to others.

    The problem is the worldly possessions the Labourites like to give away are the possesions belonging to others in the first place so I immediately converted to Atheism!

  • Comment number 15.

    As a Christian EVERYTHING I do is informed by my faith. My choice when I come to cast my vote is no different... but it isn't based on trivia like whether or not my chosen candidate happens to hold any faith, let alone the same one. It's based on the policies for which he or she stands and how well they accord with what I think Jesus would want.

    Poster seen in a church doing duty as a polling station: "You have come to mark your X - remember the one who died on a + for your salvation, and consider what He would have us do."

  • Comment number 16.

    I'm an atheist though that isn't hugely influential in my political views. I do think that politicians have been conditioned to be far too scared of religious bloc votes. In many cases this is a misplaced fear. Religious leaders like to throw their weight around, but they rarely politically represent the people they claim to.

    A good example is the Catholic church, the leaders of which advocate removing a woman's right to choose, restricting gay rights, and stopping funding for contraception services. Meanwhile lay Catholics overwhelmingly disagree with their leadership on all three issues, with opinion polls showing strong support for contraception services and gay rights, and significant support for abortion rights.

  • Comment number 17.

    Religion has no place in government. People are welcome to believe in whatever mythical beings they want but we shouldn't be using them to help make our laws.

  • Comment number 18.

    Try reading Hebrews chapter 11 from verse one for the answer to this question.

  • Comment number 19.

    There has been a lot of comment and time spent so far on the 'issues' and how they will be applied by the various party leaders. However, I would like to know the moral character of the leaders, and that invariably requires a religious stance. Morality is important, and we ignore it at our nation's peril. Morality is linked with faith. Why are we afraid of this debate? Our discussion is incomplete without it.

  • Comment number 20.

    Yes most definately it is the first and formost condition of my alligned vote.

    I think faith is probably the biggest issue in this election, but it is NOT religious faith.

    Thing is I dont have ANY faith in any of the 3 main partys or their leaders and the rest as far as I am concerned are just a bunch of off the head loonys.

    It is having faith in what is presented to us via the media, via rehearsed and practiced tv debates, vie researched manifestos/policys which are put forward purely to attain the most positive image.

    Ye who have little faith, come join the masses!!!

  • Comment number 21.

    If a politician speaks of religion I would assume them to be of less intelligence than I already do. Before you all take offence this is my reasoning-

    Anyone can believe in god. The most and least intelligent of us can have a belief in god (which is shown to decrease in frequency the more intelligent a person is). Belief in god requires no facts and so it is a belief according to what you are told (right or wrong).

    Not everyone can look at facts and reason intelligently based upon facts. It requires intelligence and reasoning skills which are completely unnecessary to believe in a/many god(s).

    The point I am making is that I wont vote for a leader who will believe what he is told without reasoning based on facts, I will vote for someone who can identify facts and reason on them. Religion does not mean qualified, the person must make good decisions.

    A slight tangent here- The BBC reported yesterday of an Iranian claric who blamed their recent earthquake on permiscuous women and that women are to cover themselves more so as to gain favour with god. This does not make a good leader.

  • Comment number 22.

    I would be less likely to vote for a politician who is a religious believer, and I certainly would not vote for one who frequently referred to 'God' in his or her speeches. I want to be represented by a politician who is rational and makes decisions based upon hard evidence, not a politician who has irrational beliefs and makes decisions based upon dogma and anachronistic doctrine. Religion is the root cause of, or greatly exacerbates, many of the problems in the world today - we need less religion, not more.

    Politicians should, of course, have a "moral compass" and act ethically, but that is a characteristic that is entirely independent of faith or religious belief - as recent events in the Catholic Church have demonstrated all too clearly.

  • Comment number 23.

    I'm just wondering how long it is until we have the comments saying "Oh, I see all the religion-bashers are out in force" or "Well done, BBC, publishing a topic to let all the atheists bash the believers again!".

    A tip in advance to theists, or even atheists, who are offended...
    What bothers most atheists and (apparently) turns them into such 'harbingers of hate' (yeah right) is when religion is forced upon people who have no desire for it and no belief in it themselves. This is exactly what happens when religion becomes a part of politics.

  • Comment number 24.

    Any candidate that mentions religion will not get my vote. Religion should play no part in how the goverment run this country

  • Comment number 25.

    I'm not interested in the religious beliefs of any politician.

    Their religion seems to be irrelevant to them when they're lying in Parliament and fiddling their expenses, therefore their religion is irrelevant to me as well.

