Monday, June 27, 2016



2067: the end of British Christianity

Projections aren't predictions. But there's no denying that churches are in deep trouble

Courtesy: The Spectator
It’s often said that Britain’s church congregations are shrinking, but that doesn’t come close to expressing the scale of the disaster now facing Christianity in this country. Every ten years the census spells out the situation in detail: between 2001 and 2011 the number of Christians born in Britain fell by 5.3 million — about 10,000 a week. If that rate of decline continues, the mission of St Augustine to the English, together with that of the Irish saints to the Scots, will come to an end in 2067.
That is the year in which the Christians who have inherited the faith of their British ancestors will become statistically invisible. Parish churches everywhere will have been adapted for secular use, demolished or abandoned.
Our cathedral buildings will survive, but they won’t be true cathedrals because they will have no bishops. The Church of England is declining faster than other denominations; if it carries on shrinking at the rate suggested by the latest British Social Attitudes survey, Anglicanism will disappear from Britain in 2033. One day the last native-born Christian will die and that will be that.
These projections are based on the best available statistics: the censuses, the British Social Attitudes surveys and the British Election Study. But because these surveys are constructed differently, it’s not easy to crunch them into a single timeline. Crucially, a projection is not the same thing as a prediction. So feel free to take any apocalyptic vision of religion in Britain in 2067 with a pinch of salt.
But the point stands: Christianity is dying out among the Anglo-Saxon and Celtic inhabitants of Great Britain. The Gospel that Augustine and his 30 monks brought to England when they landed at Ebbsfleet in ad 597 is now being decisively rejected.
Saint Paul tells us that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek; the Almighty is not interested in ‘heritage’, the new name for ethnicity. But since Britons with Anglo–Saxon and Celtic ancestors make up 90 per cent of British Christians, that rejection represents a devastating loss of faith.
It has all happened so quickly. Anglicans in particular are abandoning their faith at a rate that (in more ways that one) defies belief. According to the British Social Attitudes surveys, their numbers fell from 40 per cent of the population in 1983 to 29 per cent in 2004 and 17 per cent last year.
This is a horrifying prospect for the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Justin Welby. As a former treasurer of an oil company, he is the first successor to St Augustine to master statistics. Yet, understandably, he is not keen to draw attention to the crisis.
His predecessor but one, however, is happy to do so. Lord Carey of Clifton, a more formidable figure in retirement than he was in office, last month warned the C of E that it was ‘one generation away from extinction’. The new Social Attitudes figures support his conclusions.
Between 2012 and 2014 the proportion of Britons describing themselves as Church of England or Anglican fell from 21 to 17 per cent: a loss of 1.7 million people in two years. That’s what you might expect if the established church had been engulfed in a gigantic paedophile scandal. But it hasn’t been.
Self-identifying British Catholics fell from 10 per cent to 8 per cent between 1983 and 2014. But that decline would have been far more dramatic without the arrival of Catholics from the Europe, Latin America, Africa and the Philippines. No wonder Cardinal Vincent Nichols stresses the ‘Gospel imperative’ to welcome migrants.
But he’s deluding himself if he thinks foreign Catholics will continue to fill his pews. Young Poles in England and Wales are noticeably less devout than they were ten years ago: I’d be amazed if more than a fifth of them were Mass-goers.
This applies to Scotland, too. The Poles propping up Catholic parishes won’t do so for much longer. Meanwhile, self-identification with the Church of Scotland has fallen off a cliff: from 36 per cent of Scots in 2001 to 18 per cent in 2013.
Why is British Christianity facing such a catastrophe? There is a one-word answer, but it requires a lot of unpacking: secularisation.
We often hear complaints about ‘militant secularism’ and religion’s ‘exclusion from the public sphere’. Many Christians seem to believe that the only thing stopping people of faith sharing the ‘richness’ of their traditions is a conspiracy organised by Polly Toynbee, Richard Dawkins and the BBC.
The truth is that Toynbee and Dawkins make such fools of themselves when they talk about religion that they arouse sympathy for believers. Yes, the BBC is biased against — and ignorant of — Christianity. But, significantly, the most skewed coverage of religion anywhere in the Beeb’s output is Radio 4’s Sunday programme, which looks at the news from a supposedly faith-friendly perspective.
Sunday makes for an interesting case study. It’s presented by Edward Stourton, a practising Catholic. He’s not your average Mass-goer, however. He comes from a well-connected family and is close to two of the supreme networkers in the English church, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, former Archbishop of Westminster, and Lord Patten of Barnes, former chairman of the BBC Trust and chancellor of Oxford University.
