How Lord Carey made millions of Christians simply vanish

I always sit up and take notice when Lord Carey speaks. Admittedly, that’s because I expect him to say something I’ll want to be incredibly rude about, but I imagine he’d be pleased that he’s not being completely ignored.

His latest intervention is no exception to that rule, although his spat with David Cameron at least manages to be entertaining. The sight of the two of them blaming each other for a rising tide of secularism based on their own peculiar definitions of what secularism actually means is like two bald men fighting over a comb that doesn’t even exist.

Leeds MinsterMy first instinct was to write about Carey’s belief that he’s being persecuted, but I think the people at Newsthump have dealt with that pretty effectively. Then I thought about obliterating Carey’s description of “aggressive secularism”, a concept on a par with militant fairness or angry non-discrimination, and possibly inspired by Chomsky’s nonsense sentence “colourless green ideas sleep furiously”, but Dean Burnett did it better than I could have done.

Where I think I can add something new is on his claim that two thirds of Christians feel marginalised. This claim is based on a survey commissioned by our old friends, Coalition for Marriage (C4M). That naturally raises suspicions in my mind, but isn’t sufficient reason on its own to dismiss the findings, even though previous surveys give similar results, suggesting that this isn’t a result of recent equality legislation, as is implied.

That these Christians feel marginalised doesn’t mean their perception is accurate (it could just mean they read the Mail or Telegraph), but it’s a statistic that deserves some attention. The first point to notice is that the survey sampled practising Christians. That’s an obvious approach, but it raises questions in my mind.

The church have previously been keen to emphasise their open tent, with anyone who claims the remotest degree of faith in anything hailed as further evidence that their views should be treated with due respect. We represent 59% of the country, listen to us! They’ve even objected to efforts to find out what Census Christians really believe, arguing that a self-identified label should be good enough for anyone.

So where are all those Christians in this survey? 59% of the UK’s 60m inhabitants would be 35.4mChristians, but practising Christians is a much narrower definition. Clear numbers for this are hard to come by, but even based on an old Tearfund report which probably overestimates adherence compared to the current position and using the generous estimate of attending church once a month to count as practising, that would amount to 15% of the population, or 9m.

CongregationSome reports put the figure much lower, with statistics of 6% regular church attendance and 7% considering themselves “practising Christians”. This last figure is probably the most significant, given the aim of the survey, but even assuming the most generous interpretation, somewhere along the way, Lord Carey has lost the best part of 30m Christians.

The reasons for this sudden disappearance are obvious, but they deserve to be spelt out and emphasised. Carey and C4M believe they have the right to dictate how the country should be run because (they say) they represent a significant body of opinion, but when the chips are down, they retreat to the safety of a tiny rump of true believers, point out that this rump objects to progress, and claim to be a persecuted minority. It’s simply dishonest.

Ironically, the results of this survey, which broadly show that respondents feel their beliefs should be treated with more respect, are likely to be a direct result of the cherry-picking propaganda of the likes of Carey. If Christians had a true impression of the number of people who shared their precise opinions, maybe they wouldn’t expect public policy to be dictated by the views of their own small fraction of the country.

Images courtesy of MDBeckwith and hbrinkman, used with permission

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About Recovering Agnostic

I'm Christian by upbringing, agnostic by belief, cynical by temperament, broadly scientific in approach, and looking for answers. My main interest at the moment is in turning my current disengaged shrug into at least a working hypothesis.

One response to “How Lord Carey made millions of Christians simply vanish”

  1. Mark says :

    It’s crazy. There are Christians being persecuted in the world but they aren’t British; it’s narcissistic to side-line the millions of Christians who can barely even hold their beliefs under the law.

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