  • Comment number 26.

    I don't like religion in politics. As an ignostic, I don't think rational policy should be swayed by faith. Be tolerant, sure, but the England I love isn't any religion.

  • Comment number 27.

    Why do religious people think they have some kind of monopoly on morality. As an atheist I have a lot of concerns about moral issues, and from how the church conducts itself I also have concerns about what they see as 'moral'.

    Some people see atheists as without morals as they do not have a moral 'guide'. I see religious people as hypocritical, as their morals are based on the promise of reward or punishment. If the only thing keeping you from doing immoral things (murder, rape, theft) is the belief that god will punish you, then how can you claim that these morals are your own? My morals are based on my personal judgement, and I keep myself in check.

    Religion mixing with politics is the path to madness.

  • Comment number 28.

    Superstion & fantasy should play no part in the administration of the UK in the 21st century, so any politician bringing it up will not get my vote. Mind you, the policies of some parties in this election are pure fantasy in themselves.

  • Comment number 29.

    All He asks for is for us to believe in Him and all will be OK. Sorry Gordon, it's not going to work this time. After 13 years of Labour it would be like asking a Scotsman to pass through the eye of a needle before he could get into Parliament.

  • Comment number 30.

    How can you vote for somebody whose decisions would be influenced by 'belief' and not by fact?

  • Comment number 31.

    Having seen the effect of 'God' in various guises on Politics around the world, my vote goes to a pragmatist not a fantasist.

  • Comment number 32.

    To mix religion and politics is to betray centuries of hard won human rights and civil liberties. We continue to profess secular democracy, yet large sums of tax-payers money are still used to fund 'faith-based' schools and religious organisations. Separation of church and state is essential for any democracy and a necessity for a society that respects individual’s rights.

    The Liberal Democrats seem to be doing themselves a disservice by not voicing these issues more loudly. If they were to push for real change in respect to “fairness” and creating a "fair" society they could secure a much larger secular/atheist vote and make a real change to better humanity.

  • Comment number 33.

    I get uncomfortable when I hear MPs talking about their faith (eg Ruth Kelly) when they should be representing their party and their constituents.
    Issues such as stem cell research, abortion and gay marriage should not be faith issues as far as I'm concerned.

  • Comment number 34.

    It's interesting how all the vitriolic and intolerant comments come from those who seem to think that people who have a faith should not be heard in society in any way at all.

  • Comment number 35.

    my faith as been destroyed when it is hard to hear english in my city

  • Comment number 36.

    As a Canadian, I live next to the colossus that is the United States, and have observed with trepidation the enormous influence the Christian right has on their politics. Freedom of worship (which must include freedom not to worship, or it is meaningless) is constantly assaulted across that country. Here in Canada, the influence of that demographic is much less strong, although there are pockets where it is significant, such as southern Alberta and the BC Fraser Valley (on the outskirts of Vancouver).

    Britons would be doing their democracy a serious disservice were they to allow the religious right to take a more active role in UK politics.

  • Comment number 37.

    Just look at America where revolting extreme right wing christian groups have to much influence on politics to see why we don't want those sort of people getting involved over here.

  • Comment number 38.

    At 2:29pm on 21 Apr 2010, Dr Malcolm Williams wrote:
    Try reading Hebrews chapter 11 from verse one for the answer to this question.

    ======
    Or you could just answer yes or no instead of wild goose chases

  • Comment number 39.

    If you're not capable of independent thought and have to rely on a 2000 year-old book of fairy tales to guide your political view, you probably don't deserve to have the vote.

  • Comment number 40.

    Religion is an intolerable evil in the world. Since I found out about Tony Blair's near-manic Christianity, my opinion of him sank even further. There is no place for an authority of the magnitude of God. If people want to believe, then so be it, but as for priests, churches, mosques, synagogues and any other temple or 'holy' person, they are utterly despicable and should be banned. Anyone who professes belief in these people and institutions is unfit for government.

  • Comment number 41.

    No it will not in this instance. I'm an atheist but dont care what any individual believes in, that is their choice. But if any candidate was pushing a religious agenda then i certainly would not vote for them for that reason alone.

  • Comment number 42.

    Hello to all the assertive atheists;
    I agree that views should not be imposed upon you - how about you making the same allowances in the other direction?
    Separation of state and religious institutions is too obviously correct to require debating.
    However, the driver for this debate is about individual conscience, not national institutions. To expect any individual to vote without regard to their own moral values is ludicrous - whether that individual be in a faith or not.
    The debate has been triggered by an increasingly vocal group who are getting themseleves organised in a way that is both legal and peaceful - the Christians. (Of which I am a member, to declare my interest).

