home
RSS
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. Pro-demon

    Existantialist,relevancist and dogmantist where is the cross road to this matters.There is a reason to kill and not to! In the mist where do we draw conclusion within tandibles and no tandibles?

    November 12, 2011 at 4:38 am |
    • Mirosal

      Try that again, but use a dictionary. And, just WHAT exactly is the point you're trying, almost in vain, to get across to us?

      November 12, 2011 at 4:41 am |
  2. Logine

    Has Mr Blair forgotten his debate with Christopher Hitchens about how (little) religion is a force for good in the world?! His "performance" was nill, either ideologicaly and rhethorically speaking. He, as well as all of politics, should mind his own words he uttered BEFORE getting into power: We don't do religion. And if you are on youtube, check out the great JFK's words while he was a candidate about church and state.......

    November 12, 2011 at 4:18 am |
  3. Marina

    Hitting people in the head with the Bible is too old school 🙂 Interfaith is cool.....<

    November 12, 2011 at 2:43 am |
  4. Richard the Lionheart

    Thank you. Given Mr. Blair's experience it would seem he has some valid insights, His list is valuable and prescient. Unfortunately, given the tone and content of many of the comments here, his ideas will fall on deaf ears.

    November 12, 2011 at 2:07 am |
    • James

      Philosophy is questions that may never be answered. Religion is answers that may never be questioned.

      November 12, 2011 at 8:45 am |
    • Richard the Lionheart

      A catchy and fairly accurate aphorism. Well put.

      November 12, 2011 at 11:11 am |
  5. Mark

    Wise Words My Blair. I think the other important issue is not only does no one for certainty know the will of God, but also no one knows that there isn't a God either. I think the most important thing is to have humility to know that what you believe now may or may not be true of how you feel in the future and to always be open to listen to what other have to say. It is arrogant to believe that you know the truth.

    If you having to force your views on others and not through winning them over with reason, then your arguments are possibly flawed, your actions do not match what you preach or the person you are talking to may over time change their view.

    It is important to look at yourself first, do your views lead you to do things that will leave the world in a better of a worse off place for others.

    Religion has given humans principles, however they have also given us tyrants. Becuase of tyrants, it does not make those principle obselete.

    Chances are if you think the problems are out there, they are generally within. Man in the Mirror

    November 12, 2011 at 2:03 am |
    • Fred

      And if there were a God, I think it very unlikely that He would have such an uneasy vanity as to be offended by those who doubt His existence.

      November 12, 2011 at 8:36 am |
  6. Socrates

    Religion is the most simple way to control the mind of the people through dogma. Religion started merely as a form of social control, at a time when there was very little in the way of law and order – as Voltaire said "If god didn't exist, it would be necessary to invent him". Marx said that religion was the opium of the masses and, how can you contradict such statement? You don't have to be a Marxist to agree with him. I don't agree with any kind of dogma and yet, Marx was a very dogmatic person, no different from Jesus or any other religious leader. When looking through the worlds major religions, many examples of attempts at social control can be seen – in Christianity, the ten commandments and the teachings of jesus can be viewed as attempts to control through fear i.e. fear of divine retribution should an individual into "godlessness". In Islam, al'quran provides a framework and rules for daily living, and how an individual should behave, in almost every respect. Interesting.

    November 12, 2011 at 1:14 am |
  7. hippypoet

    "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."

    thats been my way of life for years!

    Yet most believers never want to converse over religion with a non believer after they say there peace...basically, most don't want to hear what the non believer hasd to say! Yes, this is a generalization, but its been tested, many times over again!

    suck it!

    November 12, 2011 at 12:26 am |
  8. Spiffy

    I agree religion is given a free pass on too much. Normally if you hear voices in your head you are crazy but if you call those voices God then you are a prophet.

    November 12, 2011 at 12:15 am |
    • HotAirAce

      You are wise beyond your years.

