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My Take: 10 dos and don'ts for religion and democracy
In France, a woman protests the country's recently adopted ban on burqas in public.
November 11th, 2011
09:38 AM ET

My Take: 10 dos and don'ts for religion and democracy

Editor's Note: Tony Blair, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1997 to 2007, is founder and patron of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation. He gave a speech in Italy on Friday on why the protection of religious freedom should be a priority for all democracies.

By Tony Blair, Special to CNN

1. DO have democracy-friendly religion and religion-friendly democracies.

2. DON’T think you understand democracy if you think it’s only about elections: it’s about a culture and mindset which includes freedom of thought, freedom of expression, political and religious pluralism, and human rights.

3. DO maintain equality of treatment for different religions within the law as a core element of the secular state.

4. DON’T duck difficult conflicts involving religious and secular ideas: discuss them openly.

5. DON’T rush to legislation to solve religious conflict; instead seek first to resolve it by discussion and accommodations.

6. DON’T allow religious schools to opt out of the same national standards and core curriculum that you expect of everyone else.

7. DO listen to religious voices on social, political and economic issues, and allow people to justify their views on explicitly religious grounds if they want.

8. DO insist on religious leaders making their case by reasoned argument not by bald assertion or authoritarian claims. Insist on that for atheists and secular leaders too.

9. DO NOT allow religious voices to have dominance in the public sphere if they cannot achieve majority support through democratic means.

10. DO ensure, whether the overwhelming democratic choice is either an atheist state or one dominant religion, that the voices of religious minorities and those who have no faith are protected.

Remember that none of us are qualified to state with certainty the will of God – so humility, openness to others, and interfaith dialogue are all essential for a healthy society.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Tony Blair.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Opinion • Politics

soundoff (382 Responses)
  1. RonnNC

    I don't see how his #7 and his #8 are compatible.

    November 11, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
    • Zinnia

      Good observation. For No. 8, he seems to be saying that we must insist on a reasoned argument from religious leaders - or does he mean leaders who are religious?

      At the same time, he's saying we need to respect faith enough to understand that many people will rely solely on that for their views and we should accept that doing so is not necessarily a bad thing.

      November 11, 2011 at 7:58 pm |
  2. Abinadi

    First world countries tend to be Christian and democratic – the more Christian the better. Why? Christianity is necessary for a democracy because Christianity teaches the necessary core values for a democracy to exist. Non-Christian nations tend to have a rough time establishing democracy, because they have no foundation of teaching self sacrifice and unselfish service and other moral values and a public servant in a democracy must not be motivated by greed. Atheists teach no values nor do they have guiding principles and so they undermine democracy. Christianity and democracy appear to be necessary for first world status. If the nation turns from Christianity, we will become a third world, third rate country. I see no basic differences between the people of the United States and people of other countries. Other people are smart and hard working. We are great and became great because of our faith in God. God is our power. Atheism has already been tried and failed. For nearly a hundred years Communist Russia and China have oppressed their people and made them miserable, taken away their freedom and dignity. Atheism is anti democracy and anti freedom.

    November 11, 2011 at 7:34 pm |
  3. stanton

    IF WE COULD GET THE REPUBLICAN'S OUT OF ANYTHING THAT IS POLITICAL THEN WE WOULD HAVE SOMETHING TO BE PROUD OF!!!!!! I'M ASHAMED TO SAY I USED TO BE A REPUBLICAN NOT ANYMORE EVEN AT THE POINT OF A GUN I WILL NEVER VOTE REPUBLICAN AGAIN!!!!!!!AFTER WHAT REAGAN DID TO OUR TRADE UNION'S IN 1980 AND THE REST OF THE REPUBLICAN CRIMINAL'S ARE JUST AS BAD!!!!!! I CAN THINK OF SEVERAL REPUBLICAN GOVENOR'S THAT I WOULD NOT WASTE THE TIME TO SPIT ON OR THE SALIVA!!!!!!

    November 11, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
    • o.k.