    Nobody objects to all the other special interest parties and groupings getting their pennyworth in for the election - what's your beef with us?

    I take it that everybody likes a quiet church that doesn't get involved and stays irrelevant. Then you can rightly dismiss us. If we have the temerity to use the right to free speech, we are lambasted as above.

    Many people are agressively opposed to faith because it is seen as "causing all the wars". Without getting into that particular debate, it should however be noted that many of the great human advances, both moral and physical, come from people driven by faith. Without Wilberforce, when would the secular government have fought slavery? Without the protestant drive to get everyone to read the bible, when would literacy have become a right instead of a privelage? I could go on and on.
    My point is that individuals should have the right to make political points (non-violently) based on the individual's beliefs. Anything else and you are lining up against Martin Luther King and with his oppressors.

  • Comment number 43.

    I think faith will play a large part in the upcoming election. Millions will be praying that Brown is not elected for another term, to subject this once-great nation to further misery and catastrophically bad governance!!!! I pray that he is ejected unceremoniously from his position (to which he was NOT elected).

  • Comment number 44.

    What a person believes in will always affect the choice that is made, especially on moral issues. I will support a candidate or a party that comes nearest to a Biblical morality.

  • Comment number 45.

    Religion plus politics equals powder keg.

  • Comment number 46.

    DisgustedOfMitcham2 wrote:

    If anyone thinks it's a good thing to mix religion and politics, you're welcome to go and live in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Israel, or some other such place where they do. Please don't impose it on us.

    ###

    Actually, religion and politics have been closely mixed in this country since our parliamentary system was established. So you are too late.

  • Comment number 47.

    Will faith influence your vote?



    Religion is man-made, so the answer is NO!

  • Comment number 48.

    I find this article divisive, there does not seem to be any reason for it, other than to promote religion. There has been no talk of religion by the main parties and I am deeply suspicious of the BBC's intentions in their placement and promotion of this article, with it's 'carefully chosen' comments below (not this forum).
    Personally, I have no respect for religion and it's promotion of ignorance and I have pity for those brainwashed by it.
    Keep religion out of politics, AND SCHOOLS

  • Comment number 49.

    Christians are allowed to vote?!

  • Comment number 50.

    GC, Bury said: "None of them have policies that ... follow God's morals."

    I'm pleased none of the candidates follow god's "morals" (I'm assuming this is the god of the Bible) as I'm quite fond of wearing mixed fabrics, eating bacon and prawns and I'm not a huge fan of genocide, murder, rape and incest or being killed for being a rape victim or being gay.

    Call me old fashioned, but I don't want to live in a society in which we elect people who would spout such policies.

  • Comment number 51.

    Anybody who puts ancient superstitions and folk tales above real people in the real world doesn't deserve a vote.

  • Comment number 52.

    Don't do God... so it gives me yet another reason to vote for Clegg.

  • Comment number 53.

    There is an excellent example to the world as to why religion and politics shouldn't mix.

    And that example is Sarah Palin.

    Its an extreeme example, but would you sleep well knowing that someone who has expressed her desire to see the 'end of days' and the 'judgement'occur in her lifetime had access to the nuclear button?

  • Comment number 54.

    As Flying Spaghetti Monster follower, borderline Atheist, the first profession liar to mention the 'G' word or the 'J' word gets overlooked.

    Being a floating voter has never been so good!

    All hail the FSM and his noodley goodness.

  • Comment number 55.

    "Yes " As all the partys think they know every thing? and promise us heaven on earth in the old days? But today all the real power in the E.U. so its all down to mis -placed Faith . who ever gets in Government wont' mess up the country too bad ?and blame the other lot when things go wrong !!!!

  • Comment number 56.

    • 3. At 15:25 pm on 21 Apr 2010, Phillip of England wrote:
    The BBC should know better than to offer up an HYS on the topic of religion as its usually hijacked by militant atheists - In saying that though the BBC often publish some horrifically offensive posts attacking religion, especially Christianity. One would suspect the BBC of having and overtly anti-Christian agenda!



    So I am not holding out much hope for anything intelligent to be stated in this HYS - just the usual tirade of atheist bile.



