Is the UK state fully secular?

Discussion in 'Political Science' started by James7, Oct 8, 2021.

  1. James7

    James7 Active Member

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    Even though we are told that the UK state is fully secular (i.e. completely separate from the Church), and that we have a liberal Church where belief is a matter of individual, personal choice; if you take a closer is the UK state in fact the fully secular one it is claimed to be?

    The head of state in the UK, the monarch, is the subject of much religious observance and custom, as all monarchs are. It is also what makes a monarch different from an emperor. An emperor can appoint anyone as his rightful successor but a monarch does not have this choice as a strict religious custom determines that the eldest should always be the rightful successor. The monarch also rules through the permission of God and there is much religious ceremony involved in his or her crowning.

    Having observed that the monarch can also be seen as a semi-religious figure while also being the head of state, can it truly be said that the UK state is a fully secular one?

    It must also be seen as ironic that the architecture of the Houses of Parliament is an almost exact copy of ecclesiastic architecture. When the Houses of Parliament were re-built in the early part of the 19th century after a fire, the architectural style used was taken directly from the nearby Westminster Abbey. Further the building the Commons previously met in, St. Stephen's Chapel, was also an ecclesiastic building. In addition it could also be pointed out that the two leading universities in the UK, Oxford and Cambridge, both display ecclesiastic architecture as well as religiously named colleges.
     
  2. HonestJoe

    HonestJoe Well-Known Member Past Donor

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    Who told you that? It clearly isn't true (or that simple) but I very much doubt anyone worth listening to would claim it anyway.
     
  3. James7

    James7 Active Member

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    It's said to be the standard formula in the West in the modern era, the separation of Church and State.

    However even in the medieval era, even though the Church was wealthy and powerful, none was as wealthy and as powerful as the monarch. It was still the monarch who had the final say in the matter, the Church simply administered ecclesiastic matters.
     
  4. HonestJoe

    HonestJoe Well-Known Member Past Donor

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    Your "It's said..." is no more helpful that "We are told...". It seems like you're making assumptions about how the UK state is understood and perceived rather than reflecting what anyone actually thinks or says. Certainly in the UK itself, educated people are fully aware of slightly odd formal structure of the state and the fuzzy way in which things actually work on the basis of long-running unspoken agreement.
     
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  5. James7

    James7 Active Member

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    Perhaps I was quoting one of those journalistic clichés you sometimes hear about which probably wasn't that informative anyway.

    Living in the UK you sometimes get the impression that we are all ultimately driven by some sort religious philosophy or belief system, even if only on a subconscious level.

    Looking at the Wiki page on the Secular state I notice that the UK isn't listed under the list of European secular states. Perhaps there's a reason for this.
     
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2021
  6. James7

    James7 Active Member

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    How "secular" can a state be if 26 members of the House of Lords are archbishops and bishops?

    Indeed it's apparently one function of the House of Lords to administer Church of England matters through church Acts.

    Sometimes the Houses of Parliament looks more like a chess game than anything to do with democracy.
     
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  7. James7

    James7 Active Member

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    The following group of people don't believe the UK has a secular state:

    National Secular Society

    This is the NSS's official statement on their homepage:

     
  8. James7

    James7 Active Member

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    Apparently prayers are read out at the beginning of each sitting at both Houses.

    Of course the prayers are Christian even though we are told we live in a multi-cultural society and where, further, the majority of the population do not identify with any religion at all.

    Also the head of state, the monarch, bears the title, "Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England". But shouldn't this be defender of the FAITHS in the plural?

    This is clearly a medieval relic. What we want is an elected head of state who's function is a completely secular one.
     
  9. HonestJoe

    HonestJoe Well-Known Member Past Donor

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    I'm not saying the UK is a secular state. Nobody is saying the UK is a secular state. You are arguing against a figment of your imagination.

    So yes, part of the structure of the state includes the 26 Lord Spiritual sitting in the House of Lords. It has long been controversial and is one of the major elements in the wider ongoing debate about reforming the Lords. In part because of that I suspect, in practice, the bishops don't seek to rock the boat or push anything significantly religious within the actual legislative work and tend not to vote on legislation very often anyway.

    I totally agree with the people who say they shouldn't get their automatic seats (and indeed with wider ideas for reforming the Lords) but I also recognise that for real world practical purposes, it doesn't actually change all that much and there are much more significant aspects of our political system which could and should be improved.
     
  10. James7

    James7 Active Member

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    That's a fairly complimentary way of looking at the subject.

    But let's face it. It's a dinosaur!

    Because of the Royal Prerogative Powers, the Prime Minister or the Queen could take the nation to war with a vote in Parliament not being in the slightest bit necessary. How democratic is that?
     
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2021
  11. HonestJoe

    HonestJoe Well-Known Member Past Donor

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    It's a fairly factual way of looking at the subject. If you want to push for further change in this area, it might be a good idea to actually start there.

    Maybe you should start a thread about that then. :cool:
     
  12. James7

    James7 Active Member

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    The fact the state isn't fully secular reveals how antiquated it is.

    The whole thing needs reforming. Ideally we want the WHOLE thing democratic, not just one layer democratic then another based upon privilege and status.
     
  13. Lindis

    Lindis Banned

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    How can the UK be "fully secular" if the Queen is the Head of the Church of England?
     
  14. James7

    James7 Active Member

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    This point has already been raised in post #8.

    It's all part of a medieval hand-me-down.
     
  15. Lindis

    Lindis Banned

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    And in Scotland the "Church of Scotland" is the state church.
    I think fully secular countries do not have a state church.
     
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  16. Heroclitus

    Heroclitus Well-Known Member

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    Yes it is simple: the UK, or at least England, has an Established Church. So it is not secular, nor does it pretend to be. The Head of State in England is the Head of the Church of England.

    It is true that secularists have been partly successful in making this a matter of form rather than substance, so we enjoy religious freedom (including the freedom not to believe) largely to the extent that it is enjoyed in secular states. The State tends to keep out of individual morals.

    The stuff you write about the architecture is irrelevant. It's not "church" architecture. It is just that in history the Church was rich and powerful and a big customer of the top architects. Having said that, at least in medieval times the cathedrals would be built by Kings as an expression of their secular power.
     
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  17. Lindis

    Lindis Banned

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    Exactly - that's how it is.
    As clear as daylight!

    :)
     
  18. James7

    James7 Active Member

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    Having a secular state is NOT the same as completely abolishing religion and the church.

    In a secular state, the church and state are entirely separate and the state is completely neutral on religious matters.
     

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