Johann Hari tells us that Britain is now “the most irreligious country on earth…[having] shed superstition faster and more completely than anywhere else.” He attributes religion’s – by which he means Christianity’s – decline to “a free marketplace of ideas” that has debunked religion’s claims as rationally baseless.
Good stuff so far, but Hari strongly laments the remaining special privileges afforded Christianity in that country, such as the law requiring every school in Britain to make its pupils daily engage in “an act of collective worship of a wholly or mainly Christian nature” and the set-aside in the unelected House of Lords for 26 bishops.
So, let me get this straight. Britain has struck on the most successful model to date for reducing religious national incidence and Hari is complaining?
To be fair, Hari is responding to British Christian cries of “Christophobia” and bullying. How strange that is when Christianity retains such an elevated status, is Hari’s point. I don’t mean to suggest it isn’t sound, because he’s spot on, just that, Hari may be missing the forest for the trees. He’d no doubt say British Christianity has declined despite its privilege, but, perhaps with tongue in cheek, cannot one make a reasonable case for the opposite? Namely, that the decline is because of the privilege? After all, the same “free marketplace of ideas” reigns in the U.S., perhaps even more so, and yet it has not matched Britain’s secularizing experience.
I’m still a committed secularist, but Britain’s quixotic and ironic results remain intriguing…