All ages and cultures have their religions. Today Christians around the world celebrate the story of the risen Christ. But whether you are a believing Christian, a cultural Christian or a believer in something or nothing else entirely, one thing should be obvious by now: the Christian tradition no longer dominates British public life. You may celebrate that fact or deplore it, but as all the census and church attendance data shows, it is the case.
It does not follow, however, that ours is an irreligious age. On the contrary our society is deeply religious. It is simply religious about concepts that are different – though often descended from – our earlier belief system. For instance the modern British state’s prioritisation of “tolerance” and “difference” is an inheritance from a Christian ideal. Not least the ideal of equality in the eyes of God.
But as our society has come apart from Christianity, we seem to have become ever more dogmatic about our new beliefs. In part, perhaps, because we sense how hard it is to hold the new faith and keep our reason.
For instance, our society is forced by diktat at every level of public service to bow to the gods of diversity, inclusion and equity. Apply for any public appointment in this country and you will have to demonstrate a commitment to these principles. You will have to explain what you have done to further these religious precepts.
Even the Church of England and other Christian denominations in this country have effectively subjugated themselves to this new religion. A religion which believes that the highest good is “social justice”, something which is both specific and amorphous enough to take the place once occupied by the Holy Ghost.
Say anything that appears to go against these precepts of the new faith and you know what will happen. Idiotic obsessions over the rights of small minorities are now fought over as our forebears fought over interpretations of the Eucharist. To watch Labour MPs contorting themselves as they are asked to answer questions like “What is a woman” is to get a glimpse of what it must have been like in previous eras when people were burned at the stake, or avoided being burnt, depending on whether they could use the precise, correct formulation expected of them that year regarding the status of the communion wafer. It is painful to see them struggle. Even more painful that our society seems to demand it. But that is the way with religions. They have their dogmas, and to speak against them is to suffer potentially serious punishment.
It is only six months since Sir David Amess was slaughtered at a surgery meeting in his constituency. It is less than a week since his killer, Ali Harbi Ali, was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for his murder. And what has been the response of MPs to this murder of one of their colleagues? Almost nothing.
Immediately after Sir David’s murder the House of Commons met and MPs mourned his passing as though their colleague had died of natural causes. The most any of them could do was to stress the significance of the “Online harms bill” – an obsession among MPs, who apparently believe that tackling internet anonymity is one of the great causes of our day.
Of course nothing that Ali Harbi Ali did was anonymous. It turns out that he had staked out a number of MPs, hoping to kill one in the name of his fanatical Islamist ideology. After slaughtering Sir David Amess, Ali sat around waiting for the police to arrive. It would be hard to imagine anything less anonymous.
So where was the MP outrage? “Ah well”, the few of us who asked this question were told, “we must wait for the trial and not risk prejudicing it”. Yet there was no such resistance to finding motives after the equally dreadful killing of Jo Cox in 2016. The trial of Sir David’s killer has now come and gone and still there has been no discussion about it. No lessons learned. Indeed Sir David appears to have been “memory-holed”. It was the same after Khairi Saadallah killed three gay men in a park in Reading in 2020. Almost nobody – even in the gay press – wanted to speculate about the motives of the killer who said he committed his crimes in the name of Islamic fundamentalism.
The reason is not just that our society fears to discuss the connection between Islam and violence (though it certainly fears that). It is that our society is terrified of anything which might throw any doubt onto our great belief in “diversity”. For this is perhaps the greatest, holiest precept of our time.
In fact diversity has upsides and downsides. Allowing a certain number of religious fanatics into the country is one of the downsides, and Sir David was among those to suffer for it. But we don’t like to talk about that, because we don’t really know what to do about it. Any more than a Labour MP knows what to do these days when faced with a basic question of biology.
There are many other similar cases where issues which don’t fit neatly with the new religion of diversity are simply brushed under the carpet. I have covered them in a number of recent books. With each passing year, we seem increasingly intent on pushing away the fact that the world is complex: that most things do not fall along completely clear lines, much though we might wish them to. Few things are unalloyedly good, and a reasonable, not to mention rational society would be capable of accepting that. Only a faith-based society cannot. And our society is now deeply, dogmatically faith-based. Albeit about a faith that has not yet properly worked itself out.
On balance I preferred the old faith. It was the product of generations of thought and wisdom, built upon reason as well as tradition. How one might long for it now, surrounded as we are by dogmatists and bullies (always dressed up in the garb of victims) demanding we submit to their faith, whether we believe in it or not.
Douglas Murray’s new book “The War on the West” will be released on April 28th