We often run up against the same arguments against making our national ceremony at the Cenotaph more inclusive; here we dispel a few of the most common.
Britain is a Christian country, therefore a Christian service is only fitting.
This is increasingly not the case. Over 9 million individuals in the 2001 census described themselves as having ‘No Religion’ with over 3 million more putting down a non-Christian religion – the numbers of both are believed to have increased since that time. In addition, more reliable data from the British Social Attitudes Survey puts the proportion of the UK who say they are ‘Christian’ in religion at less than half. Frequent surveys have shown that many of those who do put down a Christian denomination do so for cultural or familial reasons that have nothing to do with an active belief or practice. The UK is one of the most diverse and non-religious countries in the world – this should be acknowledged.
The overwhelming majority of the soldiers who gave their lives were Christian – therefore the remembrance ceremonies should reflect that.
The majority of British casualties occurred during the two World Wars – a time when there was no real alternative to the Christian religion, which permeated UK society in many respects. Even so, many who died were not religious. And since then immigration, globalisation, secularisation and a decline in deference have led to the rapid expansion of the non-Christian population. If the Remembrance Service remembers all Britain’s dead rather than those from two wars in particular then its composition and content should reflect that.
The Armed Forces are centred on tradition, we shouldn’t change that.
As an important institution in our society we feel that the Armed Forces should be representative of society – and as such shouldn’t hold on to outdated and exclusive ways of doing things when more inclusive alternatives are available. We are totally amenable to Christian services for those who explicitly identify themselves as Christian – but this shouldn’t be the default position for all soldiers, sailors, airmen and their support staff who by their very diversity embody and exemplify the very best characteristics of what makes us all British.
It’s a sign of disrespect on the part of the BHA and Defence Humanists for the sacrifice of Britain’s service personnel to be manipulated in this way.
What we are seeking is equal respect for the non-religious – the same respect given to the multiple religious groups at the Cenotaph (despite them representing relatively tiny minorities of personnel). It is a case of respecting the Armed Forces for the people they are and the sacrifices they made and make – not the gods they may or may not have chosen to follow whilst carrying out their vital duties.