The influential American blog, the Huffington Post, recently conducted a survey on religious belief in the United Kingdom.
I know little about the methodology except that 2004 people were surveyed, 56 per cent of whom described themselves as Christian, 2.5 per cent Muslim, one per cent Jewish and the remaining 40.5 per cent other faiths or none.
More than 60 per cent of those polled say they are not religious, even though some of them consider themselves to be Christian. It’s further complicated by the suggestion that many people appear not to really understand exactly what it is to be religious.
I can testify that I get strange looks from people when I voice my view that it was the religious elite who masterminded the killing of the Master.
I wonder what might have been the result of the survey had the word ‘spirituality’ been substituted for the word ‘religion’?
There is little doubt that the general trends suggested by the poll are reliable, but I would like to make three observations. First, it is useful that the atheists have had their opportunity to preach, for they seem to know exactly what they are against, but it’s very difficult to know what they are for. The more they talk, the more they expose their bankruptcy and that they have little to say. When it comes to morality, for example, the yawning gap at the heart of atheism is laid bare; they have absolutely no understanding of the human heart. So when the chief executive of the British Humanist Association tells us that human beings are ‘social animals who care for and are kind to others because we understand that they are human too’, really, you have to wonder what news programmes he watches.
Second, if you define religion as the formal, public ritualisation of personal faith then I have to admit to mistrusting it as well. The heart of my spiritual life, and that of many other Christians for 2,000 years, is a living, personal relationship with the one who transcends and predates all of the world religions. The fact is, this ‘formal, public ritualisation of personal faith’ is no more than the wrapping paper around the gift that is oft confused with the gift. ‘To hell with religion’ say the atheists, and I have to say that thinking Christians are not far from agreeing .
Thirdly, can I encourage Christians to look hard at these results? You’ll find them online and if you’re interested, contact me and I’ll send you the link. For far too long in this country we have needed to do nothing to survive because we had the wind behind us. Now, the cultural and political landscape has shifted to the extent that while Christianity might not be in the minority – yet – it is very much in Opposition.
There are at least two ways to respond to the present situation. The first is to become even more inward looking, to worship behind closed doors and keep beliefs private.
The alternative is to boldly confront our culture, not in an aggressive way, just a simple standing up for and stating what we believe.
Christians in Britain need to be prepared to live more wisely, think more deeply.