The Rise of Secularism. Should the Church stand against it?

The rise of Secularism and the fight against it seems to be constantly in the news recently, and I’m going to predict that it’s going attract a lot of interest in the future, especially in my generation.

But whether or not the cry will be for a secular state is a question I cannot answer. Because for the first time in what seems like ages, many notable figures are starting to speak against secularism and it’s rise. A while ago, David Cameron told the church, and specifically the Archbishop of Canterbury to speak out for Christianity. You can read the press report in the Daily Mail here.

In the last week however, a couple more have spoken out. Firstly, Baroness Warsi, a practising Muslim has urged Christians to stand against what she calls ‘militant secularism’. She said that Europe needs to be more confident in its Christianity. Again, you can read the article here. So, let me reiterate, a Muslim woman has stood up publicly and told Europe that they need to fight against militant secularism by being more confident in its Christianity.

Secondly, Her Majesty the Queen spoke of how the Church of England and the relationship between Church and State have greatly influenced this country in the most positive ways. You can read her speech here or listen below:

OK, I know she didn’t tell the British nation to rise up against Secularism, but the undertones are there. We need to hold on to the many great things that Christian faith has brought to our country, and to recognise the benefits of having Church and State together.

But, what are the other side saying?

Well, of course, the mouthpiece of Secularism and indeed New Atheism is that of

Richard Dawkins. Here he is in all his finery! What do we make of people like Dawkins who are calling for an end to church and state and suggest that this country is increasingly secular, and that many of the nations Christians are inhabiting secular views? Well, unfortunately, Mr Dawkins made a rod for his own back this week on Radio 4. I was fortunate enough to be woken up by my alarm clock at 8:15am on February 14th just in time for a debate on militant secularism between our Atheist Pope and Giles Fraser, former Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral. Dawkins made some extraordinary claims about the UK and the rise of secularism, which you can freely read on his special foundation’s website, which he named after himself by clicking here.

What intrigued me was when Dawkins said that many identify themselves as Christian but aren’t really Christians at all. He stated that many don’t know the name of the first book of the New Testament. But the clincher was when Giles Fraser asked Dawkins whether he knew the full title of the origin of species:

Giles Fraser: Richard, if I said to you what is the full title of ‘The Origin Of Species’, I’m sure you could tell me that.

Richard Dawkins: Yes I could

Giles Fraser: Go on then.

Richard Dawkins: On The Origin Of Species.. Uh. With, Oh God. On The Origin Of Species. There is a sub title with respect to the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life.

Giles Fraser: You’re the high pope of Darwinism… If you asked people who believed in evolution that question and you came back and said 2% got it right, it would be terribly easy for me to go ‘they don’t believe it after all.’ It’s just not fair to ask people these questions. They self-identify as Christians and I think you should respect that.

Well that little blunder has now rendered him an “embarrassment to Atheism“. Never mind, Richard. Maybe next time.

Joking aside, there are some serious questions to be asked here.

Is the UK becoming more secular?

Or, is the UK becoming more defined as a Christian country in response to ‘militant atheism’?

How is the Church going to respond to a) the claims made by secularists and new atheists and b) to the calls made by many top politicians and notables to defend the faith?

How will this defending of the Christian faith and the Christian roots of this country look like in practise?

What is the best way to a) tackle militant secularism and b) to promote and encourage an embrace of our Christian heritage?

Should we let it all pass and let people work it out for themselves?

 

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I’d love there to be a discussion on this. It’s a subject that is definitely affecting the UK at the moment, and will have a profound influence on in the future, especially on my generations and generations to come.

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Dean Roberts

Dean is a Minister in the Anglican Church. Currently he is Curate in the parishes of Bedwas, Machen, Michaelston-y-Fedw and Rudry in South Wales. He was born and bred in Wales, is married to Megan, and has two dogs called Taliesin and Melyn, and two cats named Sinsir and Hâf. He graduated from Cardiff University with a BA Hons. in Theology & Religious Studies, and has studied for an MA in Theology, Ministry & Mission at Trinity College Bristol. He also holds a Cert.RSCM from the Royal School of Church Music. He loves playing music, walking, reading, blogging and horse riding as well as going to the cinema and theatre. Read More @ http://deanroberts.net/about

  • Ryan

    It won’t happen in our generation, but religion will fade out to nothing.  It is already on the decline, slowly but surely.

