Friday, December 12, 2008

‘If you don’t know what religion you are then you’re Church of England’
I was about ten years old when my school class was asked to fill out a form listing our basic details. Name, address, we were filling it all out with no trouble — until we came upon the question regarding our religious affiliation. Sure, the one or two Roman Catholics knew, and passed right along, but the rest of us looked at each other, confused. Commotion burst out across the room as we tried to extract the correct answer from one another. “If you don’t know what religion you are,” our teacher interrupted sternly, “then you’re Church of England.” The logic of her proposition escaped me, but my parents later assured me that not only I, but our entire family was in fact Church of England, despite never having attended church, or read so much as a single sentence of the Bible.

The vague and mysterious quality of religion must have impressed me because I developed a curiosity and eventually an insatiable appetite for anything religious (ones where had to do something that is, even it was just turn up). Roman Catholicism, Zen Buddhism, Tantric Hinduism, even plain old Zoroastrianism — I flirted with them all. Of course, I celebrated Christmas, Easter, etc., with my family, but, as with the vast majority of English families, these events were not religious
per se. It is an uncomfortable confession, but I must admit, I believe that I was envious of the ethnic minorities. They not only had their customs, they had their religion. No one could take away their Holy Days.

A thorough erosion has beset Britain’s Christian tradition, especially that of the eternally innocuous Church of England — to which I have already alluded. Just before Christmas 2006 I heard several very nice people debating on B.B.C. radio whether the visible celebration of Christmas (in our traditionally Christian country) was offensive to Muslims, or others (including atheists) in our multicultural society. The conclusion seemed to be no, though largely because, it was suggested, Christmas really was not a religious celebration any more, and was now all about gift giving – they neglected to mention that the tradition also includes getting as drunk as any scruffy hippy. Their observation was largely, sadly, correct. Ten years ago or so the seasonal shopping sales started on Boxing Day (December 26th), now they begin on Christmas Day (which, in case any British politician is reading this, is December 25th).
From the comments:
The Church of England may have become innocuous in the last 100 years. The fact is that the C of E was very violent and killed many people (Catholics and other Protestant groups) specially between the XVI and XVIII centuries. Later on it went down due to its own internal contradictions.

I strongly disagree with reader H.A.’s comments on the glorious Church of England, which gave anglophone peoples spirititual and literary masterpieces such as the Book of Common Prayer and the Authorized Version (the King James Bible). Yes, the C of E employed coercion in the 16th and 17th centuries, but so did ever other church in that period. As a conservative Roman Catholic, I do believe that the C of E is heretical and schismatic, but there is no reason to bash the Mother Church of Edmund Burke and the martyr-king Charles I.

England was better off for being relieved of so many fanatical Puritans through the 17th century, antipathetic as they were to traditional English liberties. The Pilgrims were not wanted in England,
BECAUSE they were fanatics.
Their descendents continue being anti-liberties both as SWPL and as Mormons!
The Dissolution of the Monasteries was an atrocity, but it was inspired far more by cynical venality than by any religious belief and/or heresy, and the C of E did a relatively good job of preserving at least the main treasures of English Christendom such as the many English cathedrals which remain glories of European architecture to this day; Thomas More was murdered politically for the personal vanity of King Henry, not because of any fanaticism of the C of E.
Canterbury Cathedral’s falling down... sounds like a nursery rhyme.
Funny thing about Margaret Clitherow is that for a long time many devotees of hers claimed to have witnessed her ghost at a house where she was believed to have lived in York, until later historical evidence proved that she had never lived there — thus, I wonder how much of the story of Clitherow’s martyrdom has been mythologised.
Is that the house in the Shambles that’s her shrine? Been there.

From Taki.

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