      Stanton...you're a little off subject here. Perhaps a warm cup of milk and a nap might sooth your soul.

      November 11, 2011 at 7:44 pm |
    • pseudobliss

      Every one of the senators cosigning the US HR Bill 2400 are dems. If I recall correctly, 9 are Jewish and two are Muslim. It seems Dems in the US have blood on their hands; quite literally....

      November 11, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
  4. mike tilling

    He should add:
    do not follow religion as it cannot be argued rationally and
    do listen, that's you Blair, to what others consider of your mindset opinions

    November 11, 2011 at 7:11 pm |
    • Sam

      DO realize that the premise that every belief must be proven rationally is self-defeating and unjustified.

      November 11, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
  5. stanton

    we don't need you or your friend G.W.B.TELLING US HOW TO MAKE A BIGGER MESS OF OUR COUNTRY HE DID A GREAT JOB ALL BY HIMSELF AND YOU THOUGHT HE WAS GREAT LIKE PERRY DOES AND I WOULDN'T VOTE FOR HIM EITHER!!!! YOU CONSERVATIVE'S SUCK AND THERE IS NO NICE WAY TO SAY IT ,BUT THE FACT'S SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES!!!!!

    November 11, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
  6. SurakijVuthikornpant

    With scienctific hypothesis that require some scientific methods to resolve,if not can not claim fiction or nonfiction yet.
    "If some religions share same archangels (the messengers),must have rational explanation."
    Accordding to Enoch chapter XX.
    http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Book_of_Enoch/Chapter_20
    And according to Al-Qura'n ,the holy book of I-salami.
    http://corpus.quran.com/concept.jsp?id=angel
    And according to Al-Qur'an Chapter (32) sūrat l-sajdah (The Prostration) verse 32:11:3 – 32:11:4
    http://corpus.quran.com/wordbyword.jsp?chapter=32&verse=11
    http://corpus.quran.com/concept.jsp?id=azrael
    http://corpus.quran.com/search.jsp?q=con%3Aazrael
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_(personification)#In_Judaism
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saraqael
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_(personification)#In_Islam

    Make choices,"Peace",Make ways "Peace"
    There is no short cut to the "Peace","Peace" is the way(s).

    November 11, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
    • THE BIBLE IS GARBAGE

      WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY?

      November 11, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
    • Chris, Austin

      He said "Peace."

      November 11, 2011 at 7:42 pm |
  7. Jim

    Who gives a crap about what this "American Lap Dog" thinks. He's hated in his own country.

    November 11, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
  8. ModGOP

    Tony Blair always did strike me as a Honorable man, this just furthers my belief he was worthy to lead Britain!

    November 11, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
  9. ahmed

    bring me one new idea !! only one .

    November 11, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
    • GodPot

      DO tax all religions on any money they recieve that is not directly used to feed the poor, help the needy and house the homeless.

      November 11, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
  10. One Day

    IIncredibly lucid argument. What went so wrong? (when he was prime minister).

    November 11, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
    • Zinnia

      He had a lot of successes domestically. I believe that in time he'll be seen as a good PM. For me, he still remains relevant as a strong voice for pluralism and freedoms in our world.

      November 11, 2011 at 8:06 pm |
  11. Andrew

    Northern Ireland *IS* part of the United Kingdom.......

    It is NOT United Kingdom and Northern Ireland........Do you need any staff to help you out with things like this? (I am available).....

    CNN should hang their heads in shame for this basic error........who checks this stuff???

    Andrew

    November 11, 2011 at 6:02 pm |
  12. Jill

    "Tony Blair, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland from 1997 to 2007"

    Umm, wouldn't it be "Great Britain and Northern Ireland" or just "the United Kingdom"?

    The UK includes Northern Ireland.

    November 11, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
    • Chaz

      The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

      November 11, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
  13. SCOTO

    " allow people to justify their views on explicitly religious grounds if they want" Even if this involves inciting hatred/

    November 11, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
  14. THE BIBLE IS GARBAGE

    HOW CAN THERE BE DEMOCRACY IN RELIGION WHEN YOUR RELIGION SAYS THERE'S ONLY ONE GOD AND YOU'RE NOT ALLOWED TO VOTE FOR ANOTHER.

