One of the main observations made by the Pope on his visit to the United Kingdom last year was that our country is becoming more and more secular in nature. He expressed concern that we are departing from religious teachings and stated that he believed this to be potentially damaging to our society in the long term.
On the other hand, a growing proportion of our society adamantly does not believe in any religious order in the first place, least of all in those of the Roman Catholic Church. They believe that all religions have failed to evolve with the world in which they still exist. There is no denying the fact that today there is a battle within our legal system between those who would prefer our laws not to be based on outdated religious beliefs and those who still insist on following all the lessons to be found within the Bible.
You also need to bear in mind that the UK is very much more multicultural nowadays, and this begs the question: Should the non-Christian religious teachings of Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc., all be taken into account as well? The Muslim community has already expressed an interest in the UK adopting Sharia law (or at least certain aspects thereof), and this has not gone down very well generally.
Turning our attention back to Christianity, as it is what has helped mould our legal system over the centuries, it is probably fair to say that the vast majority of the laws that continue to follow religion are those connected with the simple balance between what is right and wrong. Many of the Ten Commandments, for example, simply follow a moralistic school of thought, and plenty of people would argue that we really do not need any religion to inform us that such actions are wrong.
In order to gain a better appreciation of how countries fare when they include religious teachings more stringently into their legal system, we soon uncover societies that are on a par with our own legal system from over 100 years ago. Many people argue that the Roman Catholic Church especially should be held to account for the fact that HIV and AIDS are tremendously prevalent within many African countries. In fact, the rate of contraction for these sexually transmitted immune deficiency viruses is said to be at epidemic proportions.
This heinous problem is occurring within societies where access to education is extremely limited as a consequence of severe poverty. However, religious teachings are able to penetrate these societies: One such teaching is that any form of contraception is an outright sin, as far as Catholicism is concerned. Hence the fact that people fail to protect themselves during sexual activity and the rates of STDs rise accordingly.
Then we have the religious attitudes towards homosexuality. Where religion is still embedded so heavily into any nation’s law, you can usually guarantee that homosexuality will be criminalised and people who quite simply cannot help the way in which they were born will face being cruelly ostracised and receive quite ridiculous punishments; in some countries this can mean even the death penalty.
As far as secularism is concerned in the UK, homosexuality is often cited as one of the main reasons for our legal system to move further away from outdated religious beliefs. This is a very confusing area: On the one hand, you have all religious groups claiming that it is wrong for a person to live as a practicing homosexual, whereas on the other hand, you have more and more conflicting human rights laws coming into force to justifiably protect this minority.
Evidence of such a conflict has recently gone through our court system, whereby a couple from Derby was banned from adopting children in the future because the courts adamantly refused to accept homosexuality as an ethical lifestyle choice. In fact, Prime Minister David Cameron even commented on this case and stated that he believed the courts had arrived at exactly the right ruling in this regard.
With the potential for religion to lead to so much ignorance and damage within any society, perhaps it is only fitting that our democratic nation has tended to depart more and more from traditional Christian beliefs. We’re all taught the difference between right and wrong from the offset, and our law already addresses the “wrongs” that we feel should be sanctioned through the Criminal Justice System. With this in mind, it is many people’s prediction that the United Kingdom will become increasingly secular over the coming decades, and case law and new legislation certainly seem to be following such a trend.
If you would be interested in learning more about the English legal system, you may well like to investigate the idea of studying the Legal Secretaries Diploma. This is one of the areas covered within this professionally recognised qualification, and the course includes a tour of the Royal Courts of Justice in London.