      November 12, 2011 at 12:21 am |
  9. dodz11

    We should give credit to where credit is due. A lot of studies have been done on how religion, especially the protestant kind, has influenced the economic development of the west. I am an Asian and have observed that many Europeans and Americans are shunning, and some even hostile, to the religion of their fathers. I would like to believe that they could not have achieved where they are now if not for the nurturance and influence of their religion. It is not hard to believe that the west's becoming irreligious will also influence their economic standing in the world.

    November 12, 2011 at 12:15 am |
    • Spiffy

      Yep. We sure couldn't have been as murderous or justifying colonialism without religion.

      November 12, 2011 at 12:18 am |
    • HotAirAce

      I would argue that The West has done well *despite* the undue and regressive influence of religion!

      November 12, 2011 at 12:20 am |
    • Jackson

      Religion is just mind control.

      November 12, 2011 at 12:29 am |
    • Jessica

      Always do your best. What you plant now, you will harvest later.

      November 12, 2011 at 12:41 am |
    • theTruth

      @dodz11 great truth, We are witnessing that in this present world. When someone rejects the source that made him, he is simply calling and awaiting that, that will destroy him. Still baffles me how people who labor to build their houses and families the way they want it, will wake up and said that there is no God that organized and built this universe the way it is. To me they are the most ignorant.

      November 12, 2011 at 2:14 am |
    • Maybe

      theTruth, I guess that you and your cohorts aren't praying correctly then.

      November 12, 2011 at 2:30 am |
    • Mirosal

      @ the Truth .... here we go again, someone who doesn't follow YOUR beliefs is ignorant. You couldn't be further from the truth. You DO realize that there little over a billion X-tians on earth. So by your own logic, 6 billion of them are ignorant. You're showing the textbook definition of arrogance. You'd be suprised at how many Atheists actually had a religious education. It seems you've already condemned the other 6 billion to your "hell". Tell me, why would this "god" of yours make 7 billion of us, then essentially throw away 85% of them? Atheists aren't ignorant, far from it. Ignornace is not wanting to learn. We learn, we study, we know your bible, we know the koran. We know the myths and the legends, and we can find no evidence to support any of it. Do you have any that says "god" made us, or the universe? Here's your challenge. Do it without using your book of tales (bible). You've already labled those who don't profess YOUR beliefs, and that ..... is ignorant.

      November 12, 2011 at 3:16 am |
    • Jessica

      Religion has actually convinced people that there`s an invisible man - living in the sky - who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a special list of ten things he does not want you to do..And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever `til the end of time! ...But He loves you.

      November 12, 2011 at 8:29 am |
    • Martin

      There you go again Spiffy, pretending atheists are "Holier than thou" Joseph Stalin was the #1 murderer in the last century.. Atheism is not defense against barbarism.

      In fact, the natural conclusion of their philosophy.. (survival of the fittest, there is no ultimate justice) has a natural conclusion...Get away with whatever you can (lie cheat steal, as long as you don't get caught , you're golden), live for yourself, and don't worry about any ultimate justice.
      The idea that atheism as a philosophy leads to some altruistic mind frame is ridiculous.
      The only reason an atheist has not to murder is: the risk/reward is not sufficient. As soon as the risk reward relationship merits it (in his own judgement) he'll commit whatever acts he has justified in his mind.

      November 13, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
  10. Gaven

    I would never want to be a member of a group whose symbol was a guy nailed to two pieces of wood.

    November 11, 2011 at 11:58 pm |
    • Fierra

      I'm always relieved when someone is delivering a eulogy and I realize I'm listening to it.

      November 12, 2011 at 12:08 am |
  11. Reality

    Mr. Blair's Foundation (he is the sole member) had assets of over a million dollars in the 2008-2009 IRS reporting period. As per IRS Form 990 (guidestar.org), he only works one hour a week for the Foundation but somehow is able to spend $800,000 on non-reported items? Hmmm??

    Another "non-profit" religion con game??

