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How God Made the English

Did anyone else see this three part series recently on BBC2, presented by Diarmaid MacCulloch?

In a nutshell, he asks what makes someone truly 'English', and what follows is a journey through the UK's religious and social history (which was quite interesting). He argues that it's not about being a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant but being part of a community which has always been tolerant of other faiths. He also says that 'we are now so diverse we have lost our true identity and don't know what it means to be English any more'.

I should have seen the conclusion coming, but didn't. It was this: Our tolerance and secularism is not the right answer to the problem of extremism ('No secular society has managed to squash deeply-held faith'). Instead, the answer lies in the Church of England 'an icon of English plurality' so we should all go back to church and participate in multi-faith services. The church is important and necessary because it's the only place people can turn to for 'pastoral care' in times of crisis.

'No secular society has ever managed to squash deeply-held faith'? Why? In my view, it's because it has never been allowed to teach the facts about what religion is and where it really came from.

I also find the assumption that the only route to providing 'pastoral care' is through a religious set-up quite insulting - the old 'you have to be religious in order to be good.'

Surprisingly, Rowan Williams came over quite well in the interview!



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