Living with Difference: Community, Diversity and the Common Good – the report launched today by the Commission on Religion and Belief in British Public Life – describes itself as the “first systematic review of the role of religion and belief in the UK today”. It’s an ambitious undertaking – both in its scope, and in the range of viewpoints it has brought together. At the same time as I served on the Commission with the head of the British Humanist Association, he and I were involved in some pretty public disagreement about a Theos report in which I had argued that “humanists should be Christians and Christians should be humanists”.
Parts of the report will make sobering reading for Christians. But we should never be afraid of the facts – so it is important to engage with its analysis of the decline in religious practice and self-identification in modern Britain. Growing up in a small Scottish village, “Church of Scotland” was undoubtedly the default self-description of people who rarely (if ever) darkened the doors of our parish church. “C of E” used to mean much the same for vast swathes of English society. North and south of the Border, those days have gone (or at the very least are going).