Thursday 27 June 2013

21st century Britain - a dying rose severed from its cultural roots

The 20th Century was defined by economic and class-based divisions between socialists and capitalists. But, with the main political parties now increasingly embracing free market capitalism, it is culture rather than economics which has now become the defining political divide. The 21st Century is characterised by cultural, social and ethical fault lines between liberals and conservatives.
The main vehicles of British culture - parliament, the institutions, judiciary, universities, media, arts and entertainment- are increasingly now populated and dominated by a liberal elite which embraces an atheist worldview and the ethics of secular humanism. People who were in their teens and twenties in the 1960s are now running the country, 150 years after the start of decline of British Christendom in 1860.

Liberal elite values are characterised by sexual permissiveness, easy divorce, cohabitation, liberal abortion, drug legalisation, government interference, higher taxes, increased welfare spending and more recently by political correctness, embryo research, same sex marriage, euthanasia and the marginalisation of, and discrimination against, those with conservative values.

Social conservative values I see as including sexual purity, marital faithfulness, family and community loyalty, upholding the sanctity of life, respect for king and country, accountability, responsibility, integrity, stewardship, simplicity, sacrificial service, self-control, a strong work ethic and both charitable provision and legal protection for the most vulnerable.

In Britain these social conservative values are essentially Christian values – which have their roots in the Bible and were revived by the 16th century reformation, by the 17th century puritanism that drove the Pilgrim fathers and the non-conformist movement, and by the 18th century evangelical revival under Wesley and Whitefield (and  parallel Great Awakening in America) which led both to the 19th century social reform catalysed by the likes of Wilberforce and the Clapham sect and also to the 19th missionary movement, beginning with Carey in 1793, which profoundly shaped the Christian culture of the British Empire.

Christian social conservative values are a strange mixture of right and left wing political concerns – combining traditionally left wing concerns for the poor, disabled people, ethnic minorities and concerns about developing world trade, aid and debt with a more traditionally right wing opposition to abortion, euthanasia, divorce, sexual immorality and substance abuse.

David Cameron fails to understand this because he understands Christianity primarily in terms of its influence on Britain’s architecture, language, constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy but without really grasping Christianity’s fundamental world view and ethics except in very vague terms.

His recent speech on the 400th anniversary of the KJV illustrates this well – where he talked about ‘responsibility, hard work, charity, compassion, humility, self-sacrifice, love…pride in working for the common good and honouring the social obligations we have to one another, to our families and our communities…’ but tellingly left out any reference to the sanctity of life, sexual purity, respect for conscience or most importantly any reference to the mission of Christ or his incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension or return in judgement – concepts which by contrast the Queen does actually seem to understand.

Iain Duncan Smith in his 2006 analysis of ‘Breakdown Britain’ I believe attributed accurately the decline to the ‘five pathways to poverty’: family breakdown, educational failure, economic dependence, indebtedness, and addiction which he calculated costs us £102 billion per annum.  He listed 191 policies aimed at reversing the breakdown, with which I have much sympathy, but I see the underlying solutions as predominantly spiritual rather than political.

This is because at a deeper level I see the breakdown of Britain and its five 'drivers' as symptoms of a more general spiritual malaise – a loss of Christian faith and values – of Christian belief and behaviour. What is missing is the sense of accountability, responsibility, human dignity and empathy that has its roots in a Christian world view.

The problem with Britain is that like a dying rose it has been severed from the very roots which were responsible for its, now fading, bloom. 


  1. "Sexual purity, marital faithfulness, family and community loyalty, upholding the sanctity of life, respect for king and country, accountability, responsibility, integrity, stewardship, simplicity, sacrificial service, self-control, a strong work ethic and both charitable provision and legal protection for the most vulnerable."

    Sexual purity is at least partially responsible for higher divorce rates among Christians. Sex is a crucial part of most relationships.

    Loyalty is all well and good, unless one is being loyal to a child abusing tyrant. The ten commandments are little more than an appeal to authority and a license to commit child abuse.

    Respecting the sanctity of life comes at the cost of intellectual and moral honesty (to say nothing about women's rights) at the beginning of life, and at the cost of free will (you know, that gift from god you Christians are always extolling) at the end of life.

    And if gays end up committing suicide in droves, well, you probably couldn't care less.

    I agree with your stance on accountability. Now prove it by turning yourself in for keeping torture legal for decades.

    The liberal values you hate so much are the freedoms you so blithely enjoy every time you drink a cup of coffee or glass of wine. Drug legalisation is the next step in social progress.

    1. So you think "disrespect your parents" would be a better command?

    2. "Respect those who respect you" is a far better one. The big Cs do not prohibit rape or slavery. That is more than enough to prove that the Babble was not inspired by a divine being.

