Sunday, 19 May 2013

The strange death of Christian England

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St Etheldreda's, Ely Place, Holborn, London


The latest figures from the 2011 census are very important, alarming, saddening, but not really such a very great surprise. 

10 percent of British people under 25 are Muslim, which means one day Britain will be at least 10 percent Muslim. The Russian news agency RT says Islam could be the dominant UK religion in 10 years.  

Damian Thompson in the Daily Telegraph says:


For the first time, the proportion of under-25s who don’t describe themselves as even nominal Christians has risen above 50 per cent. Also, the new breakdown shows that the rate of decline in British Christianity has been masked by the presence of 1.2 million foreign believers in this country. Take them out of the picture, and we can see that home-grown Christianity has shrunk by 15 per cent in just a decade. To quote the demographer Prof David Coleman of Oxford University, “It is difficult to see whether any other change in the census could have been remotely as big.”

A drop of 15% in just ten years... 

It is partly the combination of fear of Islam with fear of being 'Islamophobic' or thinking Christian Europe superior to non-Christian cultures. It is partly because of the horrible sex scandals involving a tiny minority but nevertheless a shockingly large number of Catholic priests. It is partly because Christianity in the UK is no longer rock-like and counter-cultural as Islam is and as, before the 1960s, Catholicism was. Instead Catholic bishops worry about climate change, women's rights and, bizarrely, homophobia, like all other authority figures. But there are much deeper reasons too.



Muslims attend Friday prayers on a rainy first day of Ramadan, at the courtyard of a housing estate next to a small BBC community centre and mosque in east London (Reuters/Chris Helgren)
Muslims attend Friday prayers on a rainy first day of Ramadan, at the courtyard of a housing estate next to a small BBC community centre and mosque in east London (Reuters/Chris Helgren)

From a conservative atheist's standpoint this development is disastrous, of course.

T.S. Eliot wrote in The Idea of a Christian Society:


‎'An individual European may not even believe that the Christian Faith is true, but what he says and makes and does will all spring out of this history of European culture and depend upon that culture for its meaning. Only a Christian culture could have produced a Nietzsche or a Voltaire. I do not believe that the culture of Europe could survive the complete disappearance of the Christian Faith. And I am convinced of that not merely because I am a Christian myself, but as a student of social biology.' 


When Eliot wrote those words in 1948, which is pretty recently, he had in mind that Europe would lose belief in Christianity, but did not contemplate that Hinduism, Islam and other  religions would come to Western Europe or England. Nobody did.


He saw, rightly, paganism as the enemy. 

(Elsewhere in The Idea of a Christian Society he says:


The more highly industrialised the country, the more easily a materialistic philosophy will flourish in it, and the more deadly that philosophy will be. Britain has been highly industrialised longer than any other country. And the tendency of unlimited industrialism is to create bodies of men and women — of all classes — detached from tradition, alienated from religion and susceptible to mass suggestion: in other words, a mob. And a mob will be no less a mob if it is well fed, well clothed, well housed, and well disciplined. 

 But the age of Ford has passed. Mass suggestion is rather out of date in the internet age and we are de-industrialising. Is there still a mob?)

33 comments:

  1. Firstly in this day and age, it is cool to be Muslim. 20 years ago it was cool to be black. The western world embraced the Muslim immigration because of fear of violent action from these barbaric tribes. Otherwise the Christian population is decreasing every year mostly because of bigotry and corruption intolerance arrogance and homophobia. People are choosing the truth that we are free human beings free from religion and free from lies.

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  2. I am not at all sure that religious belief (Christian religious belief, that is) has declined. So over 50% of under-25s don't claim to be Christian: I don't suppose that a couple of generations ago the figures were genuinely any higher.

    What has been lost is any sense that anyone feels the need to claim even token adherence. 'CofE' has ceased to be the knee-jerk, unthought answer to the question 'what is your religious denomination?'

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  3. That is a very good point. I remember the naughty boy from down the road that i used to play with aged 7 or 8 said he did not believe in God the Holy Ghost because he did not believe in ghosts. At his primary school they taught Christianity and said Holy Ghost not Holy Spirit. Children are now taught comparative religion at age of 7 - disastrously - and thereby taught relativism and syncretism - and the danger of being Eurocentric. I too hesitated to be a Christian because I thought it seemed Eurocentric. But there is also a strong anti-religious feeling among the young. Bin Ladin has something to do it and belief in sexual freedom and deep distrust of all authority and tradition.

