Has Godlessness Doomed Britain?
Written by Joel Meeker
That’s a truly shocking question! Many Britons would laugh at the mere thought. But could it be true? How? And most importantly,who says so?
A friend just sent me a link to an op-ed article on the Jerusalem Post website. The author, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, states in no uncertain terms, “Godlessness has doomed Britain.” He compares the state of religion in Great Britain and the United States and raises some troubling points:
- Only 35 percent of Britons believe in God (92 percent do in the U.S.).
- 43 percent of Britons say they have no religion at all.
- Britain was once a deeply Christian nation, but its “principle ‘religious’ exports today are thinkers who despise religion,” like Richard Dawkins who compares it to child abuse.
Sophisticated Britons, continues Boteach, see the demise of religion as a good thing and mock Americans as “backward religious knuckle-draggers.”
But the rabbi sees Britain’s growing irreligion as the cause of its stunning decline on the international stage. He quotes Paul Johnson’s excellent A History of the American People to show that a main reason for the amazing development of America, the optimism and dynamism of its citizens in taming a new land, has sprung from religious faith that they were building a nation that would be a moral light to the world.
Great Britain once had the same zeal, which motivated it to create the world’s greatest empire. Its influence ebbed with its religious fervor.
Results of atheism
Boteach explains: “Atheism is a philosophy of nihilism in which nothing is sacred and all is … accidental.” So then why bother trying to accomplish anything? Nothing really matters, and there’s no reason to be optimistic or purposeful about anything. The soul of a nation dies when it becomes irreligious.
Britain’s fortunes and standing in the world have radically declined in the last hundred years, as it has become less and less a Judeo-Christian nation. More people in Britain today go to mosques each week than to Church of England services.
Blessings and curses
All this is very reminiscent of a prophecy God gave the nation of Israel over 3,000 years ago, just before the wandering people entered the Promised Land.
God told them through Moses: “If you diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the LORD your God will set you high above all nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the LORD your God” (Deuteronomy 28:1-2).
God gave a long list of impressive blessings of exactly the kind that Great Britain enjoyed for several hundred years: wealth, military success, cultural dominance and overwhelming well-being compared to other nations. (Actually, other prophecies show that these blessings came largely as a result of promises to Abraham, though when Britain took the Bible more seriously, they certainly obeyed more of God’s commandments than Britons do today.)
But Moses also said, “If you do not obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments and His statutes which I command you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you” (verse 15). There follows a catalog of decline and fall: economic decline, poor health, military defeat, cultural irrelevance, societal breakdown and, if they refused to repent, ultimately captivity.
This all came true in ancient Israel; you can read about it the books of Kings and Chronicles and in various Old Testament prophets that recount the tragic history. Sadly, it’s in the process of happening again before our eyes.
Promises of mercy and help
But in His mercy God told the Israelites that when they hit rock bottom, as slaves to foreign conquerors due to the curses they would suffer for disobedience, they would repent and turn to Him, and He would save them and bring them home again.
“Now it shall come to pass, when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the LORD your God drives you, and you return to the LORD your God and obey His voice, according to all that I command you today, you and your children, with all your heart and with all your soul, that the LORD your God will bring you back from captivity, and have compassion on you, and gather you again from all the nations where the LORD your God has scattered you” (Deuteronomy 30:1-3).
The worst of the curses are yet ahead for nations that turn away from the God of the Bible. A time of unprecedented suffering is coming, and no one will escape (except those for whom God provides a way of escape). But, thankfully, Jesus Christ promised to return before humanity completely annihilates itself. And beyond that, there is the hope of great national blessings once the crucial lesson of obedience has been learned.
Read more about this hope for the future in our booklet The Mystery of the Kingdom.
Joel Meeker is a pastor and writer. He and his wife, Marjolaine, and two adult daughters live near Cincinnati, Ohio.