    In hundreds of years time, the beliefs of Christianity will be taught in a history lesson, the same way we teach the beliefs of the Romans, Vikings, Greeks and Aztecs in our classrooms today. It will be taken for granted that it is all nonsensical as science continues to advance.

    • Thanks for your input, Ryan. Ou of curiosity, what makes you think that Christianity will fade out like the other religions you pointed out? After all, Christianity has survived over 2000 years already. And actual numbers of Christians are growing (not talking about church attendance here)

      • Ryan

        For the same reasons that other religions faded out. Those ancient religions I mentioned above died out faster because they were smaller, the world was a bigger place back then so it was easier for them to fade into total obscurity. With globalisation, Christianity became much larger than those smaller cultural religions, so it has had the support needed to propagate it for 2000 years. But it will fade out as it loses credibility and when rational discoveries start to contradict a 2000 year old book, modern generations will start to want to believe the evidence, not the fable. People are questioning it more now than previous generations. And people don’t want to live their lives based on an ancient book any more when they could follow what logic and discovery leads us to; logic, reason and discovery is what future generations will be brought up with, not myth. We won’t settle for it any more.

        And to be honest, the fact that Christianity has the potential to fade into complete obscurity raises the question of why your God would even let that happen. It seems nonsensical.

        The idea that faith in Christ is to be rewarded by eternal glory, while reliance on reason, observation and experience merits everlasting pain is absurd and the future of our race is already starting to see it.

        And Christianity is on the the decline in Europe actually, it will be interesting to see the results of the 2011 census when they come out.

        • Ryan, some of the points you’ve made are very interesting.

          “But it will fade out as it loses credibility and when rational discoveries start to contradict a 2000 year old book, modern generations will start to want to believe the evidence, not the fable.”

          What evidence are you talking about? Do you really think that science and discovery will be able to prove or disprove God? People believe in God and some of the things found in the Bible on faith.

          The same principle can be applied to science. Someone writes a hypothesis or theory, and people have faith in it and believe it. They test it out and then conclude that it’s probably true. Just like those who believe in God do. So I don’t really know what you’re talking about. Do you really believe that science and faith are incompatible? If so, why is it that the Church have always been the ones in the past to commission science and experiments, and indeed funded these ventures?

           

          “People are questioning it more now than previous generations. And people don’t want to live their lives based on an ancient book any more when they could follow what logic and discovery leads us to; logic, reason and discovery is what future generations will be brought up with, not myth. We won’t settle for it any more.”

          Not really. History tells us that people have always questioned Christianity and the Bible. There’s no ‘more or less’ about it. It has always been this way and will continue to be this way until the world ends. Are you really saying that Christians don’t have logic, reason or discovery if they have a genuine faith in Jesus Christ? Seems quite unfair to me. Many top scientist are Christians, including the head of the human genome project. Are you saying he’s deluded?

          “And to be honest, the fact that Christianity has the potential to fade into complete obscurity raises the question of why your God would even let that happen. It seems nonsensical.”

          Well Christianity hasn’t faded into complete obscurity so God hasn’t let it happen yet 🙂 Let’s sit back and see what happens, shall we? 😉

          “The idea that faith in Christ is to be rewarded by eternal glory, while reliance on reason, observation and experience merits everlasting pain is absurd and the future of our race is already starting to see it.”

          Who’s saying that reason, observation and experience merit everlasting pain? That isn’t taught in my Bible, and Jesus never mentioned anything about reason, observation and experience meriting everlasting pain. I think you’re mistaken on where the absurdity lies, if I’m honest.

          “And Christianity is on the the decline in Europe actually, it will be interesting to see the results of the 2011 census when they come out.”

