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.