Notepad on Life

September 12, 2017

Believe it or not, Church decline is bad news for all

Filed under: Culture,philosophy,Religion — - @ 12:21 am
Tags: , ,

It was good to see little in the way of overt glee from the non-religious camp when the latest damning Church of England statistics emerged last week.

“…how can the Church of England remain in any meaningful sense the national legally established church, when it caters for such a small portion of the population?” wondered Andrew Copson, Humanists UK’s chief executive, while Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, called for “…a serious debate about the place of religion in our society.”

All fair enough, and, in Copson’s case, possibly the only time humanists and I stand shoulder-to-shoulder, for reasons masterfully encapsulated here by Giles Fraser.

I would suggest, however, that crumbling church numbers also present a problem for those for whom mere atheism is not enough. The underlying mantra of The God Delusion – that if we could only put this silly religious nonsense behind us, Mankind could embark on a golden age, celebrating science instead of Holy Communion – has been seized on by many since its publication. Not so much the atheism lobby as the atheism-looking-for-work lobby, they have sought to elevate non-belief from a negative to a positive.

We can’t give you God, but we can give you this instead, is the gist of their evangelism: minds focused on earth instead of empty heavens, looking out for one another instead of for the Second Coming, celebrating evolved reality over myth. No more religious wars on the macro scale, no more judgmentalism on the micro level. Net result? Everyone just calms the hell down.

You wouldn’t have to be the world’s greatest PR guru to spin that little lot but you might be struggling to shore it up after a week like the last one. For with our national religion in full-blown retreat, we should be seeing the green shoots of this alternative utopia in Britain now, surely? With faith ploughed under, fallow minds should be starting to latch onto the humanist creed, with all the happy consequences it portends. At least one Sunday supplement should have picked up on the new, more mellow Britain emerging around us.

Er, not quite. These are mere snapshots to the contrary, but see how many more follow in the next few days, weeks or months: a full-blown brawl breaking out in a Cambridgeshire church yard; someone gunning down a 14-year old child in London. The latest manifestations of what one journalist previously called “the astounding prevalence of fury” that he notices whenever he returns to the UK from foreign assignments.

Walk among the public as I do each day and see it for yourself, the increasing chippiness of people when matters are not quite to their liking, as if anger were the sole release valve to an inner despair. Note the insularity, and the erosion of those myriad small courtesies that our parents took for granted.

Ponder then, the contradiction of a secular philosophy that decrees that life is all we have, and the diminishing reverence with which that same life is regarded, should it be unwanted, past its sell-by date or standing between a criminal and his loot.

No, that ‘golden age’ penny just doesn’t seem to be dropping. If the Church of England looks increasingly irrelevant, those who inflate non-belief into an alternative lifestyle look increasingly like poker players, bluffing with a handful of nothing.

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