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Pickles Poll

A minister with the silly sounding name of Eric Pickles is insisting that Britain is a Christian nation, the Telegraph is blithely reporting on it as news, and they have a poll which is running neck and neck with the contrasting views. Those of us in the United States can contribute our perspective on the matter: compared to our political apparatus, England is practically satanically godless. Maybe we should all let them know what we think of these wanking faithheads constantly trying to demand that entire diverse nations are ‘owned’ by single religious traditions.

Do you agree with Eric Pickles’ comments?

Yes, Britain is a Christian nation  50.08%

No, Britain is a secular country and religious beliefs should be kept private  49.92%

Comments

  1. Trebuchet says

    Seems to me that since the England has a state church, it’s officially a Christian nation. In practice, of course, not so much. Scotland, of course, has a different state church. It gets a bit confusing when you look at the UK as a whole.

  2. says

    Oh if only he were just a minister. He’s a Conservative politician, a well-connected and powerful one. From Wikipedia:

    Eric Jack Pickles (born 20 April 1952) is a Conservative Party politician who has been the Member of Parliament for Brentwood and Ongar since 1992 and is the current Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. He was previously the Chairman of the Conservative Party from 2009 to 2010, and the Chair of the Joint Committee Against Racism from 1982 to 1987.

    He thinks this will play well with the Tory core.

  3. Sastra says

    What if you want to answer

    No, Britain is a secular country and religious beliefs should be dragged out into the open and take their chances like anything else

    ?

  4. blf says

    Pickles is also an MP (and, apparently, a government minister).

    Here is a less fawning article in The Grauniad, Eric Pickles: ‘Britain still a Christian nation — get over it’:

    Communities secretary calls on militant atheists to stop imposing ‘politically correct intolerance’ on UK’s Christians

    Pickles changed the law in 2012 to ensure that English parish councils could not face legal challenges for including prayers in public meetings, and has previously accused the former Labour government of “diminishing Christianity” by suggesting that religion and politics could not mix.

    This weekend, he told delegates at the Conservative spring forum in London that non-believers should not be able to impose “politically correct intolerance” on others.

    “I’ve stopped an attempt by militant atheists to ban councils having prayers at the start of meetings if they wish,” said Pickles. “Heaven forbid. We’re a Christian nation. We have an established Church. Get over it. And don’t impose your politically correct intolerance on others.”

    Pickles also said that the government had “backed British values” by stopping Whitehall from “appeasing extremism”, whether it comes from the English Defence League, militant Islamists or “the thuggish hard left”.

    “They’re all as bad as each other,” he added.

  5. says

    Legally, the UK is a Christian nation, as it has a state run church governed by the hereditary Head of State.

    @Trebuchet #1 – Is the Monarch also Head (or Governor, if female) of the Church of Scotland? I vaguely remember that the King of Scotland held similar power over the church there, but I don’t recall if the union of crowns included a union of church governance.

  6. johnlee says

    The poll is in the Daily Telegraph, very much a conservative, establishment newspaper. That the vote is split nearly 50-50 says a lot about how the country has changed, but Pickles and his blinkered crusaders are clearly out of touch with what ordinary British people think.
    He is quoted as proudly saying that he has introduced a law allowing local councils to waste taxpayers money by conducting prayers during council meetings. Of course, he means Christian prayers, seemingly unaware that in many parts of the country this would mean starting meetings with readings from the Koran. I very much doubt that that was what his supporters had in mind…

  7. chigau (違う) says

    And so it begins…
    Yes, Britain is a Christian nation 49.5% (2,808 votes)
    No, Britain is a secular country and religious beliefs should be kept private 50.5% (2,865 votes)
    Total Votes: 5,673

  8. microraptor says

    I see that hitting the refresh button on that page apparently allows one to vote again.

  9. Dunc says

    Scotland, of course, has a different state church.

    The Church of Scotland is not actually a state church in the way that the Church of England is. It is entirely independent of the state, and has no constitutional role.

  10. Dunc says

    Is the Monarch also Head (or Governor, if female) of the Church of Scotland?

    No.

  11. mond says

    @Dunc

    Worryingly, religions in Scotland are banding together to try and get themselves a privileged position if Scotland becomes independent.

