Crabb: It's easier to admit to drugs than to prayer

Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb Image copyright Emily Poole
Image caption Stephen Crabb giving the Wilberforce address: We should be deeply concerned about a 'creeping intolerance' towards religion.

Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair's former spin doctor, famously declared "we don't do God" (although his boss privately prayed and later converted to Catholicism).

And Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb says it's now easier for politicians to admit to smoking weed or watching porn than to praying to God.

In a thoughtful lecture on faith and politics on Tuesday, Mr Crabb, a practising Christian, said he doubted whether a British prime minister could ever talk openly about the times when they might pray, which he said was a "total no-go area".

And he warned that faith is being pushed to the margins of national life, leaving a society which is "less resilient to the poison of the extremists".

Giving the annual Wilberforce address to the Conservative Christian Fellowship, he said: "Muslim families I have spoken to know that they face a battle to save their young people from the poison of extremism. They know they are not sighted on what their children are doing online, and fear them turning their backs on the mosque for other forms of religious exploration."

He added: "If you are a young Muslim growing up in east London, Cardiff or Luton the only time - the only time - you will see your faith being mentioned in mainstream British media is in connection with death and violence. That has consequences, especially when there are complex issues of identity involved."

'Hard-edged secularism'

Warning of a "creeping intolerance" towards Christianity and religion, he said "hard-edged secularism" had created "an enormous chilling effect" in workplaces that prevented people talking openly about their faith.

"I have never found it easy as a politician to talk about my faith. In an age where every word is watched for something that can be construed as a gaffe, off-message or representing some bigoted or irrational attitude, it is a topic which many of us steer clear of. It kind of makes life simpler."

Mr Crabb criticised the decision of a cinema chain not to show adverts for the Church of England. "I believe this incident reflects a broader shift within our society which places one of our core freedoms - that is freedom of religion - under threat."