Monday, November 9, 2009

Why Do British Leaders Insist On Having Faith?

Why, in 2009, do our leaders feel a need to associate themselves with faith? In an article in the London Evening Standard David Cameron describes himself as a "questioning Christian" who struggled with the tenets like the virgin birth, but who felt that his faith was important to him. It's not for me to question what another person should or should not believe in but I do find this article disappointing. Why?

Well, I believe Cameron to be a highly intelligent person more attuned to the real world than many of those around him (in all political parties). I was hopeful that he would come out as at least an agnostic if not a full blown atheist. I think the time has come for a leader to show he makes his decisions based on evidence and sound judgement, rather than blind faith. Of all the leaders, Nick Clegg came closest to coming out of the non-believer closet, but instead felt he had to describe himself as "not an active believer". But he's not going to be Prime Minister (sorry Nick, you really aren't) so it is to the leaders of the two main parties we must look for someone who is going to break the mould.

Sure, admitting you didn't "believe" would cause controversy amongst some sections of society (not least within the Conservative Party), but I think the inevitable debate that would ensue would cast Cameron in a positive modernising light vs the old guard that expect their leaders to believe and distrust anyone who's not "one of them". Most people in Britain do not subscribe to a religion. And of all the religions to choose from in modern day Britain, Christianity seems to be the one in biggest decline. I think distancing himself from religion would have further broadened his appeal nationwide and across all sections of society. But it wasn't to be, if it's not what he believes, then so be it.

God knows the man has had to deal with real tragedy in his life, tragedy that would, initially anyway, drive most of us to want to believe in an afterlife with a benevolent God that looks after our departed loved ones in a heaven where all exist in eternal peace. I lost someone close to me in 2001 and wrestled with this question myself before concluding that, if this was a benevolent God, a God with a plan for us all, who oversees, intervenes and presumably causes these tragedies, it wasn't any kind of God I want to believe exists.

I have a lot of faith in Cameron, it is faith based on listening to what he's had to say and how well he's lead his party. For me to have this faith he's not even had to do any miracles, although stopping the 2007 election and managing to resist leaping over the dispatch box to punch Gordon Brown in the throat are as close to miraculous as you can get.  I am just a little bit disappointed his belief is still hanging on in there, even if it's not "always the rock that it should be". Perhaps he'll see the light soon. Although, of course, it will be light made of photons in electromagnetic waves not some heavenly supernatural creation he dreamt about as a result of a story he was told as a child in church. Pah!

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