    November 11, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
    • J.W

      You don't vote on which god to worship.

      November 11, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
    • GodPot

      There is no such thing as a democratic theist. There are only theists who abide by democracy but pray for theocracy.

      November 11, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
    • RA

      I beg to differ.

      From an historical perspective, in terms of antiquity, the Bible is a very unique collection of books that spans centuries, societies, peoples. In addition, it is not written by just one man, but by a collection of authors living in very different times. So as I said, very unique.

      You don't have to "believe" in its contents to recognize that.

      November 11, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
    • GodPot

      @RA – Who are you disagreeing with btw? Nothing from the above questions that your bible was written by many men over many years.

      November 11, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
    • THE BIBLE IS GARBAGE

      WELL YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO VOTE ON WHICH GOD TO WORSHIP. THE GOD OF THE BIBLE IS PRETTY VIOLENT. IF I WERE JEWISH I'D VOTE FOR A DIFFERENT GOD. IF I WERE CHRISTIAN, I'D VOTE FOR A GOD THAT WASN'T BIPOLAR AND COULD MAKE UP IT'S MIND. IF I WERE MUSLIM I'D VOTE FOR A GOD THAT DIDN'T MAKE ME TAKE A PILGRIMAGE TO VISIT A ROCK IN THE DIRT ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE PLANET. THERE ARE PLENTY OF THINGS TO VOTE FOR.

      November 11, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
    • RA

      @GodPot:
      I was commenting to the person calling themselves "The Bible Is Garbage"... His/Her name was the message I was commenting on.

      November 11, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
    • GodPot

      Ah, that makes much more sense.

      November 11, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
    • THE BIBLE IS GARBAGE

      THE HISTORICAL PARTS OF THE BIBLE ARE TARNISHED BY THE FABLES WRITTEN IN IT. THESE FABLES USE HISTORICAL PEOPLE, PLACES AND EVENTS TO VALIDATE THEM.

      THE BIBLE IS GARBAGE IS MORE TO THE POINT THAN THE TWO SENTENCES I JUST WROTE, HENCE THE SHORTER NAME. THANK YOU DOCTOR OBVIOUS.

      November 11, 2011 at 11:09 pm |
  15. Just sad

    Bad

    November 11, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
    • Michael The PopAngel

      Because I'm Dead, I'm Dead-
      Come On
      (Dead Dead-Really, Really Dead)
      You Know I'm Dead, I'm Dead-
      You Know It
      (Dead Dead-Really, Really Dead)
      You Know I'm Dead, I'm Dead-
      Come On, You Know
      (Dead Dead-Really, Really Dead)
      And The Whole World Has To
      Answer Right Now
      Just To Tell You Once Again,
      Who's Dead . . .

      The Word Is Out
      Murray Doin' Wrong
      Gonna Lock You Up
      Before Too Long,
      Your Lyin' Eyes
      Gonna Take You Right
      So Listen Up
      Don't Make A Fight,
      Your Talk Is Cheap
      You're Not A Man
      You're Throwin' Stones
      To Hide Your Hands

      But You Say The Sky's
      The Limit
      On the Propofol I Use
      And My Friends You Have
      Seen Nothin'
      Just Wait 'Til I Get Through . . .

      Because I'm Dead, I'm Dead-
      Come On
      (Dead Dead-Really, Really Dead)
      You Know I'm Dead, I'm Dead-
      You Know It
      (Dead Dead-Really, Really Dead)
      You Know I'm Dead, I'm Dead-
      Come On, You Know
      (Dead Dead-Really, Really Dead)
      And The Whole World Has To
      Answer Right Now
      Just To Tell You Once Again,
      Who's Dead . . .

      November 11, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
  16. Just sad

    Do – not take the advice of this.

    November 11, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
    • Howard

      why would you say not to take the advice of this? Seems quite fair for all.