    3. There is a better way Winston, the way of Jesus Christ:

      'You have heard that it was said, "Love your neighbor and hate your enemy." But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.'

      Matthew 5:43-44

    4. Good. Then will you show your love by letting others live and die on their terms, and not yours, Peter?

      There is another problem with the verses you quoted - they do not occur until the New Testament. Which means that your god changed his mind. No more Canaanite or Amalekite genocides, I guess.

    5. Winston, real true love involves having the courage to point out to those in error (including your good self dear brother) that they are wrong. This is so they don't end up facing the day of judgement without having been warned and having a chance to repent.

      It's actually in the Old Testament.

      'Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in their guilt.Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.'

      Leviticus 19:17-18

    6. That OT verse only applies to in-group members. Hardly a decent example of charity.

      And if you're going to use bronze age biblical nonsense to determine who is in error and who isn't, you're beyond hope. Empiricism and compassion are far more valuable for societal progress (which is why you are losing ground on every front).

    7. You have been warned Winston. You can of course choose to reject Jesus' teaching but there will be consequences, both in this world and the next.

    8. Afterlife blackmail. Is that the best you've got?

    9. Winston, you claim that empiricism and compassion lead to progress, but progress to what? The implication is that there is some ideal to which society is progressing. Presumably you don't consider that to have come from God, so where did it come from? And what makes your chosen ideal better than, say, the societal ideals of Stalin's USSR? The problem with humanistic morals is that they also, ultimately, appeal to some authority (in their case, and undefined one); some position that they deem to be axiomatic. This is true for the Utilitarians of the 19th century and for Sam Harris in the 21st

    10. Caper55 - well, for one thing, scientific research absolutely destroys anti-Semetic claims such as "Jews aren't human."

      Morality is based on the twin objective facts that suffering and happiness exist. You believe that there will be no suffering in heaven, I take it? Why then is that not a laudable goal to work towards here on Earth?

      Last time I checked the bible, there were no laws against spousal abuse. In fact, non-virgin wives were to be stoned.

      Deuteronomy 22:13-21 - If a man marries, then decides that he hates his wife, he can claim she wasn't a virgin when they were married. If her father can't produce the "tokens of her virginity" (bloody sheets), then the woman is to be stoned to death at her father's doorstep.

      If you want abortion to vanish, I suggest you advocate for better comprehensive sex education funding and artificial wombs. Once the risk of pregnancies to women is eliminated, so will most elective abortions.

      Also, why aren't you also advocating mandatory blood and organ donations? A single blood donation can save up to three lives, you know.

      Your reference to regulating children's health is irrelevant. When we talk about drugs, we're talking about informed, consenting adults.

      Drug legalisation would cripple Al Qaeda and other cash-only terrorist groups.

      When will free will be "forced will"? Well, we have enforced suffering now, under the auspices of the minority such as yourself and the CNK alliance.

      I will be the first to speak out against anyone who tries to encourage or coerce anyone to choose death against their will. In the same way, I oppose anyone who tries to force people to suffer against their will.

      Emma Swain - I was referring to the ten commandments. Demanding respect for one's parents, regardless of their behaviour towards their children, is prima facie absurd. Some parents simply don't deserve respect.

    11. "Morality is based on the twin objective facts that suffering and happiness exist" is exactly what I was talking about - an appeal to aome axiomatic authority. Based on your claim why can I not have a morality that says the good is what maximises my happiness? (or my family's, or my nation's, or my race's). You refusal to engage with the subject demonstrates my point

    12. It's more objective than the "authority" of a deity or government. Might does not make right. If your god decided to send everyone to hell for the fun of it, would that make his decision and act good? And just so you know, you cannot evade the Euthyphro dilemma by appealing to god's "nature."

      Happiness and suffering are objectively desirable and undesirable, by definition. If you can't accept that foundation, we can't get anywhere in a moral debate.

    13. Au contraire, as a Christian I do very much accept that we have a duty to alleviate suffering. But you have done it again. You say "Might does not make right". You appeal to something you call "right", but you have no objective means of saying what that is, so you are appealing to some unstated authority which you cannot identify. IF we live in an entirely material universe, suffering has no more meaning than any other natural phenomenon. All suffering and all happiness (using your logic) must simply be random, meaningless occurrences in a random, meaningless universe. So the question is, why do YOU look for meaning ("progress", "right") in this particular aspect of the universe when you presumably don't expect to find it in (say) the formation of stars?

    14. You accept that you have a duty to alleviate suffering? Good for you. It's a pity "Mother" Teresa and Bill Donovan of the American Catholic League disagree. Penn and Teller did a whole episode of "Holier than Thou" hypocrisy.

      And before you accuse the Catholics of not being true Christians, you should remember that they did found the first large-scale Christian organisation, after all.

