Fifty prominent secularists have written to the Daily Telegraph – of all places – to complain about David Cameron’s assertion that England is a Christian country. The prime minister’s critics say that his words will encourage sectarianism. But the Anglican Settlement was a miraculous creation in the 16th century as the solution to the very problems of sectarianism and civil wars. Richard Hooker was the inspiration through his “Ecclesiastical Polity” in which he stated “Every man of England a member of the Church of England.” But it was not an odious imposition. You were asked to attend church three times a year – “of which Easter should be one” – and to keep the peace.
Revenants and relics of Christianity persist as shades in the landscape. A cathedral in every city and a parish church in every village. The Queen – Happy Birthday, Ma’am, long may you reign over us – is still head of state and supreme governor of the church. Bishops sit in the Lords. Prayers are said at the opening of parliamentary business. Religious education is still (in theory) required in state schools – though now so diseased by multicultural fads as to be poisonous. Christmas and Easter remain as public holidays. Many of our hospitals and parks are named after saints.
The alternative to that happy Settlement is precisely the sectarian bitterness we have now. The civil war will be along in due course