February 8, 2011

Church of England To Defend Itself Against Atheism

Clergy Told To "Take On" The New Atheists
Leading members of the Anglican Church of England have decided to more vocally challenge the "new atheists" and thereby stem the tide of increasing secularism in the United Kingdom.  The popularity of anti-religious books by British atheists Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and others over the past ten years is regarded by Anglican leaders as an significant threat to the Church's importance in British society.  They believe the writings and public speeches of Dawkins and Hitchens have led to an increase in secularism in British society.  This, they say, poses a threat to the Church and has prompted high Church leaders, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams and the Archbishop of York, Dr. John Sentamu, to commission a report to get to the bottom of the matter.  The report, now published, expresses concern that "religious faith" is being portrayed by the new atheists as a "social problem."  Top among the report's six recommended emphases for the next five years is stated as follows:

"The first is to be explicit about the need to counter attempts to marginalise Christianity and to treat religious faith more generally as a social problem. This is partly about taking on the ‘new atheism’. Bishops have a key role here both as public apologists and as teachers of the faith. Church members look to their leaders to speak out on their behalf and to help them in their own understanding and witness."

The link article claims that increasing secularism may result  in the Church losing it's central place in the public life of England.  The link also says that the Church must respond (to the new atheists) or risk being pushed from the public square.  The next five years will be crucial, the report itself says.

The report:  Challenges for the New Quinquennium

A central issue in all this is the new atheists view that science and religion are incompatible versus the Church of England's stated position one year ago that science and religion are compatible - Atheists Are Wrong to Claim Science and Religion are Incompatible, Church of England Says.  From this link, it is clear that a year ago many Anglican lay and clerical apologists saw no need for the Church to defend itself.  Now their archbishops see a need.

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