      My authority is the universal definition of suffering and happiness. Do you not believe there will be no suffering in heaven? Why then should we not work towards a world free from suffering and misery in the here and now?

      Gaining happiness at the cost of the well-being of others would be immoral and selfish by definition. You don't know what morality means. If you did, you wouldn't attack strawmen and work against your own interests. Only religion can do that.

      I suggest you watch this playlist:

    15. Well that rambling reply shows that you do indeed have no rational basis for your position. Having a universal definition of suffering and happiness is not morality. Morality would be the imperative to relieve suffering or promote happiness - you should try to get your head round the distinction. I know very well that I should not seek to gain happiness at the expense of others. I also know why I believe that. Your morality, however, is arbitrary - you seem to believe that morality is what seems good to you - not everyone would agree with you, especially when it comes to issues like abortion. Is it OK for someone to end the life of a baby to promote their convenience?

    16. Aborting a foetus is a far lesser evil than forcing women to carry pregnancies to term against their will. Then again, as a Christian, I can't really expect you to view women as anything other than human incubators.

      You still have not addressed my argument about mandatory blood and kidney donations to save lives.

    17. You haven't answered any of my points. You haven't answered my question about why you find meaning in only one part of universe (what you call morality) which you consider to be otherwise meaningless. You haven't told me what makes your so called morality anything other than subjective. You also continually seek to attribute views to me which I don't hold, then think you have vindicated yourself by attacking them. For the record, I consider all human beings, women, men, children and babies to be intrinsically valuable. I certainly don't consider that Catholics are not Christians, I value them as I do all my fellow Christians. Answer the points I raise above, and I will happily give you my views on blood and kidney donation

    18. I find meaning in many things, not simply the study of morality and behaving in a moral manner.

      I honestly do not know how you could construe such a conclusion from my comments here.

      I have explained why my morality is objective - because it is based on the FACTS of suffering and happiness. And here`s something that should help you understand it better -

      1. existing independently of perception or an individual's conceptions: are there objective moral values?
      2. undistorted by emotion or personal bias
      3. of or relating to actual and external phenomena as opposed to thoughts, feelings, etc

  2. The distinctions you draw between liberal 'elite' values and conservative ones are very peculiar. I had no idea that I was so special and elitist for cohabiting with my partner. Also many of the values you see as socially conservative are perfectly attributable to members of what you call the liberal 'elite'. It is possible to feel and exhibit loyalty to your family and community whilst cohabiting and supporting same sex marriage.

    And 'accountability, responsibility, integrity'- I don't understand how you can see these concepts as the preserve of social conservatism.

    1. Most people espouse a mixture of conservative and liberal values and many liberals will value accountability,responsibility and integrity but will define these according to their world view and ethics.

      Cohabitation and all other models that fall short of marriage are not based on Christian principles.

  3. I agree with Winston that might does not make it right. Indeed, what makes things right is objective moral law. This can only exist if God exists. It is time to kneel. Weak and powerful alike must bow before the higher law. It is not for the powerful to decide what is right but for all to recognise and embrace what is right.

    1. How do you know your god is moral? How do you know his "nature" is moral?

      If he changed his mind on a whim (which he does quite often according to the bible) and sends everyone to hell, does that make his decision moral? Why or why not?

      Regret is surprisingly common among Yahweh's emotions.

      Genesis 6:6
      And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.

      Exodus 32:14
      And the Lord repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.

      Deuteronomy 32:36
      For the Lord shall judge his people, and repent himself for his servants.

      1 Samuel 15:11, 35
      It repenteth me [God] that I have set up Saul to be king. (v.11)

      The Lord repented that he had made Saul king over Israel. (v.35)

      2 Samuel 24:16
      The Lord repented of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed the people, it is enough: stay now thine hand.

      1 Chronicles 21:15
      The Lord beheld, and he repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed, It is enough, stay now thine hand.

      Isaiah 38:1-5
      In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And Isaiah ... said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live. ... Thus saith the LORD ... I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will add unto thy days fifteen years.

      Jeremiah 15:6
      I [God] am weary of repenting.

      Jeremaih 18:8
      I [God] will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them.

      Jeremaih 26:3, 13, 19
      That I [God]may repent me of the evil, which I purpose to do unto them. (v.3)

      The Lord will repent him of the evil that he hath pronounced against you. (v.13)

      The Lord repented him of the evil which he had pronounced against them. (v.19)

      Jeremaih 42:10
      For I [God] repent me of the evil that I have done unto you.

      Amos 7:3, 6
      The Lord repented for this.

      Jonah 3:10
      God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them.

