KING Charles I went to his execution rather than countenance that his beloved Church be turned into a mere sect. The great peril in his day was rampant sectarianism and the desire of the puritanical sects to disincarnate the sacramental Church and put in its place a narrow, opinionated, moralising institution based on their own whim – or what the Prayer Book calls their own private fancies and interests. We inherit the logical development of this privation today and it is even worse than it was in King Charles’s day: it is rampant secularism and public atheism.
Liberal newspapers and the BBC have established a pattern of debunking and sneering at traditional Christian doctrine. TV and radio documentaries repeatedly dismiss as rubbish the belief that the world was created by God. The majority of Christmas cards no longer feature Christian themes. These are just the outward signs of an increasingly militant secularism, for the fact is that the progressive elite in Britain today detests Christianity and wishes to destroy it. Our traditional way of life and self-understanding is being undermined by aggressive secularisation.
The secularists explicitly deny the Christmas Gospel where St John states emphatically All things were made by Him. And, in case we are too dim to understand that, repeats And without Him was not anything made that was made.
St John was writing at a time when the biblical doctrine of God’s creation was being attacked by fashionable Gnostic philosophers who claimed that the world was not made by God but by a lesser process called the Demiurge. We have our own Gnostics today and their Demiurge is a facile doctrine of evolution. These crass materialists like to claim that the argument for natural selection and blind chance has disproved intelligent design. It has not.
Modern physics reveals to us a world which does not look at all as if it’s made of bits and pieces of matter, but is rather ethereal. Less as if it’s material stuff, more as if it’s mind stuff. Moreover, it looks overwhelmingly as if the universe was made with us in mind, for, if it had been ever so minutely different, we wouldn’t be here. The odds against the universe happening by accident to be so accommodating to us are so astronomical as to be virtually impossible. In a vivid illustration, the great astrophysicist Professor Fred Hoyle said, ‘Life evolving by chance has the same likelihood as a tornado blowing through a scrapyard and leaving behind it a fully formed jumbo jet.’
Note that it is not theologians who are making this point, but scientists.
They have even coined a phrase to refer to the hospitableness of the universe: they call it The Anthropic Principle, because the world seems to have been constructed with man in mind. Dawkins and his school might reflect on the fact that we are able to understand at least a little of the universe only because the universe is intelligible. It is the innate intelligibility of the universe which makes science possible. That intelligibility was not created by man or imposed on the universe – at least that much must be conceded if science itself is to be regarded as a way of discovering truth, and not merely a game.
Once God and intellectual rigour have been discarded, there is bound to follow the collapse of morality. And this is just what has happened. Promiscuity; drinking and shopping 24/7; vicious hedonism pursuing all that is trivial; an infantile and narcissistic cult of celebrities – all built on a mountain of government and personal debt and an amnesiac culture of designer drugs and oblivion. What used to be a mortal sin is now a lifestyle choice.
The moral and social consequences of the crass materialist ideology are predictably horrific. Since human beings – so called – are nothing but bits of genetic material, they can be experimented upon, have their parts transplanted, their embryos and DNA manipulated and frozen as if by the machinations of a latter-day Frankenstein. The most disgraceful example of this nihilistic amoralism is of course abortion on demand, abortion used as a form of contraception, resulting in 200,000 embryos being ripped untimely from the womb every year in Britain alone.
It may surprise you to learn that teaching Christianity in state schools is now illegal. It is permitted only to teach about religions. Absolute relativism rules OK. All religions must be taught as equal. The only perspective from which you can teach such equality is atheism. Christianity used to be at the centre of public life and it was strongly represented in the mass media, particularly in broadcasting. What we have now on the BBC is a veneer of religion glossing over a soft-Left political agenda – secular social conscience as if there could be such a thing – a whiff of third-worldism, the aroma of Fair Trade coffee and the dogma of global warming.
At the centre of the secular atheistic project is the destruction of the historic basis of our way of life: marriage and the family. This has been achieved by the secular doctrines of rights and egalitarianism according to which childbearing and adoption procedures are extended to homosexual couples. Government economic and social policy consistently discriminates against marriage and in favour of any alternative cohabiting arrangement. It is getting to the stage when the vicar will have to watch out for the politically correct commissar before he ventures to preach against adultery.
The Christian era which held sway in this country for 2,000 years was not oppressive, unlike the totalitarian secularism which threatens to replace it. After the Restoration in 1660, various Acts of Toleration allowed dissenters leeway provided they kept the peace. But it was always tacitly understood that you belonged to the Church, to Christian civilisation, unless you opted out. All that has changed.
What can be done? The antidote to the destruction of our society by rampant secularism is for the Church to recover its wits and its confidence. The philosopher and one-time president of the Italian Senate, Marcello Pera, spelled it out: ‘Christianity is so consubstantial to the West that any surrender on its part would have devastating consequences. Will the Church and the clergy and the faithful be able to be purified of the relativism that has almost erased their identity and weakened their message and witness?’