It takes something special to unite Richard Dawkins, Giles Fraser, David Cameron and the archbishop of Canterbury in a common cause, but that’s what Britain’s three biggest cinema chains have accomplished. Their refusal to screen an advert for prayer has provoked scorn and damnation ”“ or, in more Anglican terms, “disappointment”.
Yet, strange as it sounds, I think the cinemas have done the Church of England a huge favour: they’ve given it the dose of reality it desperately needs. The C of E has no right to any special treatment. We still await constitutional disestablishment, but it’s clear that we are in the midst of a cultural disestablishment. The sooner the Anglican church grasps this, the better it will be for all of us.
Looking at hard numbers, the sociologist Linda Woodhead asserts that the big shift started in 1989. We have now reached the point where the majority of under-30s in the UK identity as having no religion. Woodward says that the C of E is “in freefall”. The question is whether it should bother opening the parachute.