    2. God is not simply another component in the universe. He is not simply the biggest thing around. He is not the supreme being but he is being itself. He is love itself, truth itself, goodness itself. He is not a competitor. It is in his reality that we find our true flourishing. When human ideas and emotions are used to talk about God, we need to remember that they are completely inadequate. I know you do not accept any of this, which is precisely why you read the bible in a way that would not even occur to me. I suggest you search out some of Fr Robert Barron's You Tube clips on how we read the Bible. In the meantime we are simply talking at cross purposes.

    3. If he is goodness and love, why does he allow child rape? Justice delayed is justice denied.

      This is the logical conclusion of the immoral Divine Command theory:

    4. Child rape is evil. Justice exists because God exists. In the end the oppressors and the oppressed will not just sit down at the heavenly banquet as if nothing had ever happened. There will be a real judgement for each and every one. Worldly power, wealth and influence will not help anyone. There is indeed a radical equality. If you mean why does God allow people to do bad things without actually stopping them, it is precisley because of our free negation of God. He has made us free. He has not made us robots. Evil is an abuse of that freedom. Our true flourishing and freedom are found in God.

    5. Of course child rape is evil. It is evil because it causes suffering (so do vaccines, but they are a necessary evil that we fallible, flawed humans must use to protect ourselves from diseases).

      But you cannot reach that conclusion from the bible. Here are just a few verses:

      Genesis - Lot refuses to give up his angels to the perverted mob, offering his two "virgin daughters" instead. He tells the bunch of angel rapers to "do unto them [his daughters] as is good in your eyes." This is the same man that is called "just" and "righteous" in 2 Peter 2:7-8. 19:7-8

      Isaiah 13:15-18 - If God can find you, he will "thrust you through," smash your children "to pieces" before your eyes, and rape your wife. He will have no mercy, but will even kill your little children.

      Judges 20:48 - The Israelites finish their massacre of the Benjamites by killing all the men, animals, and everything they could find in every Benjamite city. Then they burned the cities to the ground. (In this way God helped the Israelites make everything better after the rape and dismemberment of the concubine.)

      Still think he's omnibenevolent?

      The rest of your post is nothing more than a blatantly obviously appeal to consequences, with no bearing on reality or truth.

    6. I am glad to see that both Winston and Frangelico agree with Catholic tradition:
      "The Catholic tradition maintains that the objective norms governing right action are accessible to reason, prescinding from the content of revelation. According to this understanding, the role of religion in political debate is not so much to supply these norms, as if they could not be known by non-believers.." Pope Benedict 16th. In other words the Bible is not neeeded to tell us waht is right and wrong in the way Winston thinks. It has a much richer purpose than even that.

      But Winston's way of reading the Bible seems to be deliberatley antagonistic. It is simply not the way it has ever been read by Jews and Christians.

    7. My reading of the bible is guided by my compassion for sentient beings and my desire to increase happiness and reduce suffering.

      Until and unless you can prove the existence of heaven, you have no basis for your claims. The god of the bible is clearly an egotistical racist who only cared about the Jews in the OT and about those willing to kowtow down to him in the NT.

    8. Wow. You'd better start teaching the animals not to hunt one another. Cheers Winston! I can see we are talking at cross purposes. Peace and good luck to you.

    9. Animals have their own morality. The only difference between humans and most animals is this: their morality does not extend beyond their pack in most cases.

      I also note that you did not address my points regarding afterlife blackmail. I guess you're comfortable worshiping a cosmic dictator out of fear.

    10. Animals do not have any morality. They simply follow their instincts. God is not a dictator because he does not have ti be. He simply invites us to love and flourish in him. You don't have to. But outside of God you won't find much because God is.

    11. You don't understand morality. Morality evolved among social species, including humans.

      If god loved us, why would he threaten us with eternal torture? That isn't love. That's Stockholm Syndrome.

  4. Wiithout reference to objective morality,democracy is merely the noise of the majority, often manipulated in their ideas by the poweful and wealthy, to impose their will on the minority.

    1. You mean like how the 10% of anti end-of-life compassion bigots are forcing their will on everyone else?

  5. Read Sex and God: How Religion Distorts Sexuality, to fully understand why religions of all kinds push sexual purity and punish anything that violates the patriarchy.

  6. Wanna talk about "Christian values?" When was the last time you sold all of your unnecessary wealth and donated it to the poor? (Matthew 19:21)

    The fact is, you haven't. And let's be frank, you won't. A major reason why these so-called Christian values are fading from society is because even the Christians themselves refuse to live by them. You're all hypocrites. You espouse one set of virtues as ideal but then live entirely by another. Then when called out on it, you make lame excuses about how "well, Jesus didn't REALLY mean for us to sell our stuff..."

    So fine. Keep doing what you're doing. Christianity is fading, and you're directly contributing to that decline.


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