How England lost Christianity

Ramadan lights are being displayed in London’s West End over the Easter period for the second year, and judging from its comments section, Telegraph readers are livid.

Ramadan lights are being displayed in London’s West End over the Easter period for the second year, and judging from its comments section, Telegraph readers are livid. Predictably, London’s mayor Sadiq Khan comes in for special vitriol. Yet, according to his spokesman, Khan will be attending church on Easter Sunday (an admirable gesture, surely), which is more, one suspects, than many readers will be doing. Moreover, the Passion of Christ will be re-enacted in Trafalgar Square on Good Friday, complete with horses, donkeys, and doves. Thousands are expected to attend, but, again, one wonders how many readers will be among the crowds.

The point is that it is difficult to sustain the argument that “we are a Christian country” when only one in ten children are now baptised, under one in ten are members of a church, and only a third identify even nominally as “Christian”, with numbers falling rapidly on all fronts. Mass immigration has played its part, but so has our increasingly godless indigenous population, for whom Easter means no more than an orgy of chocolate and a long weekend. In these circumstances, is the diverse inclusive multicultural society that celebrates all faiths and beliefs, as well as none, not a reasonable settlement that reflects reality?

The problem is that as Christianity disappears from our national life and the public arena, our indigenous national culture, our English civilisation, seems to be disappearing with it. The connection between Christianity and European civilization was memorably evoked by T S Eliot in his Notes towards the Definition of Culture:

“It is against a background of Christianity that all our thought has significance. An individual European may not believe that the Christian faith is true, and yet what he says, and makes, and does, will all spring out of his heritage of Christian culture and depend on that culture for its meaning. Only a Christian culture could have produced a Voltaire or a Nietzsche … If Christianity goes, the whole of our culture goes.”

Our precious individual freedoms, our reverence for freedom of thought and expression (essentially, the right to cause offence), and a good-humoured tolerance of others, are among the fruits of this inheritance. But these are contained within a moral and cultural inheritance that encompasses our literature, our arts, our customs and pastimes, our manners and sense of humour, our social fabric, our institutions, our very way of life, and that is rooted in over a thousand years of history.

Even if we no longer attend church, or count ourselves Christian, even if we are unconscious of the Christian roots of Western civilisation, we English care deeply about what we perceive as the loss of this inheritance – our common culture. It is why most of us really voted Brexit, as Eric Kaufmann’s research has revealed. And it is why we are instinctively uneasy at the sight of the Ramadan lights in London, along with much else that is visible in the parallel communities of multicultural Britain.

No reasonable person objects to individuals or minorities practising their preferred religion. That is the essence of a free society, as is the right to criticise and ridicule those same religions. The problem lies with what the Ramadan lights represent: the replacement of a common national culture founded on Christianity, into which immigrants in past generations were assimilated, by a “multicultural society” founded on the perverse premise that if oppressed minorities are to be liberated, the majority culture must be declared “hegemonic” and deconstructed. Which is why our national culture is now denigrated on an almost daily basis, our history submitted to decolonisation and rewritten, our cultural achievements belittled, our statues toppled, our countryside declared “racist”, our people discriminated against for enjoying “white privilege”, and our thoughts and utterances policed under “hate crime” legislation.

Can anything be done? The decline of faith in the West has been going on since Darwin formulated his theory of evolution in the nineteenth century and Matthew Arnold lamented the receding tide of faith in his celebrated poem “On Dover Beach”. If Western civilisation is to survive the loss of its Christian faith, the very least that is needed is a recognition that we have a common culture, that Christianity has been integral to its development, and that this culture should be transmitted, unashamedly, to future generations in our schools.

But even this might not be enough. The forces of liberalism and radical democracy unleashed by the Enlightenment’s enthronement of reason over custom and tradition seem to have taken on a dynamic of their own, culminating in the degeneration of Western society into an amorphous mass of self-obsessed consumers, whose only value is self-gratification, whose individual rights are unlimited, and where all standards are levelled to the lowest common denominator. The recent hailing of a green spray-painted wall by Banksy as “a work of art” in the mainstream media epitomises the malaise. As does the bizarre cult of transgenderism, according to which cross-dressing men are granted the legal right to claim that they are indistinguishable from biological women.

Throw in the active repudiation of our shared cultural inheritance in the form of multiculture and it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the West is in terminal decline. This being so, we must look to those religions and cultures that are more vigorous than ours, that inspire faith and the willingness to make personal sacrifices in the name of higher ideals – religious, political, or nationalist.

Happy Easter

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