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Churches do more for community than atheists, says Devon MP

By Exeter Express and Echo  |  Posted: April 19, 2014

Comments (4)

A West Country MP has said Christians are more likely to come to the aid of the poor and vulnerable in Britain after David Cameron said the country should be "more evangelical" about its religious beliefs.

Gary Streeter, Conservative MP for South West Devon, said the Prime Minister's comments represented a "new-found sense of mission" as he took a side-swipe at "militant atheists".

Mr Streeter, chairman of the cross-party Christians in Parliament group, argued it is "the churches, not the secular groups, not the atheists" leading community work in his constituency and across the country.

Mr Streeter, a former government minister, made the remarks on Radio 4's Today programme when challenged by former Liberal Democrat MP Evan Harris, who said it was "offensive" to suggest people with religious convictions had a stronger "moral code" than those who do not.

In an article for the Church Times, Mr Cameron said Britain should be "more confident about our status as a Christian country".

"I believe we should be more confident about our status as a Christian country, more ambitious about expanding the role of faith-based organisations, and, frankly, more evangelical about a faith that compels us to get out there and make a difference to people's lives," he said.

Mr Streeter said the Prime Minister is "reflecting a new-found confidence in the Church in Britain, and a new-found sense of mission that we really are here to serve our communities."

He went on: "There are Christians right now who are serving their communities – whether it be street pastors, Christians Against Poverty, all kinds of groups for elderly and vulnerable people. The reality is on the ground Christians are out there serving the most vulnerable in our society."

In response, Mr Harris, a member of the British Humanist Association, said: "There's no evidence that being religious makes you any more likely to do good deeds. You certainly don't need, as the Prime Minister was trying to imply, to be religious to have a moral code. That is offensive to many people in this country that are not religious."

But Mr Streeter replied: "It's offensive to you and the minority of militant atheists."

The Tory MP went on: "In most constituencies, for example like my own, it is the churches – not the secular groups, not the atheists – who are out there serving vulnerable people, running youth clubs, creating lunches for elderly and lonely people. That's the reality in our country.

"The Prime Minister is simply reflecting that and I pay him credit for doing that. Most of the good things in this country come from our Christian heritage. Many of our finest charities were founded by Christians."

He added: "Most of us who have a faith, it motivates us to serve in our community."

Mr Harris said it is "not true" Britain is a Christian country, as the Prime Minister suggested.

He said: "A Christian country. What does that mean? I suppose in the sense that there are more Christians than Muslims and Jews, then we're a Christian country. On that basis we are a female country, a heterosexual country, a white country. Are people, in this country very religious? The majority are not.

"Most people in this country do not want politicians to impose religion on the rest of us. It should be a private matter."

The Prime Minister's article is the latest demonstration of his religious faith.

Tony Blair's former spin doctor Alastair Campbell famously held that prime ministers should not "do God", but Mr Cameron has been less reluctant to speak about his beliefs.

At an Easter reception in Downing Street earlier this month he told an audience of Christian leaders and politicians in Downing Street that his "moments of greatest peace" occurred every other Thursday morning attending the Eucharist at St Mary Abbots, the west London church linked to the school his children attend.

In the article, Mr Cameron described himself as a "classic" member of the Church of England, "not that regular in attendance, and a bit vague on some of the more difficult parts of the faith".

Mr Cameron said being more confident about "our status as a Christian country does not somehow involve doing down other faiths or passing judgment on those with no faith at all. Many atheists and agnostics live by a moral code – and there are Christians who don't."

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  • ElCatski  |  April 22 2014, 10:42AM

    Us Atheists do have a moral code, we do what is right because it's the right thing to do. Christians do whats right because they are seeking a reward, a place in Heaven, and fear Hell. In the year 2014 is there really a place in this world for carrot or stick mentality?

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  • cliffsmith23  |  April 22 2014, 1:16AM

    This is demonstrably untrue. To take just two examples, the secular aid agency Oxfam spends around £700 million a year on aid projects, while the largest similar Chrisitan agency, Christian Aid, can claim less than a tenth of that. There are far more secular charities than religious ones, and all of the major international aid organisations including Médecins sans Frontières, Amnesty International, UNICEF and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent societies are all secular. Furthermore, aid given by Christian organisations is often tied to religiously-motivated political campaigns, such as promotong ineffective abstinence-based programs and rather than condom use in countries with major HIV problems like Uganda and Zimbabwe. The truth is that religion is the root cause of almost all of the world's major conflicts; atheism is the cause of none of them. Anyone claiming moral superiority based on their Christian faith needs to look at the history of their religion and then apologise profusely.

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  • truly  |  April 20 2014, 1:03AM

    What a complete wazzac, to pass comments like this. Just who is this idiot? Has he any comprehension in reality what non believers do for their neighbours or communities? The answer is obviously NO! What gives him and Cameron the right to claim the moral high ground for the religious ? Practice what you preach all you fat cats and climb through that needles eye! Matthew 19:24 KJV

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  • JohnnyDale  |  April 19 2014, 9:48PM

    Hey BelindaPicket, have you thought of becoming an MP? You'd do a better job than Streeter.

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