George Carey's atheist agenda

By Jonathan Bartley
March 8, 2010

An atheist writing today for the Daily Telegraph illustrates well the kind of Christianity that George Carey has been defending of late.

In an article seeking to support the former Archbishop of Canterbury’s latest lament bemoaning that Christians get a raw deal, Nigel Farndale highlights how many in the church share the same perspective as many atheists when it comes to the status and position of the Church of England. In so doing, he also sheds light on how the BNP, too, can enthusiastically join in.

Farndale suggests that the Church of England "worships England". The kind of religion he is describing is of the cultural variety, to which he has "a deep emotional attachment". He talks of “an almost patriotic duty to defend the Church of England against its enemies.”

There are many other atheists and agnostics who will share his perspective - indeed probably many more than those who are militantly anti-religion. Seventy-two per cent of the population may have identified with Christianity at the last census, but surveys consistently show that less than half believe in God. The number drops much more when asked about whether they hold Christian doctrinal beliefs. Many want the Church there, because for them, it isn't much to do with religious belief.

What is the cultural love of the Church of England, and indeed Christianity about? In the words of Farndale: getting “goose bumps when I hear Jerusalem” which he suggests should be “piped through the Tannoys at Dover”, “love of The Book of Common Prayer and The King James Bible, both of which sing like poetry” and “sitting alone in old churches”.

It is also about the dominant place of the Christian religion historically. “The artists we most revere - Bach and Mozart, Milton and Shakespeare, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci — are all Christian” he suggests. “’May your kingdom come and your name be hallowed’. Is there a true Englishman alive who has not taken that word “kingdom” to mean, in a poetic sense at least, England?” he asks.

There is perhaps no clearer illustration that Carey’s complaint is actually about defending a specific idea of ‘Englishness’. It has little to do with belief in God. As Farndale points out: “I don’t think these things are incompatible with atheism”. Indeed, if one took a ‘Christian’ perspective - and by that I mean one based on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ - one would end up in a different place entirely. There is nothing distinctively theological about Carey's position. For this is Christianity without teeth. It is a Christianity that seeks to simply to turn the clock back to a mythical bygone age.

You can also see why Carey’s other bug bear at the moment is immigration.

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