Johann Hari (GQ Magazine): Losing our religion

And now, congregation, put your hands together and give thanks, for I come bearing Good News. Britain is now one of the most irreligious countries on earth. This island has shed superstition faster and more completely than anywhere else. According to an ICM survey, 63 per cent of us are non-believers, while 82 per cent say religion is a cause of harmful division. Now, let us stand and sing our new national hymn: “Jerusalem was dismantled here/in England’s green and pleasant land.”

How did it happen? For centuries, religion was insulated from criticism in Britain. First its opponents were burned, then jailed, then shunned. But once there was a free marketplace of ideas, once people could finally hear both the religious arguments and the rationalist criticisms of them, the religious lost the British people. Their case was too weak, their opposition to divorce and abortion and gay people too cruel, their evidence for their claims nonexistent. Once they had to rely on persuasion rather than intimidation, the story of British Christianity came to an end.

Read it all.


Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, England / UK, Religion & Culture

10 comments on “Johann Hari (GQ Magazine): Losing our religion

  1. Terry Tee says:

    Astonishing to see so much energy and bile poured into attacking religion when he says it is a dying force. If it is as enfeebled as he says it is, why is he so frenzied in his attack? Or does he subconsciously fear that perhaps Christianity has more life in it than he likes to acknowledge?

  2. MarkABrown says:

    The author was paid to write that? It reads a lot like the goofy opinion by the federal judge purporting to void California voters’ rejection of gay marriage. It would save readers a lot of time if articles like these began with a warning: “Caution: Author is gay. Owing to subject matter, objectivity and reasoning may be compromised.” Some topics gay commentators cannot rationally address.

    Mark Brown
    San Angelo, Texas
    August 18, 2010

  3. Ian Montgomery says:

    This is really sad. I choose to take it as a great example of the environment in which we live and rather than claiming privilege the questions are; How shall we live as authentic Christians who cannot participate fully in society and who will thus be put on display if we offend the secular culture; AND how shall we witness?

  4. Br. Michael says:

    Welcome to the true face of the secular humanist worldview. Law unrestrained by morality is simply an exercise in brute force. In a nihilist society any evil is thinkable and possible.

  5. Ian Montgomery says:

    My point Br. Michael is that in this new world we are the evil ones. It seems to me that we are going back to the first and second centuries. For us this is going to be the new normal.

  6. Katherine says:

    One would think that the condition of secular Britain would be an argument for lamenting the collapse of religious belief. Are those the believing Brits who are having all those illegitimate babies and abortions and drinking themselves sick on weekends? It sounds to me that many, having lost their religion, have lost any purpose in living.

  7. Sick & Tired of Nuance says:

    “But once there was a free marketplace of ideas, once people could finally hear both the religious arguments and the rationalist criticisms of them, the religious lost the British people.”

    Wow, I had no idea that British public schools taught Christian apologetics along side secular materialism. Here in the US, Christian apologetics are forbidden in the classroom. Even the vague “intelligent design” theories are prohibited because they have been ruled by judges to support the establishment of religion…not any particular religion mind you, just a sort of vague religiousness which the fragile Republic could be harmed by.

    Well, good luck England with that sharia law thing as half a million Britains emmigrate each year and slightly more than half a million foreigners immigrate each year. I would hazard that within a decade, religion will again be forceful in the UK, it will just be Islam.

  8. Br. Michael says:

    Ian, I agree.

  9. John A. says:

    The sooner the UK dumps the CofE the better.

    Time for a new start.

  10. John Wilkins says:

    I think Hari is probably right about a couple things. Although I think his understanding of religion is quite shallow, his critique of the evidence around religious schools and religious power doesn’t seem inaccurate to me.

    I’m unconvinced by his praise of secular society. I also think he’s got the story wrong: Anglican churches have been welcoming of all faiths in practice. When it comes to mediating religious disputes, Anglican clergy have been available and very tolerant. That’s my impression.

    It just seems that he doesn’t like religious people very much, and has his own unappealing sort of snobbery. Those of us who reject his nihilistic worldview are clearly awful people. Granted, I think that Christianity is the foundation for freedom in, and from religion; and is even the basis of modern peaceful civil society. But he thinks of all religion as tyrannical, and the same in their tyranny.