Mr Dale's religious survey
There are some interesting observations to be gleaned both from the questions framed by Mr Dale and the responses they elicited. Each of his summaries is italicised, followed by Cranmer’s reflections:
45% of you believe in God, 36% of you are atheists and 19%, like me, are agnostic
The 45% who profess belief in a deity is massively beneath the national average. In the 2001 census, just over 70% professed the Christian faith. Around half of the non-white population were Asians of Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi origin. A further quarter were black, and fifteen per cent of the non-white population were from the mixed ethnic group. About a third of this group were from white and black Caribbean backgrounds. If one includes this proportion, among whom there is generally a higher level of faith adherence, one is looking at almost 80% of the entire population of the UK who believe in God.
That only 45% of Mr Dale’s readership believe in God would appear to indicate that the majority of political aficionados tend to reject the ultimate source of their authority, the one from whom the Law proceeds, and the one who defines moral standards of behaviour. The figure for agnosticism is on a par with the census figure (16%), but significantly this statistic includes professing atheists or those who profess no religion. That 36% identify themselves distinctly as atheists is a colossal (and concerning) proportion.
Of those that 'believe' 66% are Anglican, 24% Catholic, 2% Jewish, 1% Muslim, 1% Buddhist, 1% Sikh, 6% Other
In common with most religious surveys, Mr Dale avoids the word ‘Protestant’; indeed, it would appear that there was no such box to tick. This may have been a little theological and historical ignorance, but time and again Cranmer notes that the term has fallen into disuse and become an object of derision. The BBC used to frequently juxtapose the term ‘Protestant’ with ‘terrorist’, yet one never heard the phrase ‘Catholic terrorist’. Cranmer covered some time ago the views of Tony Blair on Protestants, which he juxtaposed with ‘bigotry’ (again, the term ‘Catholic bigot’ appears to be considered oxymoronic). In 1998, The Catholic Herald stated: Protestantism, once the foundation of our ‘glorious constitution in Church and State’, is now something preached in small, back-street chapels and among the fanatic fringes of Northern Ireland's criminal classes. It has become the battle cry of murderers.
Yet while Roman Catholics in the UK constitute 11% of the population, they account for 24% of Mr Dale’s readership. This might indicate that Roman Catholics tend to be more politically savvy, and yet Muslims tend to be even more so. Their 1% ranking (as against constituting almost 3% of the population of the UK), indicates that Mr Dale’s blog is probably ‘hideously white’, and that his attempts to ‘reach out to ethnic minorities’ are having about as much effect as the Tony Lit campaign had in Southall.
53% pray, 7% more than once a day, 13% once a day, 15% a few times a week and 18% less frequently
If only 45% believe in God, it would appear that almost half of Mr Dale’s agnostics are inclined to pray. Theirs is undoubtedly a U-boat faith – one that surfaces in times of trouble.
77% believe that politics and religion are best kept separate
This is a convenient mantra, and chimes with the secularism of the age, but it ignores completely that the two are irrevocably fused. Religious adherence demands political involvement: in a democracy, one has a duty to vote for ‘the lesser evil’, and encourage policy formulation consistent with one’s worldview. For Protestants, Roman Catholics, Jews, Muslims and Sikhs, political action stems from faith. It is fatuous to pretend otherwise, and repressive to enforce the false division.
78% believe the Prime Minister should give up his right to choose bishops
The surrendering of Prime Ministerial power under the royal prerogative to choose diocesan bishops is historic. But there is a more concerning issue which underlies this development, and that is quite simply that the existing hierarchy of the Church of England has already demonstrated its inability to choose its leaders. A further concentration of powers will lead simply to a self-perpetuating cabal. The reason there are so few Evangelical Protestants in the Church of England hierarchy is that very few are deemed to be theologically, spiritually, or pastorally in tune with the ‘mainstream’ of Liberal-Catholicism. It is therefore the Liberal-Catholic wing which will dominate all future appointments, and it will ensure that it retains that power. It appears that an overwhelming majority of Mr Dale’s readership would (inadvertently) also favour a logical consequence of this proposal, which is that the Prime Minister might take steps to remove the right of bishops to take their seats in the House of Lords. This is antithetical to Conservatism, but wholly consistent with Labour's constitutional vandalism witnessed over the past nine years.
53% believe the Church of England should be disestablished
Again, following Wales and Scotland, the arguments for this may be sound, but Cranmer is concerned at the complete lack of forethought, and the profound ignorance of history and of the constitutional implications. The Constitution of the United Kingdom is a delicate and precariously-blananced settlement. To hack away at the foundations risks the collapse of the whole house and order.
49% believe that religion is a force for good in society
Therefore a (slight) majority believe it to be neutral or a force for evil. Which explains why:
34% believe that most wars have been caused by religious forces
This is a sub-GCSE level of assertion. Wars are not caused by ‘religious forces’, but by the corruption and sin of the human heart. It seems convenient to ignore the millions of deaths that have been caused by the propagation of atheistic creeds.
39% believe in an 'afterlife'
This is surprisingly low, and baffling in the context of 45% believing in God. What do the other 6% believe God does with the human spirit? Snuff it out? To believe in God and to reject the afterlife is illogical, not least because belief in his existence establishes precisely that there is something more, and there is not a major belief system on the planet that advocates the extermination of the spirit by an infinite God. This statistic also does not accord with one of the principal features of postmodernity, which tends to embrace the spiritual dimension of life. The era has logically followed the modern shift away from a theology of redemption to a theology of creation; from a Christocentric theology to a theocentric theology; from a theology of God’s redemptive acts and promises in history, to a theology of the state of things in their natural order as being the final expression of God’s will. The gospel’s focus on the doctrines of sin and repentance are supplanted by the doctrine that what is, is essentially good and right. This changes the proclamation of the Church from a call to transformation according to the image of Christ, to one of God’s affirmation of his creation without any further need for change. All paths therefore lead to the afterlife. That only 39% of Mr Dale’s readership believe this might indicate that ultimately those who are active in politics do not believe they shall give account to their Maker.
What a surprise they shall have.