    A BBC report says:

    The Church of Scotland and the Catholic Church have joined forces with other major religious and faith groups to “stake a claim” for recognition in a written constitution.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-26903855

  12. twas brillig (stevem) says

    I always misread such a question as “Is X a nation of Christians?”, because asking about what religion *the*Nation* is, sounds nonsensical to me. It makes sense that some religiots may say, “This nation was founded by Y people, on Y principles, and only Y people can be citizens of this nation.” But how can a “thing” be a member of a Religion? So whatever Pickels said, I have to go with the (B) option.

  13. Sarahface, who is trying to break the lurking habit says

    Ah, Pickles.
    If you want to look at an ‘at-a-glance’ view of how he’s voted on various topics, here’s his They Work For You page
    He’s okay on a few things (e.g. he voted for the SSM bill, to pick one example [possibly due to a quiet word in his ear from the whip, though]) but he’s absolutely terrible on things like welfare, health, education, foreign policy…

  14. jacksprocket says

    Nothing wrong with having a silly sounding name. I’ve got one or two myself, hence the pseudonym.

    A lot wrong with having vicious ideas. Eric Pickles has been a nasty fart for thirty years and more. And he’s by no means the worst turd we UKians have to put up with. We thought Bliar was bad, but he was just a psychopath. This lot are like MBAs.

  15. Rich Woods says

    @Sarahface #13:

    but he’s absolutely terrible on things like welfare, health, education, foreign policy…

    Well, he is a Tory. Being absolute terrible about social security, health and education is part of the membership requirement.

  16. richcon says

    A state is the government but a nation is its people and culture.

    Britain is officially a Christian state, but from what I can see they’ve shown themselves to be a wonderfully secular nation. They are majority Christian (60%) but Christianity doesn’t “own” their whole nation or culture.

  17. David Marjanović says

    Yes, Britain is a Christian nation 45.64% (3,080 votes)

    No, Britain is a secular country and religious beliefs should be kept private 54.36% (3,668 votes)

    Total Votes: 6,748

  18. Sarahface, who is trying to break the lurking habit says

    @Rich Woods, #15

    Well, he is a Tory. Being absolute terrible about social security, health and education is part of the membership requirement.

    This is true, but Labour’s not exactly doing brilliantly on them either. Nor the Lib Dems.

  19. Sarahface, who is trying to break the lurking habit says

    They are majority Christian (60%)

    Most of those are “high days and holy days”-type christian who go to church at Christmas, maybe at Easter, or the odd sunday where they feel like it, or for special events (weddings, funerals, christenings) but aren’t particularly religious.
    As an anecdote, one of my friends was put down as christian on official forms because her parents thought it ‘sounded better’. I suspect this (and ‘belief in belief’) accounts for quite a chunk of that 60%

  20. bryanfeir says

    Most of those are “high days and holy days”-type christian who go to church at Christmas, maybe at Easter, or the odd sunday where they feel like it, or for special events (weddings, funerals, christenings) but aren’t particularly religious.

    I believe one of the usual descriptors of that crowd is a ‘C&E CofE’ (Christmas and Easter Church of England).

    As somebody who mostly grew up that way himself (albeit as a Canadian Anglican)… yes, there are a lot of people in that ‘cultural Christian’ category, who go to church because it’s expected of them but don’t really ‘believe’ as such.

  21. says

    Yes, Britain is a Christian nation 44.34% (3,177 votes)

    No, Britain is a secular country and religious beliefs should be kept private 55.66% (3,988 votes)

  22. says

    You can almost watch the figures changing in real time. This just in:

    Yes, Britain is a Christian nation 43.94% (3,193 votes)

    No, Britain is a secular country and religious beliefs should be kept private 56.06% (4,073 votes)

  23. Al Dente says

    In a reference to the comments by Tony Blair’s former spin chief Alastair Campbell, [Pickles] said last year: “We go through phases in politics, we had a phase where we didn’t ‘do God’. I don’t think that worked out terribly well…in a way I think diminished Christianity…”

    He says that like it’s a bad thing.

    Pickles is annoyed because most English don’t do Christianity the way he thinks they should.

  24. Rob says

    Funny, I’ve enabled every bit of java script I can find on that page and disabled Adblock but I cannot find the Poll anywhere. Which bit of the page is it located on?

  25. Erp says

    For those who were wondering the Church of Scotland is quite different from the Church of England (there was a war fought when Charles I tried making the two more uniform). The denomination in Scotland in the Anglican Communion along with the Church of England is the Scottish Episcopal Church aka Piskies (the Episcopal Church is the US branch thought note the different branches are independent but the Piskies may be closer to the Americans than to their kin south of the border). The Church of Scotland is more closely connected to the Presbyterian Church (USA).

