December 1st, 2010
05:18 PM ET

Former Church of England head: British Christians 'under attack'

Former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey in 2005

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN

Christianity is under attack in the United Kingdom, and Christians must fight efforts to "air-brush" their religion out of the picture, a former head of the Church of England warned Wednesday.

"In spite of having contributed so much to our civilization and providing its foundation, the Christian faith is in danger of being stealthily and subtly brushed aside," said George Carey, the former archbishop of Canterbury.

Carey is fronting a new campaign, "Not Ashamed," by the group Christian Concern. He launched it with appearances at the House of Lords, Buckingham Palace and 10 Downing Street, the prime minister's office.

Christian Concern encouraged people to wear crosses and "Not Ashamed" buttons Wednesday to promote the campaign.

The group fights what it sees as discrimination against Christians, and has fought several high-profile lawsuits.

It's currently backing a Christian couple who say they were denied permission to be foster parents because their faith wouldn't let them say homosexuality is acceptable.

Carey and Christian Concern are upset about rulings against workers who wore crosses on the job and Christian adoption agencies that wouldn't place children with gay couples.

"Teachers and council employees are suspended for offering to 'say a prayer.' A devoted nurse is banned from wearing a cross, a British Airways worker told to remove hers," Carey said.

"Roman Catholic adoption agencies are closed down under new laws. Christian marriage registrars who cannot, in good conscience, preside over civil partnership ceremonies are summarily dismissed," he added, rattling off recent legal setbacks.

Carey says a combination of "well-meaning political correctness, multiculturalism and overt opposition to Christianity," is promoting "a new climate hostile to our country's tradition and history."

But a leading American humanist sees things differently.

"There should be a level playing field between religion and nonreligion, but that is not an attack on religion," said Roy Speckhardt, the head of the American Humanist Association.

He agreed that Christians should not be ashamed of their faith, but urged all religious people to "think hard" about it.

"Today is a special time in history," he said. "If your faith is Catholic and your clergy has been engaged in illegal activity and the hierarchy has covered it up ... a little bit of shame is beneficial."

And the shame shouldn't be limited to Catholics or Christians, he argued.

"There are Muslims out there who are progressives and positive-minded folks, but there are those who engaged in violence and see it as an excuse for violence," he said.

"Those of us who are cognizant of the positive and negative in our faith need to think hard about that," he said.

Some American Christians may be so turned off by what they see as church emphasis on "sex and family issues" that they deny being Christians at all, one religion expert said.

There has been a sharp rise in the number of Americans who say they have no religion - "nones," in the jargon of religion scholars.

They "do not want to be seen as affiliating with religion because, to them, religion means the religious right and thus a brand of politics they do not agree with," said David Campbell.

"So, yes, I think it is fair to say that they are ashamed of being identified as having a religion, specifically Christianity," he said.

He is the co-author, with Robert Putnam, of a huge new study of religion in America, "American Grace."

He doesn't think the phenomenon is repeating itself in England, though, since the country has no political religious right to speak of.

England is legally a Christian country, with the monarch as head of the Church of England. According to 2001 census figures, about 72 percent of British people consider themselves Christian.

But actual church attendance is low. The Church of England estimates that about 1.7 million people go to church in an average month, out of about 26 million Anglicans in the country.

The Catholic Church in England and Wales puts weekly church attendance at about a million, out of roughly 5 million Catholics.

- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Christianity

soundoff (59 Responses)
  1. religion.blogs.cnn.com

    Former church of england head british christians under attack.. Nice 🙂

    April 20, 2011 at 1:44 am |
  2. EG

    With terms such as "progressive" and "positive-minded folks" Mr. Speckhardt betrays, over his own protestations, that there is an implication one who actually believes what they say they believe should be ashamed. Those who don't really believe in Christ or the Word of God are permitted to identify unashamedly. These are, one assumes, the progressives. Those who believe in Scripture and will stand for something are what? "regressive" and "negative-minded folks".

