This is really by way of a short follow-up to the last post. When I re-read it, I wondered if I was falling into that way of thinking which besets those of us over a certain age. We look back on the society of our younger days with a certain affection as a more innocent, responsible time; then we contrast it with the dissolute age in which we now are. Is this my problem? Well, here’s Clifford Longley writing in last week’s Tablet.
None of this (the election of Pope Francis and the installation of Archbishop Justin Welby) is likely to make much lasting impression on British society and its obstinate pervasive secularity. The world may admire, but not change; there is no call to conversion. Both Churches (Catholic and Anglican) are on course to continue their slow decline in membership and influence, as British social and cultural life drifts even further away from anything recognisably Christian .
Meanwhile along with churchgoing, and probably connected with it in a complicated way, there has been a collapse of values and virtues in institution after institution, from the health service to the finance industry, from politicians to the professions. By any measure people are more selfish and less honest, less faithful and less trustworthy. Indeed, it is because of the vacuum in values that administrators have tightened their regulations to try to rectify the decline. It hasn’t worked and instead has accelerated the process, for by their very nature rules crowd out virtues.
And although there will always be individuals who stand out, the secular claim that it is possible to have high ethical principles without religion is gradually, generation by generation, unravelling. The nation’s moral capital is being exhausted.
The Tablet 23rd March 2013 p.5