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In itself, secularism cannot provide the justification for the “thick” values of inalienable dignity, equality, liberty and the safety of vital social institutions. It can only assert them or mutate them into something different. Thus the dignity of persons in relation becomes mere autonomy, equality of persons becomes claims for the equal treatment of all kinds of lifestyle or behaviour and liberty can become just the libertarianism “of anything goes”. If we are to move beyond the crude utilitarianism of the day and the making of moral decisions by opinion poll or focus groups, we must have recourse to ultimate explanations which are not just descriptions of this or that state of affairs. Some of the so-called British values, like the freedom of the person, need justification in terms of a transcendental tradition or they may need challenging from the point of view of such a tradition. For example, in opposing unjust laws that inhibit the exercise of conscience or even in pointing out the insufficiency of democracy in protecting minorities of various kinds. That is why acknowledging the importance of the person has led to Bills of Rights to protect people even when they are a minority.

I should make clear that my plea for the centrality of the Judaeo-Christian tradition in national life is not necessarily to argue for an established church. This may be one way of expressing such centrality but it is not the only one. The importance of the Judaeo-Christian tradition for informing legislation and policy is such that its place in our national life should not depend on an established church. Nor should it be seen as excluding the contribution of people of other faiths and of none. It should be seen rather as a framework for discussion and as a point of departure when new questions have to be addressed by the nation.

Post-Brexit, we need a clear moral and spiritual framework for our life together. In recent years, we have tried a number of exotic remedies for our national ills. They have not worked. Leaving a vacuum in these areas is also very dangerous as something very undesirable could fill it. Is it time to recover what has been tried and tested in times of ease but also of privation and suffering? What was it that gave comfort and consolation to those who lost loved ones in the First and Second World Wars? For what vision of national life were people willing to sacrifice their future? Whatever else it may have been, it was certainly a consciousness of a shared past based on common beliefs and values and all that has arisen from them. We must nail, once and for all, the lie that secularism is somehow neutral. It is not. However attenuated, it is also a way of viewing the world and the human condition. The most it has done, however, is either to parody the Christian tradition or to capitulate to every demand for instant self-gratification from the surrounding culture. Can it provide the substantial values we need to rediscover our national identity? I don’t think so, but our shared Judaeo-Christian past, taking account of mistakes, wrong turnings and tragedies, can. It is to this we must turn for a renewed vision of national life. 
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