    On the up side there is one right and one wrong. It is reality, whether any of us choose to recognize it in this life.
    For those who actually are Christian believers, though, one saving grace herein is that the assault on the Church from well-minding progressives is foretold in Scripture. It is to be expected, and is not of their own choosing. In fact, those without Faith will find Archbishop Carey's concern (and this post) funny more than anything else and need to instinctively respond with contempt. That is the humanist way.
    Smile...God is good and the good guys win in the end 🙂

    December 6, 2010 at 1:00 pm |
  3. steama

    He is correct. People are being asked to give reason a try instead. Refreshing isn't it. No need for religion.

    December 4, 2010 at 5:54 pm |
  4. 666paul

    Merry Christmas, if that offends then tough! it's my religion in my country, don't like it, then go somewhere else, like Hell !!!

    December 3, 2010 at 3:10 pm |
    • Frogist

      Wow, how truly "christian" of you to claim everything as yours then doom all those who say otherwise to hell...

      December 3, 2010 at 5:49 pm |
    • Peace2All


      It's people like you, that have beliefs like that, that spew out that kind of idiocy-- Is what makes it 'hell' for basically everyone else in 'our' country.


      December 3, 2010 at 5:54 pm |
  5. prophet

    as i said the other day those who once did not believe in God, once they find Him they become genuine believers of God. i thank this former non believer for having the courage to say what he has said in support of Our Salvation

    Life is with God.

    December 3, 2010 at 9:04 am |
  6. A former Atheist

    @ Reality: You can rip on on Mohammed and Jesus all you want, but both sides agree on their origins coming from to the two sons of Abraham- Isaac and Ishmael. I can promise you one thing, sir, and that is that there is more going on than you realize, because your heart is closed to the truth. Your brain may not be, but your heart is. I didn't believe in God either untill He washed over me with the holy spirit. Now I can't deny His existance. I sincerly hope that you come to know Jesus Christ as well. Take care of yourself, brother, and God bless.

    December 3, 2010 at 8:30 am |
    • Reality

      origin: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482

      New Torah For Modern Minds

      "Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

      Such startling propositions - the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years - have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity - until now.

      The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine doc-ument. "

      December 3, 2010 at 8:35 am |
    • prophet

      Dear Mr former atheiest,

      it is so wonderful that you have found God, it was only a matter of time as it is for mr 'reality' and when he accepts God he too will help others to God and they will thank him and he will be humbled by it.

      December 3, 2010 at 8:58 am |
    • Reality

      The Apostles' Creed 2010: (updated using the studies of contemporary NT exegetes)

      I might believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
      and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
      human-created state of bliss called heaven.

      I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
      preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
      named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
      girl named Mary.

      Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
      the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under under Pontius Pilate,

      He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
      a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of

      Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
      many local semi-fiction writers. A bodily resurrection and
      ascension story was promulgated to compete with the
      Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
      grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
      and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
      called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.


      December 3, 2010 at 3:01 pm |
    • steama


      —Christopher Hitchens

      December 4, 2010 at 10:37 pm |
    • Pedro

      Andy wrote, If you look at many countries today in the world that are not siigcfinantly influenced by Christianity (or at least siigcfinantly influenced at their formation) most Americans would not choose to live there. We would consider it outrageously oppressive, dictatorial, and in many cases near insanity. Respectfully, I find this sentiment to be woefully myopic and pariochial. I've been in more than a half dozen countries that do not have a significant Christian presence and none were oppressive or near insanity'

      August 1, 2012 at 3:49 am |
  7. prophet

    religion is all about power and money, it shows up why humans need God and salvation, so religion has its purpose as it shows us who the sinners really are.

    December 3, 2010 at 8:03 am |
  8. prophet

    Dear Amadea,

    yes pray for them, they need it. As i mentioned to Wilma in another comment, you neeed to pray to Yeshua of Natzeret as this is HIs Real Name and we must respect this as your prayer will have greater effect.

    Yeshua IS King of The Jewish People and He is actually Jewish as well and God has a reason for everthing and we must respect this. Many of us have been misled by the religions and i have been asked to help people be aware of How it really was and not how over approx the last 1500 years that people have been taught many things incorrectly by the religions.

    remember that once the catholic religion falls then all the other so called christain religions will crumble to as they 'live' out of catholiism, if you tarce their origins all those who started christain religions were themselves out of the catholic religion.

