The decline of Christianity
In five decades, I must start with a correction. Religion is in terminal decline all across Europe and particularly in Britain according to a new report. Ten years ago, only three per cent of British people described themselves as having no religion; now the proportion is 50 per cent and among the under-25s it is two thirds – a demographic that spells death for the church.
But here is my correction: religion is not in decline in Britain or in Europe generally, but Christianity is. Islam is thriving. The report’s findings are an update on the figures recorded in the 2011 census. This revealed that, owing to massive immigration over the last 10 years, there has been a 75 per cent increase in the Muslim population since the previous census. In those years alone, a further 600,000 Muslims immigrated to Britain. So that 10 per cent of the under-25 population in Britain is now Muslim. Moreover, almost half of British Muslims are themselves below the age of 25.
By contrast, nearly a quarter of British Christians are over 65, and their average age is nearly twice that of the Muslim population. At the most recent count, there were 1,743 mosques in Britain. In the next 10 years there will be many more. Meanwhile churches are closing almost as fast as the pubs. So, as a nation, we are not becoming less religious, only less Christian.
Why is the Christian faith in catastrophic decline in Britain? It can’t be because we don’t have enough bishops: there are twice as many bishops in Britain today than there were in the 19th century when a quarter of the population regularly attended church.
The main reason for the dying of Christianity in this country is the official policy of secularisation promoted officially and aggressively by the European Union. Christian emblems and the explicit Christian involvement in all areas of public life are prohibited by statute. There is a relentless cultural and bureaucratic attack on the expression of Christian morality, attitudes and opinion.
The advocates of secularisation publicly rejoice that, as they claim, we have in recent decades become “a more open, tolerant and liberal society.” It depends what you mean. One man’s toleration is another man’s oppression, and this woman’s social inclusion is that woman’s ostracism. You can pick where you like these days in what has become the great hypermarket of social morality. Nothing is barred. “Diversity” is the gospel now.
Secularisation has transformed what were once regarded as mortal sins into exciting lifestyle choices. You can be – nay, you are positively encouraged through the education system as early as primary school – to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and quite a few other exotic things, the names of which escape me for the moment. The choices are limitless. Away with that stuffy old nonsense, “Male and female created he them”; nowadays every man – sorry, every person, is free to create, recreate and invent himself or herself in her or his own image.
And if you don’t like what you are this week, hat’s fine, for you can easily become something lse next Monday morning. The choices are limitless. Except not quite. The one thing that is taboo – you might say it is the new and the only mortal sin – is to object to this moral chaos. (Sorry, I mean of course this liberating new gospel of diversity).
If you claim that your traditional Christian morality and your conscience prevent your agreeing to accommodate homosexuals in your B&B, then I’m afraid you will lose your B&B. Or if you oppose homosexual “marriage” you will incur the wrath of the commissars of the new social dictatorship. All opinions are allowed – except that which clings to the Christian teaching of the last 2,000 years.
Everyone is permitted freedom of conscience – except Christians, who are not allowed to have a conscience. There has been a revolution and the secularising diversity-mongers have won it. It is a fait accompli, a done deal supported by all political parties and policed by the new secular authoritarians. No use moaning about this. The old order – including Christianity – has been overthrown. The counter-culture is the culture now.
Now, in the face of this unrelenting, savage, secularising assault on Christian faith and practice, you would imagine that the church might protest and even resist, as the saints and martyrs did of old. But instead, what do we find? Only that the church, so far from resisting secular innovations, vigorously supports them.
It was Archbishop Rowan Williams, no less, who, in one of his last pronouncements before his retirement, declared: “The church has a lot of catching up to do with secular mores.” Forgive me if I now repeat the comment I made at the time, “So, Dr Williams, we should catch up with secular mores? Whatever became of St Paul’s injunction, ‘Be ye not conformed to this world’?”
By supporting secular mores, the church has taken into itself that which is alien and poison to itself. Thus British Christianity is not being murdered by its ruthless enemies: It is committing suicide. Here is one of Eliot’s prophecies 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.
“If Christianity goes, the whole of our culture goes. Then you must start painfully again, and you cannot put on a new culture ready-made. You must wait for the grass to grow to feed the sheep to give the wool out of which your new coat will be made. You must pass through many centuries of barbarism. We should not live to see the new culture, nor would our great-great-great grandchildren: and if we did, not one of us would be happy in it.”
But cheer up! We are not becoming less religious. Given population trends and the birth rate statistics, in another quarter of a century the religion of Britain will be Islam.
Religion is not in decline in Britain or in Europe generally, but Christianity is