          Yes it will. But is it the census statistics that you look for to see the numbers of Christians in the UK? Richard Dawkins doesn’t think you should look at those statistics. Plus, if you read the history books, they will tell you that the church has ebbed and flowed since records began. 19th century Britain was all about liberalism – a similar atmosphere in terms of faith/secularisation that we’re in now. Only in 1904 a massive revival broke out which spread across the world, with hundreds of thousands becoming Christians in a matter of days. Even if Christianity is numerically declining judging by statistics that are often unreliable, it doesn’t mean to say that the decline will stay that way.

          What do you think the effects of post war have on a faith? You’d think stats would decline, wouldn’t you? Well, that’s wrong. History tells us that after war, disaster, famine etc, the amount of people committing themselves to Christianity increases, and not just on a short term basis.

          Now that’s food for thought…

           

  • This was stimulating and interesting bus commute reading!  I question what I perceive to be the underlying hypothesis of this article and the exchange between Mr. Roberts and Ryan: the rise of secularism means the decline of Christianity.  And, thank you Mr. Roberts for responding so completely to Ryan. . .I concur. That said: Ryan, Christianity will never fade away.  If you knew your Bible, you’d know that.  The end of the story has already been told and. . .WE WIN!!  However, it will become more and more illegal to be a Christian in places you would never expect that to be the case.  As you know from secular examples, when something is illegal, it thrives.  As to the rise in secularism, Christians have maintained such a low profile over the couple o’ thousand years since Christ died for my sin that non-believers fill positions and offices which have the power to change laws and judge cases, etc. Christians have always thought that getting involved in government and media to be improper for a Christian as it was secular business.  We missed the boat on that one and hopefully, more Christians will engage in the fields that are more influenced by non-believers so the world can achieve some semblance of balance.  We are also told in the Word that God will turn us over to our depravity.  So, we already knew that secularism would be on the rise.  No surprises here. 

    As far as what God will ‘let happen’, God is a gentleman and will never force himself on anyone.  So, whenever humans make foolish/unwise choices, God weeps but he ‘let’s it happen’.  It is not God who is nonsensical, but humanity.

    Make it a great day gentlemen.

  • So, I realize I never answered the question.  No, the Church should not stand against the ‘rise’ of secularism.  The Church should stand for God.  The Church should live a pure and holy life.  The rest of it is in God’s hands.  Leave it there.  He’s better able to deal with secularism than any Christian can.  And, the Church can no more eliminate secularism than secularism can eliminate the Church.  Just my opinion.

    Be blessed.

    • Brilliant responses, Diana! Thank you for contributing! So, rather than standing up, do you think we should respond in any way at all?

      • Yes, I think our response is to stand for God.  What that looks like depends upon many factors.  The Word encourages me: as far as it is up to me, I will live at peace with all men.  So, I don’t think we should instigate or argue, and I don’t think we should be silent or unresponsive.  However, we must respond in gentleness with kindness.  It’s your kindness Lord that leads us to repentance.  It also depends on what the discussion is about.  Something I read in a parenting book when I was teaching myself to be a better parent (my daughter is now 28 and an M-WOG [Mighty Woman of God]) is that you don’t fight to put your flag up on every hill.  You choose your battles carefully.  On the absolutes you stand firm (Jesus Christ is the son of God & died for my sins, salvation is God’s gift and no works will get me to Him, 10 commandments, and the like).  On some things, you just let it go.  I didn’t read your entire post about the council and the atheist offended by the praying.  Sad day for him coming.  However, it’s always a puzzle that atheists are bothered by anyone praying to someone they don’t think exists.  So, if He doesn’t exist, why would you care that anyone was praying to Him anyway?  Hope I’ve answered your question.

  • Victoria

    Hi Dean, I agree with Diana, I did leave u a message a few days via a tweet about the like of Esther, Joseph and John the Bapist doing God will by standing up for their faith at all cost. Look at Daniel and his friends standing up for God by doing it with peace so no fault was found in them. Also I think our (Christian) problem is greater than all this, we want the unbelievers to change when we are sending out mixed messages and there is no unity in the church. The bible say how can u remove the dust from your brother’s eyes when you have a plank in your own, tell me how do we expect to
    make a different when there is no love among ourselves.

    • Very good points, and a big challenge for the church!  How do we address the internal problems then (i.e the ones in the Church) in order to address the external ones (problems in society outside the church)?? Tough questions!