SOME statistics of ignorance in the most elementary religious matters, recently given by Admiral Sir Geoffrey Layton, recall the shock which was caused early in the war by the religious ignorance of evacuated children.
Sir Geoffrey Layton has discovered that among young conscripts entering the Royal Navy at about IR or 19 only about two per cent. knew what was commemorated on Whitsunday. More than half knew nothing of the meaning of Easter, and one in six did not even know the meaning of Christmas.
We must understand that these shocking facts are very directly indeed related to the state of the world to-day—that the world itself, in its state of social and political chaos, bears the visible and, indeed, frightful, marks of this wide collapse of religious faith, even to the very memory of its elements.
Nor is it Merely a question of an effect following an unintended cause. It is more than that. It is a question of a deliberately pursued cause having its inevit
able, if unintended, effect. For religious belief has been extirpated from the souls of the people of the West as a though-out policy, and that policy is being continued in the highest quarters. Whether this is done by religious persecution or by the secularist, and ostensibly tolerant, imposition of free-thought, is a secondary matter.
The idea that the world can transcend Christianity on the way to a rational and scientific golden age has been proved fallacious. A religious faith and a moral discipline have been the foundation of every civilization, and the alternative to the Christian teaching and ideal has proved to be the political totalitarian tyranny which is really the technics of machine-materialistic age applied to men and society as a whole.
That is why it has to-day become hopelessly superficial to suppose that this danger in any of its forms can be combated on a merely secularist level.
To some extent this tnith has been partially realised. The revival of "Christian-Democracy " at leaat betrays a widespread realisation that democracy cannot revive without some religious foundation. In this country Mr. Churchill has stated that the defence of Christianity is a prime purpose of the Conservative Party, and Mr. Quintin Hogg, in a letter to the Times last week, claimed that this Party was a "Christian-Democratic Party."
But this approach is still very superficial and, by itself, even dangerous, since it tends to associate Christianity with something that remains essentially secularist and even pagan. As such it can further harm Christianity and deceive both Christians and nonChristians into thinking that the real problem has been tackled.
For the problem is religious and moral, not political at all. What has got to be restored is faith. It is, no doubt, primarily the business of the Church and other Christian bodies to restore a full and living religious faith, but the Church should not have to work. not only against its declared enemies, but even against its friends or, at least, in isolation from them and under their suspicion.
It is high time that secular. political and social movements, many of whose members are perfectly well aware of the gravity of the issues at stake, took a few risks, and boldly emerged from their secularism to preach faith again, without stopping to ask themselves whether this was proper and con
stitutional. It is high time they ceased shying at the charge of clericalism.
Faith in man, faith in law, faith in discipline. faith in tradition. faith in country, faith in work, faith in the order and values of the great civilisation of which we are the heirs and perhaps last custodians, these are some of the concrete faiths that must be fearlessly preached in Order to help the Church to be more effective in preaching faith in God and religion.
We wrote last week of Mr. Churchill's United Europe Committee. Here is a movement which, if it had the courage to overcome political fears, could prove a junction where the secular, the moral and the religious can meet.
For, let there be no doubt about it, a failure by the best elements of our generation to carry the fight together on all these planes for the restoration of Faith in God, in Man, in the religious and moral basis of Civilisation must mean the end.
In this country it is up to men of the stamp of Mr. Churchill, