The Age of Not Believing

Despite the claims made by the Prime Minister that we are a Christian Nation, all I seem to read these days are newspaper stories and articles that are telling their readers that the Christian religion  and more particularly the Christian Church, has had its day and its time to butt out of  what is called ’the public space’. There seem to be a number of anti– Christian or self –proclaimed atheists who revel in telling us the statistics that tell of over all decline; for example a recent survey revealed that 60% of the population said religion had no importance in their lives, strange then  that another 60% in another recent survey said that they thought the Government should pay towards the upkeep of church and other buildings because of the important part they play in the lives of local communities!

We are told that the Church will only survive and flourish if we go along with the prevailing culture of today, forget what it says in the Bible, ditch 2,000 years of faith and practice, its what ‘people’ think now that counts!

It is difficult to gauge from the media just how deeply these so –called  anti –Christian sentiments  run; one more sympathetic journalist recently put it down to’ a self-loathing, guilt ridden, liberal elite, driven by their own anti– Christian bigotry and a determination to destroy their own heritage’ and replace it with something else- the something else being something they don’t seem to be able to define, other than that well-educated and enlightened  people like themselves should be able to do exactly what they please, with little regard for the effect this might have on others or Society as a whole! We certainly do not live in an age of faith rather we seem to be entering  what could be called, an age of not believing! The age of not believing’ is of course the title of a song from the Disney movie, ’Bedknobs and Broomsticks’ sung by the marvelous Dame Angela Lansbury- It’s a song about growing up, as children get older, she sings,

‘You rush around in hopeless circles, searching everywhere for something true, you’re at the age of not believing, when all the make believe is through…’   making that transition from childhood to young adulthood is a  very complicated process, as the child we have nurtured and protected has to face the realities of what can seem to be a very cruel world. Where do our children find the tools to grow into mature, responsible, moral adults? At Christenings, in the little homily I give, I am constantly bemoaning the fact that most schools do not tell the bible stories my generation grew up on, neither do they teach children to say the Lord’s Prayer. The state tells us we do not want that kind of thing other than in ‘faith’ schools; if some politicians had their way, there would be no faith schools.. and yet why do so many parents want to send their children to these schools? It was those good ’old fashioned’ stories that taught us many lessons which made our nation strong; remember the Good Samaritan? What about the story of the Prodigal Son, enough there about the family to benefit all of us! We learnt the Lord’s Prayer and it seemed to cover all eventualities, whether to give thanks for our  blessings, to guide our daily living or to whisper by a hospital bed in the silence of the night. I remind parents and godparents that God is a loving Father, and yes I agree when some of you will say, ‘it doesn’t always seem that way’; and as a Father he asks us not necessarily  to bring our children to church every week, but he so much wants us to teach our children the difference between right and wrong, good and bad!

Napoleon once asked a famous scientist why he hadn’t mentioned God in his book about the Universe, ’I have no need of that hypothesis!’ he replied As Christian belief and church attendance seem to be in decline, it may be that, as someone recently put it, when people survey their own ‘universe’, they too have no need of that particular hypothesis! As a priest I believe the opposite to be the case, but as Christianity and the Christian Church is gradually silenced and driven further and further from the ‘public space’ this will indeed increasingly become ‘an age of not believing, not just in magic, as in ‘Bedknobs and Broomsticks’, but an age in which all that matters is what I think and what I want, and Society? Well what’s that?

                                      your friend and priest,  Father Keith