  26. chigau (違う) says

    Rob #26
    I see the poll in a grey box directly after this paragraph,

    “Mr Pickles has in the past accused the previous Labour government of “diminishing Christianity” by suggesting that religion and politics could not mix. “

  27. Bicarbonate is back says

    I’m very disappointed this post is not about pickles. I really feel like a kosher dill.

  28. Rob says

    Thanks Chigau. In the end I had to clear all cookies, close the browser and wait a few minutes then reload the session. Sheesh, the things I do to vote for in a meaningless poll!

  29. Tigger_the_Wing, Back home =^_^= says

    Yes, Britain is a Christian nation 41.91% (3,300 votes)

    No, Britain is a secular country and religious beliefs should be kept private 58.09% (4,574 votes)

  30. Lyn M: ADM MinTruthiness says

    Yes, Britain is a Christian nation 41.54% (3,325 votes)

    No, Britain is a secular country and religious beliefs should be kept private 58.46% (4,679 votes)

    Total Votes: 8,004

  31. Lyn M: ADM MinTruthiness says

    @ tsig

    Mr Pickles, Mr Onion and Mr Hamburger walk into a bar.

    No ketchup or mustard? You call that a free nation?
    And what about Ms. Cheese? Huh?

  32. Randomfactor says

    No, it’s not a Christian nation.

    You might consider it an Anglican nation, I guess.

  33. mykroft says

    If you open the page in Chrome in an incognito window, you can vote, refresh the page, vote, …..

  34. Callinectes says

    Mr Pickles, Mr Onion and Mr Hamburger walk into a bar.

    And they harass the barmaid: “get your buns out and make us a sandwich!”

  35. jonas says

    Good grief, a poll on the Telegraph about religious belief is about as informative as a vox pop from the Mississippi Baptist Jesus Gazette. 3/4 of all Brits are atheist/agnostic. This is complete twaddle.

  36. cim says

    I’d say Britain was fairly clearly a Christian nation
    - public holidays and commercial occasions mostly synced to Christian religious festivals
    - official state church is Christian
    - token representation for Christian religious officials in one house of Parliament
    - laws based on the sillier of the Ten Commandments and other Christian laws exist(ed) and are only gradually being repealed

    It’s just not a religious nation.

  37. Rich Woods says

    @Sarahface #18:

    This is true, but Labour’s not exactly doing brilliantly on them either. Nor the Lib Dems.

    Quite. New Labour long since decided to become Tory-lite for the votes and the Lib Dems lost a lot of their appeal after the Orange Book lot got in (let alone what they’ve enabled in coalition). Now that the Tories are chasing after UKIP I hate to think where it’s going to end up. There’s little real choice in politics any more, where no other party can afford to field candidates in every constituency — no wonder voter apathy is increasing.

  38. loopyj says

    I’m rather surprised at you, PZ, I would think you’d see that the result of this poll is pretty marvelous. Britain is a Christian country, or more specifically, an Anglican country in that the country actually has an established (though not compulsory) religion (‘The Church of England’), and yet HALF of the Telegraph’s respondents agreed with the statement that ‘Britain is a secular country and religious beliefs should be kept private.’ Meanwhile, in America-land, which has no federal or state religion, atheists are the most despised group, for-profit corporations are dangerously close to being declared capable of having a religious conscience, and, according to another U.K. online publication from two years ago, a Gallup poll showed that ‘more Americans think President Barack Obama is a Muslim than believe in the theory of evolution. More Americans also believe in witches with magical powers, too.”
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2154923/Half-Americans-believe-creationism-just-15-percent-accept-evolution.html

  39. Nick Gotts says

    3/4 of all Brits are atheist/agnostic. – jonas@42

    And 86% of internet statistics are made up. In the 2011 census, 59% of respondents in England and Wales identified as Christian. The figure would be slightly higher for Scotland, much higher for Northern Ireland.

    The annoying thing about the Telegraph poll, no doubt deliberate, is that if you answer at all, to avoid giving an answer that appears to support Pickles (one of the biggest arseholes in the current government, which is saying something), you have to ignore the fact that institutionally, the UK is Christian.

  40. Nick Gotts says

    /contd from 46

    You also have to say religious beliefs should be kept private. People are quite entitled to make their religious beliefs public if they so choose.

  41. Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened says

    Jesus, Eric fucking Pickles. This is the idiot who introduced legislation to ensure that UK councils could open with a prayer, after the High Court backed a bid to ensure they had to be inclusive. He’s a complete fucking wankstain.