    I just checked guidestar.org's UK website. Tony Blair's Faith Foundation's income for 2010 was over $6 million. Now that is good change for huckstering the mumbo jumbo of religion.
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    November 11, 2011 at 11:55 pm |
  12. Mr Chihuahua

    From what little we can see I think that's Shaquille O'Neal in the burqa lol!

    November 11, 2011 at 11:36 pm |
    • John Richardson

      You're right! I hadn't noticed that!

      November 12, 2011 at 10:28 am |
  13. SimpleReally

    Here is an interesting article that i found on another site regarding Muslim women's attire.

    Well worth a read, but I am not sure who the author is.

    http://standingtoetotoe.com/Public/Nikab2.htm

    November 11, 2011 at 11:33 pm |
  14. WOT

    Religion has to do with God or gods! Democracy has to do with demon laws of mankind (evil)!

    November 11, 2011 at 11:31 pm |
    • THE BIBLE IS GARBAGE

      RELIGION IS ALL MAN-MADE. SO I GUESS THAT MEANS THE BIBLE WAS WRITTEN BY DEMONS. THANK YOU FOR YOUR INPUT.

      November 11, 2011 at 11:36 pm |
  15. TAK

    7 and 8 clearly contradict each other.

    November 11, 2011 at 11:16 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Not really. 7 says listen to believers. 8 says make them justify what they say. If you don't listen, you might not understand, but you don't have to agree in any event, and you don't have to accept their arguments.

      November 11, 2011 at 11:40 pm |
  16. Debbie

    Tony Blair? Really? Why? The guy that backed Bush and lied to America and Britian about WMD? Really? CNN must be really hard up for stories.

    November 11, 2011 at 11:16 pm |
    • SimpleReally

      He was also a strong proponent of allowing Gadaffi back into the world community.

      I was looking for a CNN article but I couldn't find one.

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/feb/25/tony-blair-colonel-gaddafi-alexander-chancellor

      November 11, 2011 at 11:29 pm |
  17. CEL1

    I am afraid that Mr Blair's views would allow people to make excuses in thye name of religion.
    Sorry, Tony, I don;t buy what your saying. Strict separation of church and state for me, please.

    November 11, 2011 at 11:00 pm |
  18. mike miller

    Point in question, the woman looks like she has a mans hand?????

    November 11, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
    • Mr Chihuahua

      That's a man baby, yeah lol!

      November 11, 2011 at 10:55 pm |
    • Mr Chihuahua

      Excuse me waiter I didn't order the bratwurst lol!

      November 11, 2011 at 11:09 pm |
  19. AveryTimm

    3 and 5 seem to conflict with each other (equality and accommodation). 7 and 8 conflict (allowing people to justify their position with religion only, and at the same time expecting people to use reasoned argument not bald assertion or authoritarian claims). On number 9, does this mean that if the majority of people in a currently secular nation are of one religion and they want to turn it into a theocracy, they can? On number 10, where it says "either an atheist state or one dominant religion"...what atheist has ever suggested created an "atheist state"? Atheists talk about a secular state which is where the government doesn't interfere in anyones religious freedom, and it doesn't endorse any particular religion (or none).

    And if "none of us are qualified to state with certainty the will of God", then why are we talking about this? If that's true then everyone should be agnostic and no one should come around knocking on my door trying to convert me. Certainly, no one should be trying to get the power of government to help promote their religion.

    November 11, 2011 at 10:40 pm |
    • Martin

      .what atheist has ever suggested created an "atheist state"?
      The Soviet Union was an Atheist State
      Currently American Athesits are doing things like:

      1: Suing public schools if they let the valedictorian talk about how his religion helped him/her.
      2). preventing families from praying over graves at nation parks ..."Government Property"
      3) Forcing evangelists into so-called "Free speech zones" i.e. you can't preach the gospel in public, only in government approved locations
      Basically the idea is that .. if the government touches something in anyway.. your free speech rights are not in effect.

