In this week’s magazine Douglas Murray has struck up a friendship with Professor Richard Dawkins, despite things having started rather badly when Douglas previously suggested that the professor’s failure to criticise Islam was just him ‘showing his survival instinct’.
Well, no one can accuse Dawkins of being shy on that front now, and the Professor recently received a sort of auto-de-fe for stating Islamophobic facts. But he was never a big fan of multiculturalism, at least the cultural relativism side that sought to treat western science as no better than the wacky beliefs of hunter-gatherer tribes; this has put him in conflict with some fellow opponents of the Church, who saw the arrival of other religions into British life as a chance to undermine Christianity by treating all faiths equally, in the hope that they’d become equally irrelevant.
That, clearly, has not happened, and Dawkins now says he feels ‘Anglican nostalgia, especially when you look at the competition’. He also admits that he would feel ‘deprived’ if there were no more churches: ‘I’m kind of grateful to the Anglican tradition for its benign tolerance. I sort of suspect that many who profess Anglicanism probably don’t believe any of it at all in any case but vaguely enjoy, as I do… I suppose I’m a cultural Anglican and I see evensong in a country church through much the same eyes as I see a village cricket match on the village green. I have a certain love for it.’
Those who do not respect their own religions tend to end up respecting someone else’s, but Prof Dawkins does offer a sort of remedy for the train wreck of multiculturalism. Since July 7, 2005 experts have been agonising over how to help social cohesion and teach ‘British values’, but most of the things they’ve come up with are vague and meaningless (‘tolerance’, ‘fairness’ etc) or basically totalitarianism-lite (respect difference – or else!).
Why not instead talk about ‘cultural Anglicanism’ as the basis of cohesion? As a member of ‘the world’s second most evil religion’ (c. R Dawkins), I too feel like a cultural Anglican; I love and respect the Anglican tradition and the society it helped create. The fact that I don’t even have to explain what ‘cultural Anglicanism’ means, that the vast majority of people reading this will understand, speaks for its strength; it is not just cricket on the green or Evensong, but a cultural heritage that is beautiful, coherent and benignly tolerant. (Charles Darwin was lucky that he presented his ideas to an Anglican society; a scientist who upset the world view of today’s cultural leaders would find things much harder.)
If you want to know what Englishness is, it is all contained in the King James Bible and the complete works of Shakespeare – everything else is just commentary.