    That said - I tend to base my voting, not on my religious beliefs, but on the policies of the prospective party. I then like to watch the various candidates and work out if they are sincere in their presentation, the level of conviction - basically, do I trust them. I didn't like tony Blair from the start, so i got that one right! I never voted for him and look what he and Labour have done to this country.



    As for faith and politics, as a number of people have stated i prefer the separation of religion and politics. As many have stated, faith is a private matter and i would be horrified if a political hopeful based his hope for political office and a deal made with God. i would expect his or her personal faith to be a private matter, not something for which they feel is a useful tool to garner more votes, something by which is deeply un-Christian.



    However, I would never vote for a politician that actively sought to penalise or mock faith in the hope to garner a few votes.



    I want balanced, honest and sincere politicians (I know, I laughed when I re-read that as well) who have the ability to empathise with all people, those with faith and those without faith.

  • Comment number 57.

    How can one possibly vote for someone who says he or she believes in god? Such smirking, lying cynicism is appalling; on the other hand, JUST in case they mean it, do we really want such a deluded person taking major decisions?

  • Comment number 58.

    I would like to think that it would , but sadly all the big three parties are utterly Godless and amoral. So the answer is , no.

  • Comment number 59.

    Hello, #21,
    You make your point forcibly but foolishly.
    You seem to be saying that belief in a faith requires no empirical evidence.
    In return, I would argue that maintaining an atheist or agnostic position is illustrative of mental blindness on a (literally) cosmic scale.
    To disbelieve in God, you have to believe some really improbable "facts":

    1) That the universe came into existence without help. Whether you go for 10 dimensions, or whatever scientific mumbo-jumbo holds your attention for now, ultimately you have to believe that something can pop into existence where once there was nothing. Sorry, but I don't believe in magic - obviously you do.
    2) That matter can become animate without help. Please refer to a wonderful chapter in Bill Bryson's Short History of Everything in which he describes the mechanism that would be required to achieve this for 1 protein molecule. The odds against this 1 molecule are so high that there simply has not been enough time (even 20 billion years) for this to happen by accident.

    There have been some really wonderful theories promulgated by scientists through the ages to explain the universe (And the daft ones believed by the church were non-biblical, too) - such as the universe being eternal and the earth being in the middle. And lets not forget the search for luminiferous ether while we're at it. Reminds me of the search for dark matter (When all you need to do is un-apply the laws of thermodynamics for a little; while the universe is being created).

    As far as I can see, atheists are not faithless - they believe in some really amazing impossibilities!

  • Comment number 60.

    I learned a new word yesterday - Laicism: 'the nonclerical, or secular, control of political and social institutions in a society'. As a Laicist I will be looking for leaders who actively deny the role of religion in government and will be ignoring any desperate enough to involve the mystical, spiritual and utterly intangible in their political pitch.

  • Comment number 61.

    Faith? I thought that was baserd on morals.

    The last year has shown us that 90% of MPs are morally bankrupt. God won't forgive them!

  • Comment number 62.

    Politicians tell enough fairy tales without religion coming in to play.

  • Comment number 63.

    All reference to Gods to be taken out of our laws, politics and insurance policies. Belief is personnal and can change throughout life. Organised Religion (clergy) is in my opinion an ancient tool of governance. As most voters can read and are educated can we consider this tool superseeded by laws of the land.
    That said if any of the candidates can prove "the Force" is strong with them would win a majority.

  • Comment number 64.

    Anyone who suggests that religion should be kept out of politics clearly doesn't understand what a religion is. It's not something which just requires its followers to go to a particular building once a week and carry out some specified ritual; it's something which governs how they live their lives, including what decisions they make in the course of their jobs, be that as MPs or anything else. If a candidate claims to be a Catholic, for example, but then votes in favour of a bill to legalise euthanasia, then they clearly aren't (I'm not saying that they would be wrong to vote in favour of it, just that they can't claim to be a Catholic since such a vote would support the diametrically opposite view to that held by the Catholic church).

    Any candidate is, of course, free to follow any religion or none, and free to declare which they do or don't follow during the campaign. Whether voters choose to take candidates' religious beliefs (or lack thereof) when deciding which to vote for is entirely up to them. Personally I wouldn't - if, for example, candidate A said "I'm a Christian, and because of that I hold stance X on this issue", candidate B said "I'm a Muslim, and because of that I hold stance Y on this issue" and candidate C said "I'm an atheist, and because of that I hold stance Z on this issue", I would cast my vote on the grounds of each candidate's stance, rather than on what that stance was based on.

  • Comment number 65.

