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Britain is a Christian nation and militant atheists should “get over it”, the minister responsible for communities and local government has said.
Eric Pickles attacked atheist groups for trying to impose “politically correct intolerance” on others, citing an attempt in 2012 to ban Parish councils from holding prayers before their meetings that was blocked by a change in law.
“We’re a Christian nation,” he told activists at the Conservative Spring Forum in London on Saturday. “We have an established Church. Get over it. And don’t impose your politically correct intolerance on others.”
The most recent 2011 census revealed that the number of people who identify themselves as Christian dropped by 13 per cent to 59 per cent of the population. But this decline appears to have bottomed out. In 2012 the Church of England reported that an average 1.05m people still attended churches each week, showing no significant change over the past decade, and that cathedral attendance had increased. In addition, the number of Catholics attending Mass weekly has held steady in recent years at around 858,000 – partly because of immigration – and there has been a growth in the number of Pentecostal and charismatic congregations.
Mr Pickles, who has been the Member of Parliament for Brentwood and Ongar since 1992, said in an article in the Daily Telegraph in 2012 that Christianity shaped the moral and public life of Britain and continued to influence it for the better. He said that faith communities provide a “moral compass”. Countering comments by Tony Blair’s former spin chief Alastair Campbell, Pickles added: “This Government does God.”