A Lack of Faith

Fewer than half the people in England and Wales consider themselves Christian, according to the most recent census — the first time a minority of the population has followed the country’s official religion.

Jill lawless, AP News LONDON, 11/29/22

If you think someone who considers himself a devout agnostic would revel in this report out of Great Britain, you would be correct, but not for the reasons you might expect. I have never been anti-religion. It is simply not my thing. I am, however, strongly anti-theocracy and bristle at the very thought of an “official religion.” Fortunately, in England, official and mandatory are not synonymous, and non-believers are not beaten or imprisoned.

The “lack of faith” in the title of today’s post is not about the decline in British adherence to the Church or any other religion. Instead, it refers to those who feel they need to establish a theocracy. If they truly believed in the goodness and benefits of their respective faith, there would be no need for theocracy. Their countrymen and countrywomen would participate voluntarily. And the response to a decline in followers would not be incarceration, but introspection.

For example, why are former Catholics the fastest growing denomination in the United States? Could it have anything to do with the inability of some priests to keep their hands off young parishioners? Or how many years it took the Vatican to admit there was a problem and make any attempt to rectify it? Or for disaffected Jews, sitting in a synagogue listening to a sermon about “tikkun olam,” healing the world, when the prized front-row pews are occupied by wealthy congregants who finance politicians who deny climate change? Or followers of Islam, being expected to recite daily prayers when young women are beaten to death for not wearing the “appropriate” apparel?

Nothing advances rebellion like compulsory allegiance. Especially when political and religious leaders who promote such fidelity routinely violate the core values of their respective faiths, whether it be the beatitudes, the covenant between God and the Jewish people or the five pillars of Islam.

It is easy to make Iran the poster child for theocracy, although it is more a role model why theocracy does not work. And yet, those on the extreme right of America’s political spectrum condemn the Islamic Republic while, in the same breath, advocate Christian nationalism. And do not, for one minute, think they are in the minority.

An October 2022 Pew Research poll found 60 percent of adults “think the founders originally intended for the U.S. to be a ‘Christian Nation’,” ignoring the establishment clause in the First Amendment, crafted by those very same founding fathers. This is the same “originalist” hypocrisy by which which a Catholic dominated Supreme Court, despite proclaiming to be strict constructionists, has repeatedly chipped away at the principle of separation of church and state.

But, let’s be honest. I do not believe I will be arrested next month if I return someone’s “Merry Christmas” with a “Happy Holidays.” Nor will I take to the streets because some individuals believe I am going to Hell because I have not accepted Jesus as my salvation. I would rather believe a deserved ticket to Hades, if it existed, could not be voided by a deathbed conversion.

I have been in the minority all of my life. First, raised as a conservative Jew and now as an agnostic. Over those seven decades I have been repeatedly exposed to the promises of a Christian life, on billboards, radio, television, in magazines and newspapers, by mail and multiple strangers on my doorstep. And that is their right because in America people, but not the government, have the freedom to try and recruit new disciples. To date, I have not been persuaded, which is my right.

Yet, those who promote Christian nationalism do not accept that choice. They lack the faith that Christianity is so appealing non-believers will eventually see the light. Therefore, they want to force it on us. If that day comes, I too will take to the streets and hold up a blank piece of paper as have my brothers and sisters in Iran.

For what it’s worth.