I heard an Anglican priest say on television recently that what he wanted for 2008 was less religion and more God. It sounded good. Religion is stereotyped by liberals as being unreasonable and standing in the way of a true appreciation of the sublime.
But also on television that weekend I saw J.K. Rowling being asked if she believed in God. She said she thought she did, but of course had doubts.
Don’t we all.
But that’s always a problem, unless you’re very lucky. Most people need religion and, above all, religious practice, to bolster their faith. It is the old analogy of the burning coal being taken out of the fire and soon losing its brightness. Left with others, it burns brightly. And the established Christian churches in this country are in decline because they are not prepared to cry out this truth from the rooftops.
All this has profound implications, for surely as a whole we in the UK are one of the most secular societies anywhere in history, outside of communist tyrannies.
And this is not an instant atheism imposed on people; it is a gentle agnosticism that has just crept up over the decades, seeping, with the dogged assistance of the liberal establishment, into almost all our institutions except, perhaps, the monarchy and the armed forces.
A friend of mine put it this way: ‘I don’t need religion to tell me what to do; I can find God in a beautiful sunset.’ Yes. We can for a moment – but can we sustain that discovery?
And what is the result in society as a whole? Increasing consumerism, materialism and unhappiness.
So that Anglican priest was wrong. We need more religion and consequently more God, to sustain society.
And as long as we respect each other’s religions, we can live in peace.
More on this tomorrow, particularly the challenge facing our Muslim friends.