    I have no problem with a politician espousing the tenets of the various faiths that represent a framework for a good, functioning society - ten commandment stuff like thou shalt not kill etc etc

    however, when it comes to championing "belief", I would be very wary of any politician who promotes their belief. By "virtue" of their belief in one faith or subset of a faith, all believers effectively exclude other believers as well as nonn-believers. Faith is not inclusive - quite the contrary. Believers represent their own belief set not those of the wider public. I want someone who will represent all constituents on an egalitarion basis.

    As a scot, I am deeply sceptical of Brown's much vaunted "values" based on his "son-of-the-manse" upbringing. In my book, a sheltered upbringing does not prepare people for the cut and thrust of the real world.

  • Comment number 66.

    As a Christian I cannot see anything in the teaching of Jesus nor in the actions of his disciples that even hint at the involvement of believers in the politics of this world.
    Christians believe Christ is their Lord and coming King. This leaves no room for active involvement in the politics of the kingdoms of this world. Believers are called to be "strangers and pilgrims" and to be "in the world" and "not of it".

  • Comment number 67.

    We have just imported the crass US style TV shows into our elections, lets not add the religious aspect as well.

    In large parts of America for example god is a big vote winner and finance provider of Politics. I suspect the founding fathers did not land of Plymouth rock to escape religious persecution, just to have it follow them and take steroids.

    Lets leave religion out of it, I can think of no country where it added more than it took.

  • Comment number 68.

    44. At 3:07pm on 21 Apr 2010, Tom Hill wrote:
    What a person believes in will always affect the choice that is made, especially on moral issues. I will support a candidate or a party that comes nearest to a Biblical morality.

    ------

    Define 'Biblical Morality'.

    I'm an atheist but I apreciate that most of my system of moral & ethical values are derrived from christianity.

    As someone who studies the ancient world I recognise that such attributes as charity, humility, mercy and particularly tolerance,were not always seen as virtues in the pre-christian world.

    However, 'Biblical Morality' surely must mean different things to different people. Is the emphasis on 'Love thy Neighbour' in which many of us seem to excell to a point that makes the modern church feel slightly threatened, or would it be more about the Old Testament smiting and trampling of our enemies?



  • Comment number 69.

    Check what parties stand for. The Christian Party is basically the BNP, with homophobia instead of racism. And they want to privatise the health service! I hope people read their policies before voting for them.

  • Comment number 70.

    It would be odd to separate my religion and politics unless I'm prepared to be inconsistent in both. How could I legitimately hold political views at odds with my religious convictions?

    While I agree not every political issue is a religious issue, and also that political issues affect people of all and no religion, it's unavoidable that there will be cases of conscience from time to time. In such cases I can do no better than make an informed decision and will give religious considerations priority.

    Christianity teaches that those who govern are to be prayed for (1Tim 2:2), so it seems only right that serious believers should vote for those most likely to promote Godly ends and govern without offence.

    Real freedom of religion has this consequence -I am tolerant of other religions and atheists, while opposing their political ends (as they oppose mine).

    In no way do we want to legislate religious practices (eg Sunday closing), but historically this country had a (perhaps nomiinal) Christian majority so it was democracy that delivered the superfical Christening in politics. It seems a lot of correspondents have missed this point.

  • Comment number 71.

    49. At 3:18pm on 21 Apr 2010, Tom wrote:
    Christians are allowed to vote?!

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

    No dont be silly - its not the right religion - any other religion can vote but not you, even though this is a christian country.

    But seriously - Religion and politics have proved to be volatile when mixed they should not encroach on the other

  • Comment number 72.

    Isn't life lovely when we let the atheists out? All those wonderfully gifted minds who have worked out the universe all on their little old selves. It's a wonder we need a general election when all we need is faith in this bunch of grey matter looking after us. No more wars, no more plagues, no more beads to rattle in our pockets, no more ugly spires obliterating our eye line. Just plain sailing knowing that if there is no hope in life then there is definitely no place to run for some light relief.

    Does a certain Mr Dawkins run the BBC by any chance?

  • Comment number 73.

    Hello #36 from Canada,

    I note with interest that you, a Canadian, think it inadvisable that the British allow an indigenous group, called Christians, to have a say in the democracy into which they were born.

    But you can, and that's all right.

    You obviously need to have these concepts of democracy, civil rights and free speech explained.

    Any while you're at it, give Canada back to the First Nation.

  • Comment number 74.