Conservative Catholics regard Stourton, Murphy-O’Connor and Patten as an elderly trio of bon vivant liberals intent on watering down the Magisterium. They are equally hostile to the parade of Catholics who appear on Sunday to demand new teachings on birth control, homosexuality and the environment. ‘Liberal’ is a fair description of these people, but a more useful term might be ‘secular Catholics’. It can’t be stressed too often that the secularisation that happens inside churches is as important as the sort that happens outside them.
The American sociologist James Davison Hunter has explored this phenomenon in two books, Culture Wars (1991) and To Change the World (2010). Hunter is rude about left-wing Christians who think campaigns against carbon emissions or campus sexism are ‘Gospel causes’. On the contrary, he says, they are thoroughly secular and even if they succeed the churches won’t benefit.
However, he’s equally unimpressed by conservative Christians who persist in the delusion that their ‘witness’ can overturn laws on gay marriage and abortion. They are wasting their time, he says. I agree. Last time I looked, gay marriage was sweeping the United States and grotesquely late-term abortions were still permitted.
Ah, say critics, but you can’t ‘read across’ from polarised America to easygoing Britain. Those critics are wrong. Increasingly, you can read across in both directions.
The failure of American Christians to secure the repeal of Roe v.Wade is mirrored by British Catholics’ fruitless campaign against the 1967 Abortion Act. These failures can’t simply be ascribed to popular support for abortion. They are signs of the waning of religion in Britain and the United States, where Christianity is being attacked by, and accommodating to, European-style secularisation.
It’s time we abandoned the notion that America is religiously special — living proof that popular Christianity can thrive in an advanced industrial democracy. Last month, Pew Research published a big study about America’s changing religious landscape. Its subtitle was ‘Christians Decline Sharply as Share of Population; Unaffiliated and Other Faiths Continue to Grow’. All of which applies to Britain, too.
Only 57 per cent of Americans born between 1981 and 1996 identify as Christians; 36 per cent of ‘young Millennials’ between the ages of 18 and 24 are the so-called ‘nones’ — they have no religious affiliation at all.
In the UK, the last census found that the proportion of respondents who say they have no religion rose from 15 per cent in 2001 to 25 per cent in 2011. Confusingly, the British Election Survey says 45 per cent of Britons are nones. I’m not sure why the gap between the two findings is so large, but bear in mind that a small change in the wording of a question can produce a dramatic change in responses. People recoil from being asked if they’re atheists, for example, even if they are.
I’ve compared Britain with America because our countries are supposed to have radically different attitudes towards Christianity. Yet the direction of travel is now the same. And this is true despite the fact that the United States doesn’t have a fast-growing Muslim population.
Let’s not get sidetracked into another argument about Islam. Although it will probably become Britain’s largest religion some time this century, it isn’t emptying our village churches. The deadliest enemy of western Christianity is not Islam or atheism but the infinitely complex process of secularisation.
Or, to put it another way, choice. Long before digital technology, social mobility was undermining what the American scholar of religion Peter Berger calls ‘plausibility structures’ — the networks of people, traditionally your family, friends and neighbours, who believe the same thing as you do.
I’m not saying that my Catholic grandparents accepted the doctrine of transubstantiation only because the people closest to them shared that conviction: faith can’t be reduced to social processes. But supernatural belief is hard to sustain once plausibility structures collapse.
You go away to university and suddenly almost nobody believes what you do, or did. Your siblings move to different towns, so you won’t see them in church any more. Your laptop plugs you into any social network that takes your fancy. Even if you’re born again as an evangelical Christian, life pushes you from one congregation to another. Many Evangelicals get bored and turn into nones.
The mainstream churches can’t cope with this explosion of choice. Also, as you may have noticed, they’re led by middle–managers who are frightened of their own shadows. They run up the white flag long before the enemy comes down from the hills. I sometimes wonder why Polly Toynbee bothers to fulminate against religious education. A quick tour of ‘Catholic’ state schools, where doctrine has been supplanted by multi-faith jargon and the cult of Nelson Mandela, would reassure her that she has nothing to worry about.
James Davison Hunter, an orthodox Christian, believes he has found a way out of this maze: follow the instructions of Jesus and ‘faithful presence’ will change hearts, if not society. This seems to me to ignore the reality that religions invariably die, at least on a local level, when no one can be bothered to attend their services. As a Catholic, I believe that the gates of hell will not prevail against the church founded by Peter. There will always be someone to take the place of ‘the last Christian’. But not necessarily in Britain, where the death rattle has begun.

