Is Britain a Christian Nation?

That’s what Prime Minister David Cameron says. He is concerned about his country’s social decline, and invokes Britain’s Christian heritage as an antidote:

Britain is a Christian nation and should not be afraid of standing up for Christian values to help counter the country’s “moral collapse”, Prime Minister David Cameron said Friday.

In a rare foray into religion by a British premier, Cameron said “live and let live” had too often become “do what you please” in Britain.

The “passive tolerance” of immoral behaviour had helped fuel the August riots, excess in the banking industry and home-grown Islamist terror, he said.

“We are a Christian country. And we should not be afraid to say so,” Cameron said at an event in Oxford, southern England, to mark the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible.

“The Bible has helped to give Britain a set of values and morals which make Britain what it is today. Values and morals we should actively stand up and defend.

The alternative of moral neutrality should not be an option.”

I think it is true that the Bible–three-quarters of which is the Old Testament, by the way–has given Britain the values and morals that made that country great for centuries. But is it still true that Britain is a Christian country? A little over half of the population describes itself as Christian, if asked, but actions tell another story. Like church attendance:

Church attendance in the U.K., currently one of the lowest in Europe, continues its depressing downward trend:

Cameron admits that he himself is not much of a Christian, in the sense of really believing anything in particular:

Cameron described himself as a committed but only “vaguely practising” member of the Church of England, who was “full of doubts” about big theological issues.

If you follow the British press, especially the tabloid press, you know that England these days is afflicted with an epidemic of vicious, senseless crimes, many of which are associated with a culture of drunkenness that has settled over the country. It is easy to understand that the authorities are looking for a remedy, and they are right to think that if Britain were still, in fact, a Christian country, things would be much improved. Unfortunately, acknowledging a Christian heritage and literary tradition–”Cameron said that along with the works of William Shakespeare, the King James Bible was a ‘high point of the English language’”–doesn’t do the trick. You need actual religious belief to affect behavior. And in England, as in so much of Western Europe, actual belief continues, apparently, on the road to extinction.

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