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  4. I'm sure you are right to an extent. But I think the anti-religionism (is that a word?) is more a part of the anti-anythingism of the young. In my experience they don't believe in anything much outside of themselves and their own interests and concerns. Not all of them, of course, but many.

    They seem to me to be very materialistic and egocentric, and simply uninterested in wider issues. I would cite the decline in political party membership, trades union membership and the falling off in membership in societies of all kinds.

    If the Christian churches are no longer the 'default option' I would say they are not actually losing anything. I think that they benefited not at all from millions of people just saying 'CofE' when asked to fill in a form, but knowing nothing at all of the religion they claimed to espouse, and never setting foot inside a church.

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  5. Oh no I disagree - those links between public culture and Christianity are of immeasurable importance. They have been snapped one by one in my lifetime. Soon the idea that Europe should be mostly white and Christian will seem a wicked thing to say.

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    1. when I said I wanted Europe to continue to have a white and Christian majority, I was told I was "a Neanderthal racist and that's scary" by someone with a Muslim name, Farouk, on a friend's Facebook wall. Farouk said he realised I was too unintelligent to know about Cordoba, the Alhambra or other Muslim contributions to European history.

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  6. That might be true, but what I am saying is that although we, collectively, are a product of a Christian culture (and I speak as a very convinced atheist) we no longer feel any obligation to pay lip-service to any religious denomination.

    30 years ago I would probably have said 'Catholic' if asked my religion - without ever troubling the inside of a church. Now, I would definitely say 'none' when requested. What has changed is my answer, NOT my faith (or lack thereof).

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  7. I think we are in danger of becoming too alarmed by Islam. It will, of course, appeal to some. It is far too disciplined (apart from anything else) to appeal to most youth.

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  8. I am not alarmed by conversions to Islam at all. I would prefer people to be Muslim rather than C of E agnostic. I remember Maurice Cowling said low-key respectability was the real religion of the English.

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  9. Isn't this inevitable across the Western world (with the possible exception of parts of the US)? Some of Christianity's tenets are in too jarring a conflict with values that for (most) educated young people are givens, such as gender equality and gay rights.

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    1. Debbie, I do so agree though most British and Irish clergy I know, Catholic and Anglican, do not agree. I think feminism and Christianity are incompatible - likewise less debatably with homosexual acts. Yet bizarrely catholic bishops encourage children at catholic schools to be lectured in 'homophobia'.

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    2. Where were you given sexual equality and acceptance of homosexual acts as morally equivalent to heterosexual ones as values? In the media or at home or at school?

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    3. For gay rights: At home, yes - my mum doesn't understand homophobia and thinks gay people should be accorded the same rights as straight people. At school it was never mentioned. In the media, partially - I read the Guardian as well as the Times and Telegraph. I think it's mainly from my peers - I have gay as well as straight friends and their relationships seem to me equivalent in value and normality.

      In terms of gender/sexual equality, I attended a single sex grammar school. It was a given that we would have the careers that we chose and that nothing was off limits because we were girls. While I was at school we mostly had a women PM so that probably fed into it too. Plus I'm an only child so I was never conscious of getting different treatment at home because of being a girl.

      All of this was just "in the soup"...

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    4. The same with me. These ideas are in the air. I have been told by women that I am the most feminist man they know and am completely broad-minded but try hard to be conservative. The ideas of any age are partly right and partly utterly wrong. I object that people are not allowed to hold heterodox views on women, sexual morality etc etc for fear of dire penalties. I object to teachers in Romania - in something slightly ghastly called 'Human Rights' lessons -teaching that homosexual acts are fine - which necessarily implies that the all great religions of the world have got it wrong. Human rights, welfare, non-discrimination are the new religion of our age - non-judgmentalism and tolerance are its dogmas but it is very judgmental and intolerant.

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    5. But there is plenty that is wrong in every religion.

      What do you consider wrong with homosexual acts? Provided that the parties are fully consenting adults, that there is no coercion or exploitation (the same criteria that I'd apply to heterosexual acts), what's the problem?

