The Archbishop of Canterbury has appealed to the secular world to overcome its mistrust of religion.
Debt is the "dark side of Christmas", the archbishop warns
In his Christmas sermon Dr Rowan Williams criticised France over plans to ban Muslim headscarves in schools.
He said the same suspicion of religion existed in the UK, where Tony Blair's beliefs were greeted with "sniggers".
Dr Williams said part of the reason lay in the misuse of faith for oppression and violence, as an alibi for atrocity.
The Archbishop called on Christians to show their faith was "on the side of humanity".
He said: "Discomfort about religion or about a particular religion may be
the response of an educated liberal or, at the opposite extreme, the unthinking
violence of an anti-Semite; it isn't easy to face the fact that sometimes the
effects are similar for the believer."
The Archbishop said religious faith had too often become the
"language of the powerful".
He said: "Historically, the answer is, alas, that religious faith has too
often been the language of the powerful, the excuse for oppression, the alibi
"It has appeared as itself intolerant of difference (hence the legacy of
anti-Semitism), as a campaigning, aggressive force for uniformity, as a
self-defensive and often corrupt set of institutions indifferent to basic human
Dr Williams criticised those who carried out acts of terror in the name of religion, and called for multi-faith unity.
He said: "All our great religious traditions say something of this -
which is one reason for Christians, Muslims, Jews and others to stand with each
other and speak out for each other in times of stress or harassment."