    TaniL wrote:

    "It's interesting how all the vitriolic and intolerant comments come from those who seem to think that people who have a faith should not be heard in society in any way at all."

    It's actually quite a defensible position, if one ignores your hyperbole. First, as you know perfectly well, don't you, there is, at the time of writing, NO "vitriolic" anti-faith comment on here. You just used that word to try to make your post sound less silly. Second, no one, anywhere, is suggesting that people who have "a faith should not be heard in society in any way at all."
    But what is suggested - I respectfully suggest it to you! - is that the "faith" brigade just PIPE DOWN. They should have no more influence, no more exposure, no more radio or TV programmes, no more coverage, than believers in other delusions. WHY should they? What on earth gives you lot the arrogant idea that in virtue of a shared form of dishonesty where one pretends that the inability to distinguish hoping from believing is somehow a virtue, you should somehow influence the rest of us? The prissy, overweening, self-regarding bleating gets on my wick. Can anyone suggest a good (i.e. funny) Satanist site?

  • Comment number 75.

    Religions have no place in the freedom of the people to decide their own laws in Britain. Most of our family have a 'sense' of a bigger picture in life and do not pay religions to tell us how to behave well and feel compassion; treat others politely and challenge those who treat others badly; and pray privately.

    Britain suffered from a bloody civil war when unelected religions ran the country in collusion with their 'supporters'? All unelected behave badly - as do the elected. Therefore, religions in Britain must stay out of law-making - look to history.

    We only have to witness, centuries later, the destruction and suffering around the world still instigated or 'justified' by religion.

    Dictatorships and power-hungry religious maniacs thrive on fear and corruption because they have nothing else to offer- not the democratic vote of the people. Bizarrely, religions have more income than most international banks?

  • Comment number 76.

    "Tony Blair's spokesman Alastair Campbell famously once said the prime minister didn't "do God" when talking to the media."

    So who's the liar this time? Not that it matters...

    I distinctly remember Bliar talking to the media and explaining how he and Dubya "prayed together" - just before throwing up.

  • Comment number 77.

    I'm sick of narrow minded atheists saying faith and politics don't mix. If you're a Christian your faith is your life, religious freedom is possibly the most important issue there is for you, so WHY would you vote for a party who try to make it illegal for a Christian to state a simple Biblical truth that intends in no way to offend, but simply to be taught with love. That is precisely why at this time faith and politics DO mix. We vote for a party who don't limit our rights.

  • Comment number 78.

    God botherer's need'nt expect my vote. Too suspicious of Politicians that start playing the religion card.
    I've no objection to people having a religion if it makes them happy I'm okay with that but Politics and Religion don't mix too well. It divides the population not only on political opinion but also on faith.
    Don't bash us Agnostics, I believe in the idea of god as much as I do Santa Claus but respect the right of individuals to their own beliefs.

  • Comment number 79.

    Christian values would influence my vote, but sadly all the parties are PC parties and are afraid to use the C word in case it upsets the ever increasing numbers of Muslims here in Britain.

  • Comment number 80.

    Hi, There does seem to be a generalised, and insulting, belief that believers are somehow mentally deficient.
    If you can tell me what was deficient about Isaac Newton, Einstein, Ghandi, MLK, et al, then I'll listen. Just because there have been some smart atheists doesn't make all believers dumb, and vikky verky, too.

  • Comment number 81.

    no it wont
    faith is like walking on eggshells when it comes to politics. it would be nice to see this country's society return to the way it was in the 80's when it comes to family values that were often led by religion, but on the other hand in the 80's there was alot more racism and homophobia.
    Nick Clegg has said that he is not an "active believer" but has "enormous respect" for those who are. i am the in same mind as Clegg on his beliefs BUT just this one thing can not pursuade me to vote for him. i dont care if an mp is religous i want to be able to trust him/her to do things that the british public want him to do and not what makrs the MP's extra money for their bonuses

  • Comment number 82.

    34. At 2:58pm on 21 Apr 2010, TaniL wrote:

    It's interesting how all the vitriolic and intolerant comments come from those who seem to think that people who have a faith should not be heard in society in any way at all

    --------

    Here we go. The poor old religion defensive stance yet again. I haven't seen many vitriolic comments but have seen someone suggesting those without religion have no morals. See post 19

  • Comment number 83.

    '19. At 2:31pm on 21 Apr 2010, picsmphoto wrote:
    There has been a lot of comment and time spent so far on the 'issues' and how they will be applied by the various party leaders. However, I would like to know the moral character of the leaders, and that invariably requires a religious stance. Morality is important, and we ignore it at our nation's peril. Morality is linked with faith. Why are we afraid of this debate? Our discussion is incomplete without it.'

