On the decline of Christianity

Francis Spufford describes the place of faith in contemporary Britain.



Francis Spufford describes the place of faith in contemporary Britain.


The situation in the UK is one in which faith has slid particularly far out of the mainstream of culture. At least that’s what people think – in fact it’s still there, there are still Christians assiduously doing stuff all over the place, and the assumptions that the culture is built on are still immensely Christian, but not in an explicit way, not in a way that people recognise. We’re two or three generations away from mass church-going in Britain.

What happened? To be honest, I think the sexual revolution happened. I think that there was a big change in human behaviour in the 1960s, and that’s the point at which church-going, which had been rather high historically in Britain at that point, loses touch with people’s felt sense of what the good life is and what the rules for their lives ought to be. And ever since, British Christianity has been playing awkward comical catch-up as it tries to deal with the fact that the culture has changed.

I don’t think that’s something we should be afraid of; I think that Christianity is perfectly well equipped to deal with any cultural situation it finds itself in. We’ve had 2000 years of practice, after all. But we haven’t been doing terribly well locally for the last 30 or 40 years. But, you know, get back to us, get back to us in another 30 or 40 years, because our repertoire is large, our persistence is great.