Magazine article The Spectator

Status Anxiety: Toby Young

Magazine article The Spectator

Status Anxiety: Toby Young

Article excerpt

Credit: Toby Young

I can't say it was a great surprise to read a letter from a group of well-known authors, academics, comedians and politicians in theTelegraph earlier this week complaining about David Cameron's description of Britain as a 'Christian country'. As a general rule, any acknowledgment of Britain's Christian heritage has members of the liberal intelligentsia reaching for their keyboards and angrily typing out words like 'sectarian', 'alienation' and 'division'.

As Harry Cole argued in a blog post forThe Spectator , the evidence that Britain is a Christian country is overwhelming. We have an established church, our head of state is also the defender of the faith and 59 per cent of us define ourselves as 'Christian'. So why does the secular left feel obliged to deny this every time someone points it out?

No doubt it has something to do with a concern for the 41 per cent of Britons who don't see themselves as Christians. They're worried that worshippers of other religions will be discriminated against in some way -- or, even if they're not, that they'llfeel as if they are. For the Prime Minister to acknowledge that Christianity is more intimately bound up with our history and identity than, say, Islam, is to offend against the dogma of egalitarianism. Equality before the law isn't enough. Non-Christians must regard themselves as equally respected -- and so the secular left has done its best to make any disrespect of other religions a criminal offence.

I don't wish to get into the rights and wrongs of this doctrine here, only to point out that it owes a great deal to Christianity, as does the secular left in general. Indeed, I don't think it's an exaggeration to describe the Labour party as a Christian political party.

I'm not just talking about the links between nonconformism, political radicalism and trade unionism, extensive though they are. I also mean the principle of equality itself, which originated in the idea that all men are equal in the eyes of God. After all, if you take away the idea that God created man in his own image, the notion that human life is sacred, that we're all entitled to various rights irrespective of how we behave, doesn't make much sense. If we feel an attachment to this idea in spite of not believing in God, it's because some residue of Christian morality has remained, not because it's possible to base this doctrine on a rational foundation. …

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