LONDON — Britain is a Christian nation and should not be afraid of standing up for Christian values to help counter the country's "moral collapse", Prime Minister David Cameron said Friday.

In a rare foray into religion by a British premier, Cameron said "live and let live" had too often become "do what you please" in Britain.

The "passive tolerance" of immoral behaviour had helped fuel the August riots, excess in the banking industry and home-grown Islamist terror, he said.

"We are a Christian country. And we should not be afraid to say so," Cameron said at an event in Oxford, southern England, to mark the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible.

"The Bible has helped to give Britain a set of values and morals which make Britain what it is today. Values and morals we should actively stand up and defend.

The alternative of moral neutrality should not be an option."

Cameron described himself as a committed but only "vaguely practising" member of the Church of England, who was "full of doubts" about big theological issues.

"We've got stand up for our values if we are to confront the slow-motion moral collapse that has taken place in parts of our country these past few generations," he said.

"Moral neutrality or passive tolerance just isn't going to cut it any more.

"Shying away from speaking the truth about behaviour, about morality has actually helped to cause some of the social problems."

Cameron said that along with the works of William Shakespeare, the King James Bible was a "high point of the English language".

"The Bible has helped to shape the values which define our country," he said.

"Responsibility, hard work, charity, compassion, humility, self-sacrifice, love, pride in working for the common good and honouring the social obligations we have to one another, to our families and our communities -- these are the values we treasure.

"Yes, they are Christian values. And we should not be afraid to acknowledge that.

"But they are also values that speak to us all -- to people of every faith and none. And I believe we should all stand up and defend them."

People who say that would be "doing down other faiths" were "profoundly wrong".

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Photo by the UK Department for Business, Innovation and Skills from Flickr