    Morality is not the exclusive territory of religion. For too long, religions have staked their claim to it but have you not heard of universal ethics? The difference between moral atheists and moral christians / Jews / Muslims, etc, is that atheists take full responsibility for their behaviour and don't need a father-figure to keep their conscience for them, telling them how to behave, with the threat that you won't get to heaven if you don't do as you're told. It's like the difference between children and adults. And lets be honest here. Organised religions have hardly set good examples of morality, have they? It seems you stand more chance of being a moral person if you realise this is the one chance you get and there is nothing afterwards. No use looking forward to heaven, best make heaven here on earth while we can.
    I'm no agressive atheist, I believe everyone is entitled to their beliefs and I respect that, but I do get fed up with religion hogging morality. Religion and politics need to be kept seperate because people worship many faiths and to include one or two in political decisions is bound to exclude and alienate those who don't subscribe.

  • Comment number 84.

    #42: it should however be noted that many of the great human advances, both moral and physical, come from people driven by faith.
    ====================
    Whoah there a moment, given that not so long ago, to profess anything but deep religious faith would have you pilloried, blackballed and generally shunned it would hardly be surprising that most of anything came from 'believers'; given it was pretty much socially mandatory !!

    By the same token, you could argue that the vast majority of murderers and rapists were religious - which doesn't prove a thing either !

  • Comment number 85.

    I'm an American - I want to point that out just to bring to light how close to my heart this issue is. I'm liberal. You can keep reading.

    The article states; "The implication of Canon John's words is that, to satisfy a Christian voter, they should put morality above party."

    This is NOT the implication of Canon John's words. In fact, this sentence is frightening to me, as an American. It says to me that this reporter has fallen into the same fallacious trap that a ghastly number of Americans have not just become victims of, but have also managed to breed into their children.

    The implication of Canon John's words are: Morality can only be measured by faith and only the faithful are moral.

    Maybe this wasn't his intention, but the implication is certainly there. Please! PLEASE have the courage to confront these fallacies directly! Blast these people out of the water! You don't even have to be aggressive about it, things like, "I'm not of your faith, are you suggesting I'm inherently amoral?" can be enough to snap people like this back to reality.

    The ability for American conservative politicians to promote anti-intellectualism and win elections with nothing more than rhetoric is a disease the American 'thinking class' does NOT want to export!

  • Comment number 86.

    44. At 3:07pm on 21 Apr 2010, Tom Hill wrote:

    What a person believes in will always affect the choice that is made, especially on moral issues. I will support a candidate or a party that comes nearest to a Biblical morality.

    -----------------

    Can you explain what a Biblical morality is?

  • Comment number 87.

    WE know that Blair didn't 'do God' (Nasty expression, from a nasty mind)
    Blair didn't 'Do', anything save that which was advantageous to himself,that includes doing 'good'.
    If you take 'God' out of good,you're
    left with nothing (A big fat zero O) As for 'God' and Politics? I don't think 'God' takes kindly to the performers in our Mother of Parliaments (particularly with the latest performances in that 'place'.
    If you want to make 'God'laugh.Tell him about your future plans! and wait for him to try and sort it out!.Better still, leave him out of politics and give him a rest!.
    I had an Uncle,(a betting man), who knew more about horses,than he new about himself.Ostrasised by his Mates,for not ever giving them a racing tip; he told me. 'Pete, if I gave them a tip and they 'lost', they blamed me! If I gave them a tip and they 'won'They never said thank you!............
    I reckon 'God'must feel like that sometimes. "No wonder,he gets cross......Volcano's (ash to ash etc)Hurricanes and what have you!".Why?, might you ask!
    Cyclops

  • Comment number 88.

    religion has no place in the modern world especially politics! God is dead!

  • Comment number 89.

    One hopes government is based on rational thinking though with Tony Blair one often wondered. That leaves religion for churches, mosques, temples, synagogues etc. It was a famous theologian (Kierkegaard) who said "faith is not rational; you don't need faith to believe in the rational".

  • Comment number 90.

    I'm all for voting for politicians with "morals" where they mean being honest, faithful and decent and genuinely trying to serve the community they represent. I was fortunate for a while to be in Nick Palmer's constituency of Broxtowe. As far as I know, he has never talked about having a faith or not, yet does an excellent job. He engages actively in local issues, solicits opinions of constituency members and personally responds to emails if needed. If I remember correctly, he has also only ever claimed rent in London, deliberately choosing not to make a profit out of a second home. Those sort of morals are excellent.

