I grew up in the Church of England and while I no longer attend, apart from family days and holidays, and even then only to please my parents, I still retain a considerable affection for the institution, for the part that it has played in the history of this nation. If I did not feel affection, a lingering sense of respect, I could look upon the pronouncements of Rowan Williams, the muddle-headed Archbishop of Canterbury, with equanimity; but I cannot; he retains the power to madden me with some of his more outrageous statements.
So, yes, I value the Church of England just as I value Christianity, as I value spirituality in general. Even so I can respect atheism, those who have no place in their personal life for God our any form of spiritual insight; those whose horizons are purely (I was tempted to write bleakly) material. What I loath is the atheist proselytisers, those who would discard one set of absolutes only to promote another, bringing to the debate the worst forms of intellectual intolerance. God is dead; Richard Dawkins is alive. The new faith is totalitarian secularism, worse in ever way than the old faith of ritual and transcendence.
In one previous Papal Bull Dawkins said that the real abuse by Roman Catholic priests may not be the ‘groping of child bodies’ but the ‘subversion of child minds.’ Saint Richard would have it otherwise; he would chase Christianity to the margins of superstition and darkness in the creation of the kind of an earthly paradise, outlined by John Lennon in Imagine, a song with a message I cannot listen to without a compete sense of disgust. There is no earthly paradise. More particularly, as we should know from the history of the past hundred years, the attempt to create one always ends in hell.
The attacks on the Catholic Church, the attacks on Christianity in general, show that the faith needs a defender. It could ask for no better one than Peter Hitchens, one of my favourite polemicists, the author of The Rage Against God, an exploration of his own journey from Marxism and atheism to belief.
In this he brings to bear his lucidity and acidy wit against the aggressive secularism taking hold of a society that no longer has clear idea of itself. One only has to look at the progress of the last government’s equality legislation, which effectively tried to dictate what people thought of homosexuality. One only has to look at the present government’s proposals on gay marriage, which dismisses all principled dissent as ‘homophobia.’ We are dealing here with new forms of state corruption, with the subversion of freedom of conscience and freedom of speech; with the subversion of moral choice itself.
Hitchens compares what is happening in our morally debased society with what happened to organised religion in Soviet Russia when faced with the aggressive atheism promoted by the state. The parallel is not too extreme, at least I do not believe so. There has been a long process of secularisation at work, but it has taken more pervasive forms in our recent history, with the likes of Dawkins and his disciples occupying the high ground, sitting on judgement on all below.
Who would ever have believed that Christianity would have been on defensive in the land of Augustine? It’s time to fight back; time for a spiritual renaissance. The alternative is grim beyond measure; the alternative is barrenness; the alternative is Dawkins.