The decline of Christianity.
The British Social Attitudes Survey, just published by the National Centre for Social Research, shows that Christian belief has halved in just 35 years. Only a third of the population now admit to being Christians. In the next few years, Islam (currently 6% of the population) will outnumber Catholicism, which has fallen from 10% in 1983 to 7% in 2018.
In 1983, two-thirds of the nation described themselves as Christian. Just ten years ago, only half did so. Last year, fewer than two in five did so. By contrast, in 1983 Muslims were 1% of the population; in 2008 3%; and, just ten years later, 6%.
And what about those who call themselves “confident atheists”? In 1998, only 10% were atheist; in 2008, 18%; in 2018, 26% – more than 1 in 4. And yet atheism is no less a belief system than religion.
However, more than half the population still express some sort of belief in some sort of God.
In Ireland, religion is also in decline. When Pope John Paul II visited Ireland four decades back, this was still the Island of Saints and Scholars. Divorce, abortion and contraception were forbidden; homosexual acts were a crime as well as a sin; and Mass attendance was high.
Now, divorce is lawful, and there were more than 73,000 Catholic divorces in Ireland in 2016; condoms can be bought as easily as candies; two-thirds of the electorate voted to make baby-butchering lawful; so-called “gay” so-called “marriage” has been enshrined in the constitution; and Mass attendance has plummeted. In 1961, 95% were Catholic: now, 78% hold fast to the Faith.
Why does the collapse of Christianity in the West matter?
Western civilisation has been more successful than any other precisely because it is (or was) Christian. There is a very good reason for this. When Europe emerged from the Dark Ages, the Renaissance of intellectual life was led, animated and inspired by the Church.
Popes and pastors emphasised the importance of education, and of sound learning. Aquinas borrowed heavily from Aristotelian logic to ensure that his masterwork, the Summa Theologia, was rigorous.
The Church, from the mediaeval schoolmen to the Jesuit instructors who brought up so many generations of sound Catholics until the 1950s, achieved the apparently impossible – she presented faith and reason as two sides of the same coin. The faith, in the words of the schoolmen, was a fides quaerens intellectum – belief seeking justification in reason.
The rapid development and use of formal logic in the Church enabled mathematics and science to rise to the prominence they enjoy today. For mathematics, the language of the sciences, is founded upon and deeply rooted in logic.
Then came Hegel and Hume, pragmatism and logical positivism. Hegel began the process of dismantling logic. His half-backed, obscurantist “dialectic” is built upon the ruins of logic. Hegel considered that premises (assertions of fact) that did not validly entail a proposed conclusion had to be rejected, whereupon all was nothingness.
The truth, of course, is that if premises do not entail a conclusion neither the premises nor the conclusion are necessarily wrong: it is the argument that must be rejected.
Consider the following syllogism: Premise 1: All cows eat grass. Premise 2: All grass is green. Conclusion: No cow is green.
Both the premises and the conclusion are true, but the former do not validly entail the latter. Hegel, who had not really understood logic at all, would have rejected the premises and the conclusion, though all are true. It is the argument, here, that is false.
Now consider the logical positivists. Their Weltanschauung is that the only truth is scientific truth, from which, in their thinking, it follows that all religions are as pointless and valueless as superstitions.
Now combine Hegelian dialectic with logical positivism, and you end up with Marxian dialectial materialism, in which scientific truth is supposed to dominate but in fact the assault on logic makes scientific truth impossible to discern.
Decline of religion makes it easy for tyrants to establish absolute control.
The true purpose of dialectical materialism is to destroy not merely religion (via logical positivism) but also science (via the Hegelian abolition of sound, formal reasoning). If both reason and religion are thus removed from the chessboard, it becomes easy for tyrants to establish absolute control over the minutest details of every citizen’s life: for all too few citizens will still be able to think independently at all.
An example: global warming. At no point have the true-believers in the New Religion of climate change even got around to telling us what the ideal global mean surface temperature of the planet is. Without that, no legitimate conclusion to the effect that we face disaster can be drawn.
Their predictions of everything from the rate of warming to the supposedly dire consequences have proven overblown. And yet their pseudo-scientific nonsense is passively accepted by just about all the Great and the Good: for the Great and the Good, like Wither in C.S. Lewis’ That Hideous Strength, have passed from Hegel and Hume though pragmatism and logical positivism, and thence out into the complete void.
Prince Charles bleated last week that we have only 18 months left to Save The Planet. As a future hereditary head of the Church of England, he ought to know that The Planet was triumphantly Saved 2000 years ago and doesn’t need to be Saved again.
The zombie schoolchildren who regurgitate this pseudo-scientific pap in a drivelling monotone have not been taught, as the Church used to teach them, to think for themselves. They have been taught not to think for themselves, but merely to recite the mantras of the New Religion.
It is the deliberate, calculated, in-your-face abolition and rejection of reason in secular society that the Church should now be vigorously opposing. Traditional theology – the only species of theology worthy of the name – holds that Satan, the Father of Lies, works by a continuous assault upon the one faculty that separates us most clearly from the beasts and brings us most closely in likeness to the Divine – the faculty of reason. If we lose that, we lose not merely our liberty but our humanity.
The Church must recapture education from the State.
The Church should, therefore, urgently restore throughout its schools the mediaeval trivium – grammar, logic and rhetoric. These three subjects, which were obligatory for all entrants to Cambridge University from the Middle Ages till my generation, mirror and nourish the three traditional faculties of the soul – the memory, the faculty of reason and the will.
They are important because they train every pupil to think for himself. That is the last thing the totalitarians want. It should, however, be a high priority for the Church.
Just as Islam flourished from the 9th to the 11th centuries because its relentless focus was upon higher learning, just as Christianity flourished from the 13th to the 19th centuries for precisely the same reason, so the Church must once again set a premium on learning. If she remains dumb, then her ranks will continue to dwindle. Our Popes, Bishops and priests need to be learned, widely-read men trained in many disciplines. And they need to pass on their faith and their learning to future generations through Catholic schools and universities. The Church must recapture education from the State: for in doing so she will guarantee the future that her Founder intended for her and for the world.