Losing our religion

Belief in the supernatural should play no role in the functioning of a modern state, writes Christopher Goff.

Since the start of the 20th Century there has amongst nationalists existed deep suspicion at the role of the Christian Church in society. Early nationalist thinkers attacked the Church amidst claims that Christianity was a force behind the collapse of traditional Nature-based belief systems and their replacement with alien ways of thinking. And while some nationalists called for the abandonment of the Christian Church altogether, others argued that if they were to have Christianity it should be 'cleansed' of its Roman and Semitic influences.

While there has never existed much of an association between the Christian Church and nationalism in Northern Europe, the same cannot be said of Southern Europe. In Italy for example, and despite strong voices against the existence of such ties, there was a significant association between the Roman Catholic Church and Fascism. In his book Imperialismo Pagano [Pagan Imperialism], published in 1928, the right-wing intellectual Julius Evola wrote of his support for Paganism and his denunciation of all the Christian Churches. However, and in view of the popularity of the Catholic Church in Italy at that time, it would have been unwise for nationalism to have taken a strongly anti-Christian line, and likewise in Spain and where there also existed similar ties between the Catholic Church and the Falange. The point here is that although there have existed close ties between nationalism and the Christian Church in some parts of Europe, this association was perhaps more to do with the realities of the time than it was with underlying philosophy.

I cannot imagine any present-day Christian Church much appealing to any group of nationalists in Europe. Many nationalists still view Christianity as a foreign cultural product and an alien imposition, and nowhere in present-day Europe will you find any significant ties between the political ideology of nationalism and Christianity. While you might find nationalist political parties that speak of protecting 'Christian values', Jobbik in Hungary being one such example, many would say what is actually meant are 'Western values'.

So, if not Christianity, what types of belief systems have European nationalists believed in? Well, at around the same time that nationalism first found political expression in Northern Europe there was a great deal of discussion about exactly what the established religion of Christianity should be replaced with and just how feasible the total abandonment of Christianity actually was. In some circles great efforts were put into the research of pre-Christian Northern European belief systems, and insights into cosmology, metaphysics, epistemology and ethics were sought. The understated concept of 'living a good life' emerged amongst nationalists and with it the idea that only people who are true to self act honourably. Other lines of thinking centred on the idea of a 'noble soul' and of how the values of people are able to determine their religion. And alongside these theoretical considerations, anything that could be connected with pre-Christian belief systems became desirable. Interest in folk culture, including music, song, dance, costume and lore was promoted, and it became accepted amongst nationalists that a cultural revolution was an important pre-requisite for the emergence of any kind of new 'religion'.

However, I do not think that the construction of some kind of great new 'religion' to replace Christianity was ever an aim of any group of European nationalists, and this analysis is borne out by the emergence of what were highly personal or self-styled forms of religious expression. There were no sacraments, few books, nor the establishment of any kind of priesthood, while instead there was a focus on reconstructing those pre-Christian mores and rituals concerning the most fundamental aspects of life, namely birth, marriage and death. Baptisms were replaced with naming ceremonies, while marriages and burials became strictly non-Christian affairs. And not only were these 'new ways' non-Christian, but they were also lacking in reference to any type of God since this new movement was strictly non-Creationist. Nationalists, you see, do not believe in the supernatural, or that something can be created from nothing.

But what of the role of religion in the future? In Britain, age-old ties between the Anglican Church and the state are coming under increased scrutiny against a background of high levels of non-European immigration and with that the growth of other religions, particularly Islam. And while nationalists might in principle find objection to remotely any association between organised religion and the state, others say that existing ties between Christianity and the state run counter to the new Marxist-hegemony of 'diversity' in as much as Muslims and members of other minority religious groups claim to feel excluded under the current arrangement.

This dynamic has led to the creation of a growing tide of agitation in Britain – mostly inspired by Marxists and Muslims, it should be added – for a change in the relationship between organised religion and the state. Recently, the Joseph Rowntree Trust has been behind the funding of a Commission on Religion and Belief in British Public Life (CORAB), and whose patrons include the controversial figure Iqbal Sacranie, former Secretary-General of the Muslim Council of Britain. You might remember that it was Sacranie who attracted much criticism over comments he was reported to have made when the then spiritual leader of Iran, Ayatolla Khomeini, issued a fatwa against the author Salman Rushdie in relation to the writing of his controversial book, The Satanic Verses.

One of the CORAB findings, as published in their report of 7 December 2015, focuses on the apparent failure of wider society to accept the reality that Britain is fast changing from a predominantly Christian country into a Muslim one, and that this failure should in part be addressed by bringing prosecutions against anyone attempting to resist this change under the incitement to racial hatred provisions of Part III of the Public Order Act 1986, or failing that the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006. And if these laws are not quite up to the job of silencing people, CORAB suggest that consideration be given to the adoption by the government of an ethno-religious catch-all legal definition as is currently used to good effect by the Courts in Australia against anyone suspected of 'expressing anti-Islamic sentiment', or what in contemporary Marxist terminology has come to be known as being 'Islamophobic'.

One thing not clear from the CORAB report however, is exactly what type of future its authors envisage for the UK. Secularism seems not to be a favoured option, while instead there appears to be support for a system of pluralism but where other religions besides just Christianity have both a greater representation in public life and a more prominent role in the functioning of the state. Naturally, this is unwelcome news for nationalists given their support for secularism and their belief that religion should play no part in the functioning of a modern state like Britain.

Muslims invariably have their own agenda for furthering their religious aims, and one can only speculate as to exactly what this might be as their numbers continue to grow in the UK. Perhaps Muslims will start to agitate for the adoption by the UK government of certain aspects of Sharia and the greater incorporation of other elements of Islam into the workings of the British state. Interestingly, we already have in the UK the extra-judicial Islamic Sharia Council and with it the question of how what Muslims term the 'infallible law of God' can possibly be compatible with important Western (not Christian) values like freedom of thought, and rights for women and homosexuals.

To allow Islam – or indeed any other religion – a role in the functioning of the British state would be to repeat that same mistake made all those years ago when Christianity was afforded that privilege.

Copyright © Christopher Goff
Tag: Religion
Uploaded: 14 July, 2016.