Editor's note: Please read above and the comments that follow. Editor's comments on the above article including the comments are as follows:

Bruce Schuman illustrates the bull doggish spirit and uncompromising tenacity to not give in on the fundamentals of Christianity and Jehovism, accepting them as irrational mythology, and the religions based on the fiction as a house of cards that crumbles on any scrutiny by a child that has reached a cognitive development beyond the stage of concrete thinking (attained the ability for abstract and logical thinking and critical thinking). Unfortunately no amount of knowledge of science or mathematics can trickle into the indoctrinated belief system of people like Bruce and there are millions of those who have this evangelical spirit that they are impervious to logical persuasion. The definition of "delusion" entails denial of reality and inability to give up the fixed false ideas (illogical) ideas when confronted by reality or by logical persuasion. The clever thing the westerners have done is to add another component to entrench such delusions in the culture by modifying the definition of "delusion" itself by adding a phrase, "not culturally congruent." So, so long as the delusion is shared by the cultural group or tribe, in this case the population embracing Christianity, billions who espoused the original tribal cult started in the middle East, fundamentals of Christianity are cleverly dismissed as a non-delusional notions because they are shared by their fellow religionists. This type of semantic games and circus are invented to distract thinking people from facing the fact that Christianity and Jehovism is a system of "shared delusions" and must be accepted as non-delusional just because it is shared by large number of people. On top of it the gobbledegoop is peddled as Gods words. Once it is so fixed in the Unconscious minds of the Christians (Western??) at a tender age in the children indoctrinated by the religions of the book, it hard to erase these delusions like the spots on the wall which may temporarily disappear after washing with water but reemerge when the wall dries again. Bruce is only one example of such pathology and it is hard for people in the Western culture to accept that their motivating religion is primarily fiction and pathology that is being justified with many layers of rationalizations, and efforts to borrow ideas from other religions and philosophies to cleverly metamorphose and sell it to poor nonthinking majority members of the human race who have a deep emotional need to hold on to blind faith. This type of intellectual circus is actually intellectual masturbation that is non-productive but extremely profitable in the political expansion or empire building ventures of the proselytizing evangelists. The secular education, science or logic will gradually persuade the younger educated generation in England and Europe to discard the untenable fundamentals of the primitive desert religions (religions of the book) that leave no room for independent thinking and continue to thrive on dogma, brainwashing and indoctrination. Before that happens though the majority in Europe will be occupied by another worse "shared delusional system" that defies reason. This fact alone makes the indivividuals raised in organized Christian Churches (average westerners) not amenable to participate in any honest debate where they can accept their weaknesses on logical grounds. They are, therefore not able to show any sportsmanship in any debate, and cannot even see that their zeal is to propagate their illogical belief system to impose it on others. Vivekananda was too kind on not emphasizing this bull doggishness but was appealing to their (westerners') inherent hidden ability to reason and presuming at a deeper level they may have the spiritual magnanimity to have a dialogue with the "heathens" far more advanced in their philosophy and spiritual science compared to their own primitive desert religionists. This raises the issue of the disguise under which the "comparative religion" academicians in the West and their so called "interfaith dialogue" is a pure sham and Hindus with intellectual integrity need not be scammed into participating in such activities as 'debates' with Westerners of lower intellectual level. The problem is there is such an ingrained racial inferiority among the Hindus and Indians at large that any Western white skinned articulate educated looking person is falsely perceived as intellectually superior or honest. That is far from the truth after you deal with thousands of them all of them start looking like the birds of similar feathers who are condescending in the beginning saying we want to learn about your religions. My foot if they do, after you remove a few layers they all want to impose their blind faith on you and once they find out you are not buying their plot they either become hostile and come in contact with their unconscious rage of coming to grip with their weakness of logic and project their "rage" on Shiva and Krishna like Bruce does. Longer they persist in the debate and they feel they are not ready for the next round, they resort to uncivilized techniques like making personal attacks and make accusations of plagiarism or any such arguments to detract and distort the debate. Let us face it, those who join seminsries to go into ministries, and have to survive as evangelists on other people's hard work and earnings are not the brightest people even in their own culture, they are not the best scholars, and if they chose to study religions in their life pursuits one has to doubt their grasp of mathematics, science and physics to understand the reality of Nature. They are also deficient in their understanding of psychoanalysis while pretending to interpret other religions from Freud's lense. It is wonderful that people like
Rajiv Malhotra and Satchidananda the author of the above article are devoting their energy to cut at the root of the wildly spread tree of Christianity now trying to find dumb Indians or Hindus and others in Asia and Africa to sell their religions and harvest souls as educated British and European as well as North American people are becoming
more and more disillusioned and the bulldogs are losing their "market share." One would only expect hostility and not honest civil dialogue
emerging from the Western "intellectuals" many of whom as secularly educated will claim they are not interested or are agnostics to cover their unwillingness to enter the debate fearing castigation by their fellow religionists.

1 comment:

  1. Namaste. In this context I have just finished a complete Uttarpaksha of Jehovism. This may be very relevant to your readers - Jehovism Deconstructed -