It shows that most UK Christians have very little in common with the Christian lobbyists claiming to speak on their behalf. The constant calls from Christian lobby groups to deny full rights to gays, to grant Christians exemption from certain laws, to outlaw abortion, to maintain privileged access to political influence and generally to put Christianity at the heart of UK public life simply do not reflect the views and wishes of the majority of UK Christians.As you work through the questions and see the positions taken by most self-identified Christians in the UK, it becomes overwhelmingly apparent that most are favourable, at least to some extent, to secularism - to a separation between religious beliefs and political decisions. It is not entirely clear how far they would take this, but it is interesting that most rejected moral conservative views about sexuality, and in particular that most favoured equal legal rights for homosexuals.
On the contrary, our findings show that the majority of UK Christians share the secular, liberal, humane values that are the hallmark of a modern, decent society.
This won't come as a surprise to most Christians reading these results, I suspect, nor to those of us who count liberal Christians among our friends, families and colleagues.
But it may come as a shock to certain politicians who seem to have bought into the idea that there are votes to be gained in 'doing God'. These results show quite categorically that there are not.
Six in ten respondents (61%) agree that homosexuals should have the same legal rights in all aspects of their lives as heterosexuals, and those who disapprove of sexual relations between two adults of the same sex (29%) are greatly outnumbered by those who do not (46%).At least in the UK, most self-professed Christians would be willing to along with the general view that religion and state power should be separated, and they do not just mean that the state cannot interfere with such things as church doctrines and rituals. It seems that most would, for example, be unwilling to support the political imposition of traditional Christian moral beliefs.
Less than a quarter (23%) believe that sex between a man and a woman is only acceptable within marriage.
It's noteworthy that many of these Christians actually know little about their religion - e.g. few could pick out the Gospel of Matthew as the first book of the New Testament, even from a list of possibilities. That's about as ignorant as it comes. Perhaps those Christians who are more immersed in their religion and its traditions and teachings would be less secular in their social and political attitudes.
Still, it seems that in the UK, at least, the general approach that I advocate in Freedom of Religion and the Secular State would be viewed sympathetically by the majority of (self-professed) Christians.
As I've been saying, the book is not anti-religious, though I've had anti-religious things to say elsewhere - I think its arguments could appeal to many people who consider themselves religious, and they are not based on any atheistic or naturalistic premises. The analysis of the function of the state, which lies at the core of the book, is one that could be agreed to from many theological perspectives (though, of course, not all), and, as I've been pointing out around the traps, similar analyses were produced in early modern times by people who were not atheists (whether they would have been prepared to take their analyses to their logical conclusions is another matter, though, as I point out in the book).
Freedom of Religion and the Secular State presents a fairly rigorous (though accessible) development of the arguments - something that I think we need to inform debates about sexularism. However, it does not present a view that is necessarily anathema to religious people. At least in the UK, most Christians take similar views. That's somewhat comforting. I wonder whether comparable results would be obtained in other Western countries.