    I used to be an evangelical christian (accepting being gay put an end to that) and am quite familiar with the world view they tend to hold. For them, "morals" are more likely to be about preventing gay people from having the right to equal service in a B&B for example. Saying they wish to preserve Christian morality sounds *so* much nicer than saying they want to continue to be bigoted. Yes, I know this risks opening up the "what the Bible says" debate, but before people start quoting scripture, at least have the decency to research the original languages and some objective scholarship on the meanings. Even if you're right, I'm sure "God" would rather we loved one another with all our heart than focus on any specks of dust in the eyes of others.

  • Comment number 91.

    What has always struck me about religious types in general is the confusing way in which they claim they feel persecuted by "laws that are opposed my morality". By this statement I can only assume they mean legislation regarding abortion and same sex partnership etc. The point I think a lot of them are missing is that the law doesn't demand that you HAVE to do these things rather it gives you the option to do them if you CHOOSE to. For example, if you are a commited Christian/Muslim/Hindu etc opposed to same sex marriage and abortion, then you are perfectly entitled to abstain from doing these things. No-one is forcing you to. One of the most fundamental human rights is to act in accordonance with one's own conscience, that's one's OWN conscience it's an individual choice, an expression of one's own autonomy. The problem of including religion with government is that they fundamentally do different things. Government is concerned with legislation and law, religion however is the realm of morality. While the two do cross over from time to time, they are still distinct (imagine someone told you parking in a "no loading bay" was immoral, you'd rightly tell them they were a bit mad). The real problem with all this is that in a democracy one has to tolerate views one does not necessarily agree with which is something I think religious people are loath to do in the first place. If this is so, then can I suggest they move to somewhere like Saudi Arabia or the US where theocracy is the preferred method of governance and let the rest of us get on with it.

  • Comment number 92.

    Religion has no more credibility then me asserting their are fairies at the bottom of my garden. Anyone who believes in any god should be excluded from being a politician on the grounds of delusion and feeble-mindedness.

  • Comment number 93.

    Dear #59: As far as I can see, atheists are not faithless - they believe in some really amazing impossibilities!
    ---------
    It must be hard for the indoctrinated to see things clearly, perhaps if you just start by wondering to yourself 'Where did God come from then ?' and read some books written this century.

  • Comment number 94.

    Will faith influence your vote?

    Yes! Desmond Tutu commented to the effect that he didn't know which version of the Bible people were reading when they said that Religion and Politics did not mix.

  • Comment number 95.

    I have complete faith that if we get a Tory or Labour government, nothing will change.

  • Comment number 96.

    #52 again;
    >The odds against this 1 molecule are so high that there simply has not been enough time (even 20 billion years) for this to happen by accident.
    -----------
    So imagine how unlikely it is for billions of them to be created and get together to form your god then !

  • Comment number 97.

    No - Faith will not have an effect on who I vote for. Politics and religion should be always seperate, I should know I live in Belfast a place where they have been put together for far far too long. Politics is about accomodating differences and working through problems to find a solution. Politics deals with everyone and everything in our society- all races, colours & religions. You could argue however that some politicians in the UK could do with some stronger morals perhaps. I'm not knocking religion, people are entitled to believe what they want to - lets just keep God and politics away from each other. Stay secular!

  • Comment number 98.

    religion won't affect my vote as I tend not to let fantastical and make believe stories affect my day to day reality. Read the bible folks, it is quite clear by the end of Exodus that 'God' or the 'Lord' is purely fictional and has no where near the amount of power that religious people claim a God has.

    The sooner these fairy tales are put to bed, the better. Anyone who follows a religion is a brainwashed simpleton in my opinion (and fortunately it's an opinion more people are subscribing too)

  • Comment number 99.

    No. But if a Pagan candidate stood in my area, I might be tempted!

  • Comment number 100.


    I am with the overwhelming consensus on this one (isn't democracy great?)

    We only have to look at the Theocracies of the past in Europe or the present in Saudi Arabia, Iran or Pakistan and other middle-east countries to see what happens when the State tries to enforce a particular religion - it only leads to the evidence-free madness and oppression that characterises those violent tyrannies.

    Secularism is the hallmark of a truly civilised society so politics should always be kept completely separate from the private domain of an individuals personal belief.



 

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