Wednesday, May 26, 2010
The Rage Against God: Chapter 8
Excerpt from Peter Hitchens:
The Decline of Christianity
It was the 1940s revolutionary period of nationalization, rationing, and growing state power that gave George Orwell the imaginative background for 1984, his novel about a perpetual socialist future of oppression, regimentation, and shortage. It was coupled with one of the most thorough-going attempts to introduce a socialist state ever attempted in a free country with the rule of law and an elected Parliament. The Labour government elected in 1945, with a huge Parliamentary majority, had many of the characteristics of a revolution, nationalizing private property and centralizing state power, greatly increasing the direct role of government in the national life in a way never before attempted in peacetime (though familiar from the recent war). Many of that government's measures were popular, not least the creation of a National Health Service, which made most doctors employees of the state but gave the poor guaranteed free medical treatment. Many of these changes had their roots in English and Scottish radicalism, not in Marxism or Communism, and were inspired by Christian sentiments. The wartime Archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple, had considered himself a Christian Socialist, and much of the Church of England believed that the 1945 Labour government was enacting Christian legislation and turning the country into an ideal Christian society. One effect of this was that the church relinquished control of many of its secondary schools to the state (a mistake the Roman Catholics did not make), in return for the promise of a daily act of Christian worship in all schools—a promise that would be extensively broken within a few decades…
During the 1960s Christianity was slowly, by gradual degrees, driven into the margins even when religious matters were under discussion. A new generation of teachers, many of them not themselves Christian in any serious way, did not wish to obey the law requiring a daily act of Christian worship in state schools. A revolutionary reorganization of these schools in the 1960s and 1970s, combined with an official decision to widen the recruitment of teachers, coincided with the cultural revolution of the same period. At around the same time, Britain began to absorb (or in many cases fail to absorb) large numbers of migrants from the Indian subcontinent who were not Christian.