Prime Minister David Cameron, writing for Church Times
“Some people feel that in this ever more secular age we shouldn’t talk about these things (Christianity). I completely disagree.
“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.
“First, being more confident about our status as a Christian country does not somehow involve doing down other faiths or passing judgement on those with no faith at all.
“Many people tell me it is easier to be Jewish or Muslim in Britain than in a secular country precisely because the tolerance that Christianity demands of our society provides greater space for other religious faiths, too.
“Crucially, the Christian values of responsibility, hard work, charity, compassion, humility, and love are shared by people of every faith and none – and we should be confident in standing up to defend them.
“People who, instead, advocate some sort of secular neutrality fail to grasp the consequences of that neutrality, or the role that faith can play in helping people to have a moral code.
“Of course, faith is neither necessary nor sufficient for morality.
“Many atheists and agnostics live by a moral code – and there are Christians who don’t. But for people who do have a faith, that faith can be a guide or a helpful prod in the right direction – and, whether inspired by faith or not, that direction or moral code matters.”
Andrew Copson is chief executive of the British Humanist Association
“The vast majority of British people – who are not believing practising Christians – will deeply regret the comments of their Prime Minister.
He is wrong when he says that Britain is a Christian country: most of us aren’t Christian in our beliefs and our society has been shaped for the better by many pre-Christian, non-Christian, and post-Christian forces.
"He is equally misguided in wanting to increase the role of religious organisations in our society.
"This divisive activity is unpopular and undemocratic and has negative consequences for the rights and freedoms of many in Britain.
"More generally, people certainly don’t want religion to have more influence in government – in a 2006 Ipsos MORI poll, “religious groups and leaders” actually topped the list of domestic groups that people said had too much influence on government.”
In response to the Prime Minister’s comments on the persecution of Christians around the world, Mr Copson continued:
"There is a consensus in modern Britain that everyone should have freedom of thought and belief and that persecution of anyone for their beliefs is wrong and should be stopped.
"It’s right that our country should take a lead in speaking out for oppressed minorities wherever and whoever they are.
“What is regrettable is that our Prime Minister should try to exceptionalise Christians in this way – Jews, non-religious people, Muslims, Buddhists and others are equally at risk in a range of ways that deserve our urgent attention."