Not long ago Prime Minister David Cameron described Britain as a Christian nation, and went on to emphasize the moral necessity of keeping it that way. The odious Baroness Warsi , Senior Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, and Minister for Faith and Communities (as well as a Muslim), has repeatedly emphasized the persecution of Christians in Great Britain. This is all palaver, though, as a piece in yesterday’s Torygraph suggests.
It includes not only remarks from the former Archbishop of Canterbury (now bearing the humorous title of “Lord Williams of Oystermouth,” but a poll of 2000 Brits on their feelings about Christianity.
Lord Oystermouth first admits the decline of Christianity in Britian, which has been obvious to everyone for a while. A few of his remarks (quoted from the Torygraph):
- Lord Williams of Oystermouth says Britain is no longer “a nation of believers” and that a further decline in the sway of the Church is likely in the years ahead. . . While the country is not populated exclusively by atheists, the former archbishop warns that the era of regular and widespread worship is over.
Lord Williams, now master of Magdalene College, Cambridge, accepted that Britain’s “cultural memory” was “quite strongly Christian”.
“But [Britain is] post-Christian in the sense that habitual practice for most of the population is not taken for granted,” he said. “A Christian nation can sound like a nation of committed believers, and we are not that.”
The former archbishop, who remains a member of the House of Lords, continued: “It’s a matter of defining terms. A Christian country as a nation of believers? No.
“A Christian country in the sense of still being very much saturated by this vision of the world and shaped by it? Yes.”
Well, in that sense one could claim that even Scandinavia is a set of Christian countries, for believers like to claim that although those nations, as well as other mainly secular countries in Europe, like France, remain moral simply because they’ve inherited the Christian ethos of their forebears.
More from Lord Oystermouth:
- He rejected the suggestion that British Christians have been persecuted, although he acknowledged that some individuals have had “a rough time” as a result of the “real stupidity” of some organisations. His comments are likely to fuel the political controversy which erupted when the Prime Minister made his most outspoken comments about his Christian faith since becoming Conservative leader.
And I’ll quote this, simply so I can use a very big word that I learned as a child, but get to use for the first time:
Mr Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, responded to the debate last week by suggesting that the Church of England should be formally disestablished from the state.
I agree with Clegg and disagree with his opponents who avow antidisestablishmentarianism.
At any rate, here are the data from the Torygraph poll:
Note that while 56% of residents say “Britain is a Christian country,” that doesn’t mean that they think it should be that way. In fact, the most heartening figure is the 41% of people who describe themselves as “nonreligious”. Would that America could show such statistics!
Do note that about half of all Brits, Christians or not, feel that Christians are given less protection for their beliefs than are “believers in other religions”—presumably Muslims—so the persecution idea is pretty widespread. and 50-62% of all Brits (excepting nonreligious people) agree that Christians are “afraid to express their beliefs because of the rise of religious fundamentalism”. Presumably that fundamentalism, too, is fundamental Islam, though I can’t be sure.
As reader Marcel (who called this to my attention) noted, it would have been nice to ask Muslims, and especially atheists, the same question. I suspect that a very high proportion of atheists would say they were afraid to express their beliefs because of fundamentalism, and it would also be nice to see how Christians would answer that question about atheists. (I bet they’d give a lower percentage of fearful atheists, assuming that we’re all as vociferous as Dawkins!)
But these other figures, to me, are far less important than the 41% of Brits who call themselves “nonreligious,” compared to the 14% who call themselves “practicing Christians.” Lord Oystermoouth is correct: Britian is on its way to becoming a secular nation. It’s time for the country to disestablish its state religion.