Politics in Minutes (2016)

State religion

The connection between politics and religion runs very deep. Religions have provided societies with the moral code that underpins their laws. In many cases, there is a predominant religion in a country that is intrinsic to its national identity and cultural heritage, even if it is now only practised by a minority of the population. The United Kingdom, for example, is often considered a ‘Christian country’ despite its multicultural make-up.

Some faiths are endorsed as official, state religions, in a similar way to the adoption of a language as the official language. This may be a formal acknowledgement that gives little or no real status to the religion or its clerics, where the religion plays a purely ceremonial role, or where representatives of the faith may play some part in the secular government. Today, most countries with a state religion are Islamic, but there are some countries, notably the UK, which have retained an established Christian church.

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Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury between 2002 and 2012, at the UK State Opening Of Parliament.