    Did my bit for good old Blighty:

    Yes, Britain is a Christian nation
    37.23% (3,952 votes)

    No, Britain is a secular country and religious beliefs should be kept private
    62.77% (6,662 votes)

    The “no’s” are still disappointingly low.

  42. Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened says

    @Nick Gotts

    Yeah, the poll is extremely flawed, and presents a false dichotomy. The UK has a state religion, so officially we are a Christian nation. Where is the option for “Yes, we are a Christian nation, but Eric Pickles is an idiot and we ought to have a secular, written constitution; and yes you have every right to be religious and to tell people about it as long as you respect my right to disagree with your stupid beliefs”? I’d tick that one, if it existed.

  43. Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened says

    @Rich Woods #44

    Lack of choice is certainly correct. If you have a look at the political compass’ analysis of UK parties at the last election you see Labour and the Tories are clustered near the center of the top right quadrant, and the Lib Dems have the same economic policies but are a bit more libertarian. I’m right down in the bottom left of the graph, and the only mainstream UK party that’s even close to my position is the Greens. And I’m still significantly more libertarian and left than they are. I need to have a closer look at their policies before I make a final decision, but I strongly suspect they’ll be getting my vote next year.

  44. joe_k says

    Nick Gotts@46: 59% may call themselves Christian in the census, but in a 2006 poll, only 11% went to any place of worship once a month or more, and 70% either never went, or only went for weddings and funerals. Meanwhile, only 28% believed in either a personal or deistic god, and a further 26% said they believed in ‘something’. The UK is not as religious a nation as the census makes us out to be.

  45. joe_k says

    Granted, the census surveys far more people than the YouGov survey, but I don’t think it’s a controversial statement that many people who tick the ‘Anglican’ box on the census would not normally identify themselves as religious.

  46. chrishall says

    Poor old Eric, despite appearances to the contrary he does in fact have a very thin skin. He once made a fish and chip shop in his constituency stop selling ‘Eric Pickled Eggs’. A perfect example of the Streisand Effect.

  47. Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened says

    @joe k

    That has the ring of truth. Most people I know tick CofE on the census, including me up until a few years ago, because that’s kind of the default option. I wasn’t raised religious and never went in a church other than for family weddings, and with the scouts on the annual St. George’s day parade. The census is certainly not an accurate reflection of religiosity in the UK.

  48. alexmcdonald says

    Scottish religiosity is on the decline.

    Over half (54 per cent) of the population of Scotland stated their religion as Christian – a decrease of 11 percentage points since 2001- whilst 37 per cent of people stated that they had no religion – an increase of nine percentage points since 2001.

  49. says

    Thing is, I don’t think it’s a matter of opinion: we’re either an xtian nation or not – and that’s a matter codified into the law of the land, or whatever.

    And, as far as I can tell, it is the case: the Queen is head of state and the Church of England (albeit neutered).
    In practice, we’re very secular, especially around politics, which I think is good.

    Whether we *should* be a christian nation or not – now that’s worth a poll. As it is, it feels like we’re voting on the color of a green marble.

  50. Hairy Chris, blah blah blah etc says

    Thumper @ 54

    Yup, that was me too for many years. CofE as default option even though I thought that it was all a load of bunk. I only started putting myself down as atheist 10 or so years ago after having put a bit of thought into the issue!

  51. Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened says

    @Hairy Chris

    It’s the vast majority of people I know. Of my immediate friendship group (as in, the people you see down the pub every friday, without fail) of c. 10 people, I know two which profess to actually believe in a God, and for both of them it’s an incredibly nebulous, poorly defined, not at all Christian concept of a God. None of the others believe. And yet there are three of us, including me, who would happily describe ourselves as Atheist. All the rest put CofE.

  52. says

    The parliamentary Tory parties support for same sex marriage has sent their grass root “god and country” tm supporters into the hands of UKip, so this is an attempt to whistle them back.

    Its kind of counter intuitive because the usual compliant of the right is that political correctness isn’t intolerant enough.

    Its possible of course that the Tories have learnt from America and believe by saying “we love jebus” will call the disaffected back.

  53. Nick Gotts says

    joe_k@51,
    The census is the best source of evidence we have. It certainly refutes the claim I was responding to, that 3/4 of British people are atheist or agnostic.

    alexmcdonald@55,
    Thanks for that – I looked for such overall figures but failed to find them. So Scotland is now less Christian and religious than England+Wales!

