Johann Hari does a little pre-mortem dancing on the foreseeable grave of British Christianity:
And now congregation, put your hands together and give thanks, for I come bearing Good News. Britain is now the most irreligious country on earth. This island has shed superstition faster and more completely than anywhere else. Some 63 percent of us are non-believers, according to an ICM study, while 82 percent say religion is a cause of harmful division. Now, let us stand and sing our new national hymn: Jerusalem was dismantled here/ in England’s green and pleasant land.
This only makes one wonder—why is it again that we atheists are supposed to consider religions ineradicable and placate and patronize religious believers instead of opposing religious beliefs and institutions? Why are we supposed to believe that cultures cannot en masse reorient themselves to become self-consciously secular and rationalistic? Why are we supposed to believe that atheism should forever be consigned to the knowing winks elite intellectuals share with each other, but not be something publicly embraced, advanced, and defended?
How did it happen? For centuries, religion was insulated from criticism in Britain. First its opponents were burned, then jailed, then shunned. But once there was a free marketplace of ideas, once people could finally hear both the religious arguments and the rationalist criticisms of them, the religious lost the British people. Their case was too weak, their opposition to divorce and abortion and gay people too cruel, their evidence for their claims non-existent. Once they had to rely on persuasion rather than intimidation, the story of British Christianity came to an end.
Now that only six percent of British people regularly attend a religious service, it’s only natural that we should dismantle the massive amounts of tax money and state power that are automatically given to the religious to wield over the rest of us. It’s a necessary process of building a secular state, where all citizens are free to make up their own minds. Yet the opposition to this sensible shift is becoming increasingly unhinged. The Church of England, bewildered by the British people choosing to leave their pews, has only one explanation: Christians are being “persecuted” and “bullied” by a movement motivated by “Christophobia.” George Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, says Christians are now “second class citizens” and it is only “a small step” to “a religious bar on any employment by Christians”.