Secularism is a "Totally Inadequate Basis" for British Society, Says Bishop

Bishop of Portsmouth Says Church Needs to Help Everyone Retrieve and Strengthen Britain's Christian Patrimony

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Secularism is a totally inadequate basis for British society in the twenty-first century, producing a society with foundations, a British bishop has said.

In a lecture given at Kings College London on March 6th, Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth said that secularism is "too flimsy" a basis for British culture.

"It cannot guarantee human flourishing nor sustain the advances the British people have achieved,” he said, adding that secularism is too “fragile a basis for a free society.” Only the Gospel can offer an “authentic humanism able to transform human living.”

The danger about what is happening at the moment among politicians, policy-makers and the law is that “secularism is producing a society without foundations, one that develops randomly on the hoof through pressure-groups, legal precedent and political expediency," he said.

The title of the lecture was “Irrelevant? Should Christianity still have a voice in the public square?” Bishop Egan was an undergraduate at Kings in the late 1970s. 

Bishop Egan defined what is meant by secularism and charted the decline of Christianity in Britain, particularly since the social and sexual revolutions of the ‘Swinging Sixties,’ which brought the collapse of the traditional family.

He also explored three writings of Pope Benedict that form a kind of ‘triptych’: the Address at Westminster Hall during the Papal Visit of 2010, the controversial Regensburg Lecture on ‘Faith and Reason’ from 2006 and the speech on the foundations of law to the Bundestag, Berlin in 2011.

Secularism in Britain, Bishop Egan stated, ring-fences religion to the private domain, thus dissolving the ground of public ethics and the basis of law in right reason. This is turn allows harmful ideologies to come in that victimise the weak, especially the unborn child, the elderly and the dying. Secularism is clearly unable to support “stable marriages and family life.” Secularists are now beginning to place restrictions on religious freedom because secularism has a natural “tendency towards greater surveillance and state-control”.

Secularism is a wholly inadequate basis for a sound society.

This is why, the Bishop concluded, the Church must propose to twenty-first century Britain its saving message, which is “an authentic humanism able to ground a free, democratic and pluralist society.”

Christians must conduct the new evangelisation of Britain with new ardour and enormous creativity, Bishop Egan argued. We need a new “Catholic apologetics, able to rebut popular myths about science, so that schoolchildren can appreciate the interaction of faith and reason, the complementarity of religion and science, and the redemptive role of religion within human living.”

We need to “retrieve and promote Britain’s Christian patrimony, its history, art and architecture, its music and literature, its liturgy, theology and ethics.” This includes promoting “a greater knowledge of the Bible, which underpins so much of English literature” and “a greater knowledge of the history of the Church in Britain,” especially of the saints who helped develop the Christian character of these islands.

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On the NET:

Full text of Bishop Egan's lecture