Skip to main content


“Where the church withers away, it leaves a gap”

The Creation of Adam from the Sistine Chapel ceiling by Michelangelo. Graphica Artis/Getty

The bells at the church nearest my house “still ring out on Sunday morning”, just as they have for centuries, says Juliet Samuel in The Times. It’s one of the few in London where congregants still gather in their hundreds, “filling the pews and the donation boxes”. But it’s no secret that Christianity is fading in Britain. In the last census, in 2021, the number of self-described Christians fell 13 percentage points, to 46%, while the number who said they had “no religion” rose 12 points, to 37%. Many liberals see this as a good thing – they think religion is a “force for conflict, ignorance and prejudice”. But that’s GCSE-level analysis. “The common factor for evil and exploitation is not religion, but humanity.”

I’m not Christian, but I’m still saddened by Christianity’s decline. “Where the church withers away, it leaves a gap.” There are few other places where a community gathers regularly, purely on the basis of geographical proximity, to “rest and reflect”. There is no “shared stock of wisdom” in times of crisis, only “the Google search box waiting for your plaintive question”. In fact, technology is a big part of the problem. As the French anthropologist Marc Augé put it: “The television and the computer have replaced the hearth.” And where old religions have faded, new quasi-religions have filled the void: witness the “neo-paganism” of environmentalism; the increased tribalism of politics; the rise of conspiracy theories, super-fandom and health fads. It’s easy to see this as just another part of modernity, of society naturally moving on. But secularisation is eroding our shared sense of history, and culture, and community. “This is a loss that is not easily regained.” And it’s one we should be able to acknowledge “without being accused of pining after medieval theocracy”.