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    6. Christians, or at least we Catholics, believe things from obedience, but it's a long discussion and not appropriate here. Interestingly, only Jews and Christians thought male homosexual acts wrong in the Ancient World, though pagans thought being the passive partner, as Caesar was accused of being, was shameful. Do Romanians parents want their children being taught the Orthodox Church is fallible by EU inspired human rights lessons? This is my point.

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    7. Children should certainly be taught that every institution is fallible; otherwise they will be unequipped to negotiate the world.

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    8. Well no actually. What is the Catholic faith in one sentence? This. 'The Catholic Church is the infallible guide to faith and morals.' The Orthodox would say the same and most old churches. (The Anglican church is different and is not a church in the usual sense.) So to teach children that in state schools would be a dreadful usurpation of the rights of Christian parents to have their children taught their faith. Exactly what the state more and more does - hence the Bible is not taught as factual except in private schools in England - hence the wickedness - in my opinion - of comparative religion taught in schools. (Relativism is part of the new religion along with equality.) I hope we can both agree that families should be free of interference by the state.

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  10. Well I would prefer honest atheism, but I do take your point.

    And I agree: I would like people to be concerned about pretty much anything that isn't themselves.

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  11. Atheism itself is a by-product of Christianity rather than other religions.

    Belief makes people better - belief in almost anything. But Islam is about belief in the one God that Christians worship. I once thought they were an ally of Christians and in many ways in the UK they are.

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  12. I like it when you tackle topics like this.religion and gay. and look at the feedback great.laur

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  13. Replies
    1. yes, i gave you my name sort of finally..

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  14. to Anonymous' here who are saying the numbers indicate that more people are deciding to exchange lies for truth are not seeing the forest for the trees. Do you see entities that
    are pervading your societies with lies?

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  15. The Church - Catholic and Protestant - is doing a lot to make itself irrelevant in the 21st Century. My faith is extremely important to me, but I have allowed it to remain relevant to my life and the changed circumstances of it. The foundations of faith are like those of a house and can remain whilst the superstructure is rebuilt and remodelled. In that, I have lost the connection with even my liberal chapel community, as its members retreat into a worldly fearfulness that bears no relation to the angry and inclusive politics of Christ. Luke 5 37-38. Many interpretations but those of us who like to cling to tradition may be killing the institutions of our faith. But perhaps that is the contradiction of it. I take refuge in the old hymns, the old language. I can't bring myself to the "dumbed down" pop faith of many modern protestant churches. Somehow, both those churches and my old traditions are missing the point. I don't know the answer.

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  16. If I may offer this; Jesus is not saying in any general sense
    that we must change with the times. Quite the opposite. He is in the world but not of the world and we are to imitate Christ. He is speaking of the New Covenant. He the Son of God is God. He is the New Covenant, The Covenant. There will be no other. No New New Covenant. No "pop faith". The Way, The Truth and The Life. The Church falls short of God's glory.
    But it is and will remain the Church. It will be a remnant and
    the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.

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  17. Out with the new. In with the old. That is the relevant Church
    The Church is not an NGO. Me. Those who die before they die, will not die when they die. Linen on the Hedgerow. Gay shoes and groovy Bishops; No wonder young people are losing their
    faith. Damian Thompson.

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  18. What God hath joined let not man put asunder. But disobedient
    sinful man hath put asunder. Just a few events in Europe's history that steps by steps ushered the decline of Christendom.
    The Reformation. The Enlightenment. The Freemasonic Craft.
    The French Revolution. The Freemasonic Craft. Science.
    Scientism.

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  19. I like the Headline, The Strange Death... . It's poetic. But,
    Poetic too and truer is The Unhappy Death.. or The Sad Death..
    The Long Death, The Painful Death, The Death Rattle, The Death of Hope, The Death of Europe, The Death of Man.......
    The End.

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  20. According to Wikipedia if you don't take Northern Ireland into account the percent of nonreligious people in the rest of the UK is 50.6% and the percent of Christians is 41.7%! You can see this in the second pie chart on the right hand side of the page here:

    http://pvewood.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/christianity-is-not-about-ethics.html

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