All ages and all 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 can celebrate that fact or lament it, but as all the census and church attendance data shows, it does.
It does not follow, however, that our age is an irreligious age. On the contrary, our society is deeply religious. They are simply religious concepts that are different from – though often derived from – our previous belief system. For example, the priority given by the modern British state to “tolerance” and “difference” is a legacy of a Christian ideal. In particular the ideal of equality in the eyes of God.
But as our society has become more detached from Christianity, we seem to have become more and more dogmatic about our new beliefs. Partly, perhaps, because we feel how difficult it is to have the new faith and keep the sanity.
For example, our society is compelled by diktat at all levels of public service to bow to the gods of diversity, inclusion and equity (DIE). Apply for any public appointment in this country and you will need to demonstrate a commitment to these principles. You will need 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 submitted to this new religion. A religion that believes the highest good is “social justice,” something that is both specific and amorphous enough to take the place once occupied by the Holy Spirit.
Say anything that seems to go against these precepts of the new faith and you will know what will happen. Silly obsessions over the rights of small minorities are now being fought as our ancestors fought over interpretations of the Eucharist. Watching Labor MPs contort 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 burned, depending on whether they could use the precise and correct formulation that was expected of them that year regarding the status of the host. It’s painful to watch them struggle. All the more painful as our society seems to demand it. But that’s how it is with religions. They have their dogmas, and to speak against them is to suffer a potentially serious punishment.
It has only been six months since Sir David Amess was shot at a surgery meeting in his constituency. It has been less than a week since his killer, Ali Harbi Ali, was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for his murder. And what was the response of the deputies to this murder of one of their colleagues? Almost nothing.
Immediately after Sir David’s murder, the House of Commons assembled and MPs mourned his passing as if their colleague had died of natural causes. The most any of them could do was stress the importance of the ‘Online Harms Bill’ – an obsession among MPs, who apparently believe that tackling internet anonymity is the one of the great causes of our time.
Of course, nothing Ali Harbi Ali did was anonymous. It turns out he had staked a number of deputies, hoping to kill one in the name of his fanatical Islamist ideology. After slaughtering Sir David Amess, Ali sat waiting for the police to arrive. It would be hard to imagine anything less anonymous.
So where was the indignation of the deputies? “Ah well”, they said to themselves the few of us who asked this question, “we must wait for the trial and not risk harming it”. Yet there was no such resistance to finding motives after the equally appalling murder of Jo Cox in 2016. The trial of Sir David’s killer has now passed and there has still been no discussion on this subject. No lessons learned. Indeed, Sir David seems to have been “robbed of memory”. The same was true after Khairi Saadallah killed three gay men in a Reading park in 2020. Hardly anyone – even in the gay press – wanted to speculate on the motives of the killer who said he committed his crimes in the name of of Islamic fundamentalism.
The reason is not just that our society fears discussing the link between Islam and violence (although it certainly does). It’s that our society is terrified of anything that would challenge our great belief in “diversity”. For it is perhaps the greatest and most sacred precept of our time.
In fact, diversity has advantages and disadvantages. Allowing a number of religious fanatics into the country is one of the downsides, and Sir David was among those who suffered. But we don’t like to talk about it, because we don’t really know what to do with it. No more than a Labor MP knows what to do these days when faced with a fundamental question of biology.
There are many other similar cases where issues that do not fit neatly with the new religion of diversity are simply glossed over. I’ve covered them in a number of recent books. With each passing year, we seem more and more determined to push back against the fact that the world is complex: that most things don’t follow perfectly clear lines, although we might wish they did. Few things are good in their pure state, and a reasonable, not to say rational, society would be able to accept that. Only a faith-based society cannot. And our society is now deeply and dogmatically faith-based. Although it is a faith that has not yet developed well.
Overall I preferred the old faith. It was the product of generations of thought and wisdom, based on reason as well as tradition. How one might want to now, surrounded as we are by dogmatists and tyrants (always disguised as victims) demanding that 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 28