As David Cameron became the first prime minister to attend the national parliamentary prayer breakfast in Britain, since Margaret Thatcher, he insisted that being a Christian made him a better politician. Earlier this year, Cameron referred to Britain as a Christian country and urged adherents of the faith to be unashamedly evangelical about their way of life.
Labour leader and atheist Ed Miliband along with 80 Members of Parliament, 20 colleagues and as many as 600 churchgoers, lobbyists and campaigners, attended the early morning gathering at Westminster Hall, which was modeled on the annual gathering in Washington, D.C. that every U.S. president since Dwight D. Eisenhower has attended. At the event, Cameron said Archbishop Justin Welby wrote in a personal foreword that he believed Christianity could help politicians “get out there and make a difference to people’s lives.”
“I believe very deeply that we should be confident in Britain about our status as a Christian country. So I think it is absolutely right that our Parliament should express this confidence through this annual prayer breakfast. Greater confidence in our Christianity can also inspire a stronger belief in our work as politicians to get out there and make a difference to people’s lives – and it should inspire our support for churches and faith organisations in the vital work they do in our society and around the world. Whatever our political parties and whatever our disagreements these are values we share,” he said.
After Cameron referred to Britain as a Christian country earlier this year, dozens of scientists, writers, philosophers and politicians wrote a letter to The Telegraph, saying Cameron was sowing division and sectarianism in Britain by emphasizing on Christianity.
“Politicians are as entitled to their personal faith, or not to have a faith, as everyone else. When a PM agrees to attend a religious event of this kind, other political leaders, even if not religious, will feel beholden to go too, which seems an imposition on them. No doubt the churches will consider this a coup, but it could backfire for the PM. The British public have never liked politicians wearing their religion on their sleeve, seen to be implying that they or their religion is better than others. As the proportion of non-Christians and non-believers rises, messages stressing cohesion would be far more appropriate,” said Keith Porteous Wood of the National Secular Society.