I admire Polly Toynbee greatly, so it was disappointing to find her falling for the same inaccuracy as lesser commentators with regard to the reporting of Christian identity in the census. “This is the first Christmas since time immemorial that most people in this country are not Christians.” This is not true. Ticking a box about Christian identity in a census is very different from “being a Christian”. The vast majority of people in this country have not been Christian for a very long time, and it shows.
While I accept completely Toynbee’s strictures about the damage done to the world and to the country by people who use Christianity to cover for their violence, I would observe that the country has not actually been Christian for a very long time, and does not appear to be much the better for it – the need for food banks (many of them run by Christians); the adulation and protection of wealth; the complete acceptance of lying and venality among the country’s leadership; the vicious racism and sexism promoted by the tabloid press (Clarkson); the vilification of strangers in the Rwanda policy. These are thoroughly non Christian developments.
Christianity – real Christianity – still has a role to play in this country, notably in speaking truth to power, as Jonathan Gullis seems to realise (“Too many people are using the pulpit to preach from.”!!).
As a Christian, I welcome the fact that fewer people are inaccurately self identifying as such. Honesty is a Christian value. More people being honest about having no religion is a step in the right direction.
Before St Augustine arrived, most people in this country were not Christians. Henry VIII was not particularly nice to people who disagreed with him.
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