      November 11, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
    • GodPot

      He would much rather it read like this:

      1. DO have Christian religion running your democracies.

      2. DON’T think you understand democracy if you think it’s only about elections: it’s about injecting as much of your religious culture and mindset which excludes freedom of thought, freedom of expression, political and religious pluralism, and human rights.

      3. DO maintain equality of treatment for different Christian religions within the law as a core element of the Theocratic state.

      4. DON’T duck difficult conflicts involving religious and secular ideas: discuss them openly, then violently stomp out any dissent.

      5. DO rush to legislation to solve religious conflict; seeking first to resolve it by discussion and accommodations is for liberal p u s s i e s.

      6. DO allow religious schools to opt out of the same national standards and core curriculum that you expect of everyone else, you can't expect us to teach our children science can you?

      7. DO listen to your own voice or the Church on social, political and economic issues, and allow people to justify their views on explicitly religious grounds if they want, as long as it's your religion with a monotheistic male deity.

      8. DO NOT insist on religious leaders making their case by reasoned argument, but by bald assertion or authoritarian claims which are much easier to invent and promote. Insist on tounge bridles for atheists and secular leaders too which will help keep their mouths either closed or so muffled no one will be able to hear their logic and reason.

      9. DO allow religious voices to have dominance in the public sphere if they cannot achieve majority support through democratic means.

      10. DO ensure, whether the overwhelming democratic choice is either a Catholic state or a Protestant one, that the voices of religious minorities and those who have no faith are silcenced.

      November 11, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
  17. RA

    To pj:
    "We have the infallible and inerrant Scriptures that clearly state God's will"
    Really? Are you referring to the writings supposedly dictated to one man by an angel? Yeah, you definitely got the whole story...

    November 11, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
  18. A christian

    First of all we need to understand that the country we live in is not a democracy, but a democratic republic, There is a huge difference.

    Second these laws can never apply to ISLAM...and I am not bashing ISLAM, their religion and government are one.

    November 11, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
    • Howard

      A democratic republic is a republic that is a democracy. Not sure how that doesn't make us a democracy. can you explain that?

      November 11, 2011 at 6:02 pm |
    • GodPot

      @Howard – As a republic, which is a version of representative democracy, it means we do not have a true or direct democracy where each law would be voted on by each citizen, but an elected representative for larger groups of people that gets to cast the vote, which may or may not at times represent the will of the voters who elected the representative. See the difference?

      November 11, 2011 at 7:13 pm |
  19. blabla

    ok

    November 11, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
  20. pj

    "...none of us are qualified to state with certainty the will of God" is nonsense. We have the infallible and inerrant Scriptures that clearly state God's will so any person who subjects himself to it in obedience is qualified more so obligated to state the will of God!

    November 11, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
    • ThinkForYourself

      And it is for this reason that there is only one version of the bible, and only one denomination of christianity – because it is oh, so clear!

      *sigh*

      November 11, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
    • Rap Jones

      PJ, this is precisely the sort of blind, unthinking faith that Mr. Blair wants to avoid. You just don't get it. Amazing.

      November 11, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
    • RA

      To pj:
      "We have the infallible and inerrant Scriptures that clearly state God's will"
      Really? Are you referring to the writings supposedly dictated to one man by an angel? Yeah, you definitely got the whole story...

      To ThinkForYourself:
      I don't think he is refering to the Bible...

      November 11, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
    • Howard

      PJ, other faiths think that they have the infallible scriptures. What makes your belief better than another's? get over yourself and learn about others before you claim that you have all the answers. It just makes you appear arrogant.

      November 11, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
    • Bulletin

      A monumental discovery of the verified last page of ancient biblical scripture has been found! It says:–

      רק צוחק
      הסוף

      Scholars have translated this amazing message - it says:

      "Just Kidding."

      "The End."

      November 11, 2011 at 6:02 pm |
    • David in Cincinnati

      Besides, pj, you forgot. If you can't pick your way through the inconsistencies in the Scriptures, we have Billy Graham to explain God's will.

      November 11, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.