      Who are the Fascists of our age?.. ..atheists

      November 11, 2011 at 10:48 pm |
    • Spiffy

      Yeah, it's not like any other groups are trying to force their beliefs on anyone.

      November 11, 2011 at 11:14 pm |
    • THE BIBLE IS GARBAGE

      MARTIN, EVER WALK INTO A CHURCH SERVICE AND TRY YELLING "THERE IS NO GOD!" OVER AND OVER?

      MY GUESS IS NO. YOU'D GO TO JAIL. SO WHY IS IT OK FOR SOME JERK WHO DOESN'T PAY TAXES TO STAND ON A STREET CORNER OR GOVERNMENT-FUNDED PROPERTY AND SCREAM ABOUT HOW YOU NEED JESUS? IF A PRIVATE SCHOOL SAYS OK TO PRAY, BY ALL MEANS PRAY TILL NOTHING HAPPENS. TAX DOLLARS FUND PUBLIC SCHOOLS. AS LONG AS I'M PAYING TAXES TO FUND EDUCATION, I DON'T WANT THE BELIEF OF SANTA BEING SPREAD AROUND IN THESE PLACES.

      AS FOR PRAYING AT A GRAVE, I DON'T SEE A PROBLEM WITH THAT. I THINK IT'S STUPID TO SIT THERE AND PRAY TO NOTHING, BUT THAT'S JUST ME. IF IT BRINGS SOMEONE PEACE OVER THE DEATH OF A LOVED ONE THEN HAVE AT IT. POINT BEING, THERE SHOULD BE A TIME AND A PLACE FOR IT IF WE'RE GOING TO PUT UP WITH IT.

      November 11, 2011 at 11:20 pm |
    • Martin

      Oh I see.. atheist have total freedom in the public square, bit Christians are second class citizens, because the all supreme atheist say their speech is not fit for public airing.

      You say you want to live in a free country? Then when you are in public, sometimes you will hear things that are different than your belief system. Including Christians telling you that :
      Luke 13: But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” - Jesus speaking..

      A free republic results in a cacophany of voices.. so you agree with, so you can't stand.. get used to it, it is the price of freedom.

      November 13, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
  20. fred

    Did you know religous education is compulsory in english schools? how's that for democracy and his little list?

    November 11, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
    • awaysaway

      Its fine. You can study religion without believing in it. And it sort of makes his point about tolerance and awareness. PS. Tony Blair is considered unusually religious for the UK (but not so for the US)... in the UK religion is often seen as a quaint odd traditional thing a bit like the monarchy. Its ok if you don't take it too seriously.

      November 11, 2011 at 10:49 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Religious education is a leading cause of atheism. The more you learn about it, the more obvious it is just silly mythology.

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

      IF THERE WAS MORE RELIGIOUS EDUCATION, THERE WOULD BE FEWER BELIEVERS.

      November 11, 2011 at 11:21 pm |
    • Spiffy

      @HotAirAce I attend a Catholic HS and find this to be extremely true. Most of the intelligent to semi-intelligent people in my class are atheists. You will find the religious to extremely religious in the less smarter classes.

      November 11, 2011 at 11:42 pm |
    • Spiffy

      Having learned so much about religion in general made me into an agnostic-atheist.

      November 11, 2011 at 11:43 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      @Spiffy, congrats on figuring things out! One of the things I am most proud of is bringing up our two sons free of religion. I sincerely hope that your generation will lead us out of centuries of silly mythology. Please don't let the "special" ( but undeserved and often negative) position (free pass) that religion currently enjoys cause you to assume their myths are true.

      November 11, 2011 at 11:57 pm |
    • Spiffy

      I agree religion is given a free pass on too much. Normally if you hear voices in your head you are crazy but if you call those voices God then you are a prophet..

      November 12, 2011 at 12:16 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6
Advertisement
About this blog

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.