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This article was published April 30th.
David Cameron’s comments about Britain being a Christian country were hardly new or doctrinaire.
They were so mild that politicians across the parties were happy to echo many of the remarks. So mild that Christ, the cross or the resurrection didn’t even get a mention in the speech.
Come election time, Christians will weigh up whether David Cameron practices what he preaches.
But what I found fascinating was the extraordinary reaction from 55 of the nation’s top celebrity atheists. Anyone would think that the government was about to introduce a theocratic state. Their letter to the Daily Telegraph protested that the prime minister’s comments foster “alienation and division.”
They argue that not believing in God leads to a more tolerant society—a difficult claim to make, given the track record of formally atheist societies like North Korea, the former USSR, Ceausescu’s Romania or Pol Pot’s Cambodia.
They claim that the British people “do not want religions or religious identities to be actively prioritized by their elected government.”
The secularist’s dream—and our nightmare—is of a nation whose public life is emptied of all Christian belief.
But if people really want atheism, how is it that only a miniscule number of people own up to being an atheist when they file their census returns?
The last census of 2011 found only 29,267 declared atheists, with an additional 15,067 humanists. Even bulking up the figures by adding all the agnostics, secularists and free thinkers only gives a grand total of less than 78,000 people (or 0.14 percent of the population).
You could fit all the atheists into a place the size of Bolsover. For every 10,000 people, only 14 will not believe in God. It’s almost as though the census confirms the truth of what Paul says in Romans 1:19 about God’s invisible qualities being clearly seen.
This tiny group of people lays great claims to have their beliefs at the front and center of our national life. After the closure of almost all adoption agencies with a religious ethos, many secularists now want to see the closure of all church schools.
The popularity of church schools must be a constant source of irritation to secularists.
The last census found there were 33 million people—that’s nearly six out of 10—who identified as being Christian. Clearly they’re not in church every Sunday—oh that they were!
As has been said, census statistics are not the same as the Lamb’s Book of Life statistics of Revelation. But the census does show that hardly anyone signs up for the full package of atheism. Yet vast multitudes in our society are influenced by secularism—the application of atheism to all areas of public life.
What the atheists lack in numbers, they certainly make up for in terms of their influence and boldness. They understand that their beliefs are a worldview they are determined to impose on everyone else.
But for all their determination, they seem to be highly sensitive to the extremely mild comments made by David Cameron. Perhaps they’re not so confident in what they believe after all. It’s almost as though they are trying to suppress something.
Colin Hart is director of the Christian Institute.
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