The decline of Chris­tian­ity

The Church of England - - LEADER & COMMENT - PETER MULLEN

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

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