  54. playonwords says

    About 65/35 in favour of the Godless

    All the usual arguments are showing up in the comments.

  55. zmidponk says

    Do you agree with Eric Pickles’ comments?

    Yes, Britain is a Christian nation 50.08%

    No, Britain is a secular country and religious beliefs should be kept private 49.92%

    The factually accurate answer to that really depends on what is meant. I’ve always found it one of life’s great ironies that the UK, with no written constitution and religion and religious references permeating government, seems to be much, much better at keeping religion out of government, in practical terms, than the US, with a written and revered Constitution that explicitly contains that very notion.

  56. Sarahface, who is trying to break the lurking habit says

    @zmidponk, #63
    I think there are several reasons for that ability to keep religion and government separate. (All opinion, though).
    1) the CofE was founded because Henry VIII didn’t like the Catholic Church’s inflexibility w.r.t divorce. Every school pupil is taught this repeatedly, along with the Tudor (and Stuart, and everyone else’s) back and forth over religion, where it changed with almost every monarch. It gives the impression that religions (especially christian denominations) are a little bit arbitrary.
    2) The Troubles. The point where they started getting really bad was *roughly* the same time that Britain was starting to become more secular, and I think seeing close-up how much trouble sectarian divisions (that were in part religion-based) caused probably pushed British people into keeping religion out of government to avoid similar problems.
    3) Being that bit more ‘up-close and personal’ with the events of WWII, because there are far fewer ways to justify bigotry (especially [given the topic] against religious groups, e.g. Jewish people) from a secular government than from a government of a religion that wants to convert everyone to its ways.

  57. davem says

    but in a 2006 poll, only 11% went to any place of worship once a month or more

    It may be that I live in a particularly irreligious part of the country, but I doubt it. In my town of approx 50,000 people, I sincerely doubt that the church attendance exceeds 1,000. The last time I set foot in a church on a Sunday, there were 6 persons inside. I only know of one couple who go to church regularly. He’s a mad’ happy-clappy’ type, She drags on behind. Where does this 11% come from?

  58. says

    Playonwords @62

    thanks for pointing out the comments thread, Ive never read one in the Torygraph.

    Although there are many thoughtful opinions and arguments, there is a certain view that anyone anti pickle’s comments is a gay-commie-atheist-nazi :D

    I’m surprised no-one has thought to invoke Godwin and win the internets.

  59. Sarahface, who is trying to break the lurking habit says

    In my town of approx 50,000 people, I sincerely doubt that the church attendance exceeds 1,000.

    I was all ready to argue and say that I didn’t think that was right, and then I added stuff up in my head, and realised that in my area (2 towns, combined population of 50,000ish, *minimum* 9 churches) I doubt you’d get many more than 1,000-1500 people who go to church regularly. Maybe an absolute max of 2000?
    But obviously the number of religious people will fluctuate with where you are in the country, so maybe we live in similar areas of the country.

  60. dancaban says

    Once saw him at Sainsbury’s checkout, Keighley before he became really famous. Just wish I could have looked to see if he really was buying pies…

  61. cim says

    61 Nick Gotts:

    “[the census] certainly refutes the claim I was responding to, that 3/4 of British people are atheist or agnostic.”

    Only if you assume that all/most people who self-identify as Christian in the UK are also theists. I suspect that may no longer be the case now that many of the public festivals of the religion have been secularised – they were baptised once, they got married in a church, they have a big family get-together at Christmas and eat Easter eggs, and they can even remember the words to a few hymns. Actual belief in a god – which isn’t a widely discussed matter in many circles – probably comes way down the list.

  62. praestans says

    Christian majority in the UK? Give over!

    As in the Chalcedonian evangelical bible affirming brand – not the heterodoxical one such as catholics, orthodox, or any other sizmatic sect who’ll burn in Hell?

    You no, I don’t think they’r the majority in the UK….

    but what’s the use of the numbers game anyway?

  63. Anri says

    ..so, if England was excommunicated, would it continue to be a Christian nation?

    Can you even do that (excommunication in general, not just doing so for a country) in the CoE?

    If you did so, would you have to change the name of the faith?
    It might be amusing to have a Church of England which didn’t actually include England.

    How about the Church of Not Exactly England?
    Church of Used To Be England?
    The Church That May, At One Time, Have Included England?
    The Ghost of the Church Of England Past?
    …ok, I’m done now.