Is Christianity vanquished in the UK?

09/06/2001

I haven’t believed in god for over fifteen years now.

I was thirteen when my little brother was born. My mother had come into the TV room and sat me down on the tan sofa and asked me how I’d feel about having a little brother or sister. I said that I didn’t want one. My mother looked slightly perturbed and said that I was going to have one anyway. I remember not being entirely thrilled by the news.

By the time my brother was born I was totally excited by the idea. My mother went into labour early in the morning and I was woken up by her smiling beatifically at the end of the bed ad patting her bulge and telling me to get ready. I couldn’t have been more excited. I got into my school uniform and we drove into Norwich, where we went and made sure my mother was comfortable. Then my father drove me into school and then, for some ungodly reason, went to work.

I remember talking to my friends about the new arrival during lunch break, standing on the doorsteps of Norwich Cathedral. But somehow, by the time school had ended, I’d completely forgotten about it. It was only the sight of a friend of my mother’s waiting to pick me up that reminded me. We went and bought a teddy bear for my little brother and drove to the hospital to see him.

Months later, he was to be Christened. I had never been Christened – my life had been so disorganised and random in my earlier years that no one had gotten around to it. It had become a badge of honour to me in some ways. Everyone I knew had been Christened – I was special, weird, a thirteen-year-old rationalist philosopher surrounded by superstition and madness. But despite taking pride in it, I’d never really thought about whether there actually was a god or not. When my mother said that she would like it if I got Christened along with my brother, I was forced to think about it for the first time. And I was horrified. I just didn’t believe it all. It seemed so ridiculous. Such a ludicrous proposition. It just didn’t make any sense. Nonetheless, bowing to parental pressure I went through with the ceremony, feeling awkward and hypocritical all the way through.

Yesterday the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, declared that Christianity was ‘almost vanquished in the UK’ [BBC News]. He said that people in Britain were now seemingly indifferent to Christian values and the Church. To me this can only be a positive sign. Whatever else might be lacking in people’s lives, they no longer feel that the mystical texts of another people half a world away and thousands of years old can patch up that hole. To me it seems like they’ve all been set free.