    There is actually nothing wrong with world, it's the people that are the problem.

    December 3, 2010 at 7:32 am |
  9. Amadea

    Dear "Reality": You have done homework in every arena but the one that counts ... the Bible. Bible prophecy (Daniel, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, etc., Jesus in the New Testament and several epistles of Paul) all point to the 'end time' when apostasy would be rampant. 2 Timothy 4:3-4 "For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to fables." Now, go scratch your itching ears, Reality, while I pray for the Lord God to open them to the truth.

    December 3, 2010 at 6:49 am |
    • Reality

      The Epistles to Timothy were not written by Paul but by pseudo Pauls. See Father Raymond Brown's book, An Introduction to the New Testament for a thorough review of the true authors of the gospels and epistles.

      December 3, 2010 at 8:33 am |
    • CatholicMom

      Father Brown, is a middle of the road kind of ‘scholar’, and not as Catholic as you would like everyone to believe.

      December 3, 2010 at 9:18 am |
    • HotAirAce

      Further to CM's comment and recognizing that wiki is not neccesarily the last word on anything, here's one paragraph from the entry for junior charlatan Brown:

      "Brown remains controversial among traditionalist Catholics because of their claim that he denied the inerrancy of the whole of Scripture and cast doubt on the historical accuracy of numerous articles of the Catholic faith.[2] His centrist views especially angered conservatives when he questioned whether the virginal conception of Jesus could be proven historically.[1] He was regarded as occupying the center ground in the field of biblical studies,[3] opposing the literalism found among many fundamentalist Christians while not carrying his conclusions as far as many other scholars."

      Just for fun I followed the external link "A Wayward Turn in Biblical Theory Msgr. George A. Kelly, (1999). Critical article from the traditionalist point of view." Looks like Brown caused doubt about a number of key points of christianity.

      December 3, 2010 at 9:41 am |
    • Reality

      For those that do not have a copy of Father Brown's book on the New Testament:

      From Father Ray Brown's 878-pa-ged, An Intro-duction to the New Testament, Doubleday, New York, 1996, p. 172, (with Ni-hil Ob-stat and Impr-imatur (with regard to Matthew's Gospel)

      Date: 80-90 AD,give or take a decade

      "Author by traditional (2nd century) attribution. Matthew a tax col-lector among the Twelve, wrote either the Gospel or a co-llection of the Lord's sayings in Ara-maic. Some who reject this picture allow that something written by Mat-thew may have made its way into the present Gospel.

      Author detectable from contents: A Greek-speaker, who knew Ara-maic or He-brew or both and was not an ey-ewitness of Jesus' ministry, drew on Mark and a collection of sayings of the Lord (Q) as well as on other available traditions oral or written. Probably a Jewish Christian.

      Locale Involved: Probably the Antioch region

      Unity and Integrity: No major reason to think of more than one author or sizable additions to what he wrote."

      As per Professor Crossan and many other co-ntemporary biblical scholars:

      " THIRD STR-ATUM [80-120 AD]

      22. Gospel of Matthew [Matt]. Written around 90 CE and possibly at Sy-rian An-tioch, it used, apart from other data, the Gospel of Mark and the Sayings Gospel Q for its pre-passion na-rrative, and the Gospel of Mark and the Cross Gospel for its pa-ssion and resurrection ac-count (Crossan, 1988)."

      For another list of early Christian doc-uments and the date of publication, see:

      From this reference:

      "It is also the consensus position that the evangelist was not the apostle Matthew. Such an idea is based on the second century statements of Papias and Irenaeus. As quoted by Eusebius in Hist. Eccl. 3.39, Papias states: "Matthew put together the oracles [of the Lord] in the Hebrew language, and each one interpreted them as best he could." In Adv. Haer. 3.1.1, Irenaeus says: "Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome and laying the foundations of the church." We know that Irenaeus had read Papias, and it is most likely that Irenaeus was guided by the statement he found there. That statement in Papias itself is considered to be unfounded because the Gospel of Matthew was written in Greek and relied largely upon Mark, not the author's first-hand experience."

      The referenced lists have rather extensive review links. Interesting information if you have time to read it all.

      December 3, 2010 at 11:27 am |
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