Faith a "Private Eccentricity" in England, Says Catholic Cleric
Religion News Service reports that the leader of Roman Catholics in England and Wales warns that liberalism has turned Britain into a nation where religious belief is seen as a "private eccentricity" and atheism is becoming increasingly more "vocal and aggressive." Writing in a book released this week, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor came down hard on what he said was Britain's growing degeneration into a land free of morals and hostile to Christian values.
For some time ‘religion’ has been herded, by those either hostile to it or just unsure what to do with it, into the category of the private and personal. While you might think this was just the work of sinister forces opposed to any religion, that is not the complete case.
For some time now, at least within Christendom, there has been an assumption that faith is a personal attitude or decision for which there is no compelling evidence. As the old phrase goes, faith is ‘believing what you know ain’t so.”
There is a long historical-theological story behind this move. Assuming people who might read a blog don’t like long historical-theological stories, I won’t even attempt to outline it here. (There are plenty of good books about this that will explain it much better than I could, anyway!)
This view of faith is very different from that of historic Christianity. If you are interested in seeing the contrast, study Mark 2 sometime.
But moving to the ‘faith-without-evidence’ view allowed Christians to avoid the task of presenting a reasonable case for their faith. With reason discounted as it often is in our culture, presenting a reasoned case for anything sometimes seemed pointless anyway.
But evidence-less faith did something else too. It made religion completely personal, nothing more than a matter of individual preference or taste. This is as true in the U.S. as the report above suggests that it is in Britain.
Having been made completely personal, faith became completely meaningless in the public arena. Of course opponents of faith welcomed this development. But people of faith did this to themselves.
While it would be possible to recover the historic meaning of the Christian faith, for one example, most of those who claim that faith seem to have little interest in that project. We are too busy deferring to other views and being careful not to offend anyone with presentations of anything we claim to be ‘the truth.’ The mere mention of such a thing is enough to get you kicked out of most forums today.
So it appears that most of the ‘faithful’ will stumble forward with this evidence-less approach to faith. While some will ‘personally value’ faith, others will not, and we can just leave it at that.
Meanwhile, the atheists can tell everyone the way things ‘really’ are. We Christians, not wanting to offend anyone’s sensibilities, will sit quietly by with our ‘private eccentricity’ and watch.