Georgia L Gilholy is a Young Voices UK contributor.
If religion vanished from these isles tomorrow, we would all be the worse for it. Yes, atheists, this includes you as well, even though you may be giddy that this week’s census findings suggest Britain is fast approaching such a cliff edge.
The survey found that over the last twenty years, the number of self-identified “Christians” in England and Wales has dropped by over 25 percentage points and those who actively participate in religious observance will undoubtedly be much lower. “No religion” was the second most common response, rocketing from 25.2 per cent in 2011 to almost 40 per cent.
Some increases in those confessing non-Christian faiths made a negligible impact on the overall statistics. England and Wales are already far down the rocky road of secularisation.
An understanding of faith, at the very least, is crucial for addressing national security issues. Despite the growing presence of far-right ideologies, Islamist extremism remains the dominant terror threat in the United Kingdom.
The decline of religion is a key reason why the average British bureaucrat is incapable of confronting extremist religious sects such as the Salafist Islamism behind many terror groups. The chattering classes cannot acknowledge that transcendent faith could be a reason to commit heinous acts because it has become broadly alien to our lives.
(Christianity is often the exception for such people, as remains the majority faith of the country and for many invokes memories of stale Christingles and school nativities, not rendezvous with the divine.)
Yet the very fact Britain is a place countless people are desperate to live is because our society is permeated by the afterglow of centuries of culture infused with biblical morality.
Tom Holland, the popular historian, acknowledged in a recent column for UnHerd what few would now dare to: that accepting modern human rights “requires no less of a leap of faith than does a belief in, say, angels, or the Trinity.” The origins of such rights in Britain and beyond are rooted in medieval theology.
Our laws are indebted to a civilisation’s rich history of biblical doctrines and debate. Without the ordered universe explained in Genesis, there are zero metaphysical underpinnings for universal laws that can operate only within such a framework, one that makes our consideration for human dignity and a consistent moral framework logically possible.
We already see this violated in other Western nations such as Canada, where citizens are being offered assisted suicide due to poverty or mental illness – policies only possible once a culture has abandoned its acceptance of human equality
The atheist crew likes to sell the idea of a stylish secular future on the premise that things will remain morally similar, despite the fact this has already been proven practically false.
The atheist reverence for twentieth-century ‘human rights’ doctrines is also misled, given that these settlements generally deny their basis in the synthesis of Christian metaphysics and natural law, thus leaving themselves with a vast list of claims that, without agreed-upon absolute justifications, are subject to change based on political activism, rather than their inherent moral good.
Secularists are also keen to pretend that they are happy to leave religious folk to mind their own business.
Yet those who critique extreme trans ideology are hounded out of schools and workplaces, organised faiths face increasing pressure to adopt the civil definition of marriage, pro-life demonstrators can face jail, and the Crown Prosecution Service complains that some Bible passages are “no longer appropriate in modern society.”
As Melanie Phillips outlined the year of the previous census, the collapse of faith has left room for an attack on a “normative majority culture rooted in the morality of Christianity and the Hebrew Bible”, something of which the growth of antisemitism on both the radical left and far right is just one example.
Such anti-faith zealotry has skyrocketed in recent years as it has become fashionable to ignore religion’s contribution to every aspect of life. A society that accepts the value of faith communities, and a Britain that respects its biblical heritage, is a friendlier and more cohesive society place to live.
The religious tendency toward altruism props up countless food banks as many fear going to bed cold and hungry. Religious organisations are behind most global charities, and the invention of public hospitals and universities in Europe was down to the genius of medieval clergy.
Britain’s faith communities, Christian and otherwise, have much in common as regards their care for family, community, and objective morality. An ethnically diverse Britain will not achieve harmony or peace if respect for religious belief, and a sense of shared values becomes impossible.
As Dr Rakib Ehsan noted in his response to the latest census data, it is only if the “bonds of trust and mutual regard” – that organised faith so often entails – are achieved that we can avoid the frightening eruptions of sectarianism such as those witnessed in Leicester earlier this year.
If we ignore faith not only are we a more dangerous society, but we are barely a society at all. As Camille Paglia, a firebrand atheist scholar, admitted, societies that respect neither religion nor art can no longer rightly be called civilisations. Their populations become obsessed with the day-to-day and the venial. They possess no overarching cohesion of values. They have few if any encounters with transcendence and history, and are thus incapable of great art.
The collapse of religious life has beckoned widespread social breakdown and moral chaos in all areas of life beyond the art gallery or opera houses. Is it any wonder that we are unhappier than ever, despite being healthier and materially wealthier than ever before?
Of course, Britain’s poverty of the mind is complex and not solely the fault of a nefarious progressive plot. Indeed, major historical missteps of the established Church itself played a role. Peter Hitchens, in his The Rage Against God, admits that: “The Christian church [in England and beyond] has been powerfully damaged by letting itself be confused with love of country and the making of great wars.”
There still remains room for many people to realise that abandoning religion paves the way to hells of many kinds, but it is perhaps too late to remedy much of the social damage this course has already inflicted in Britain.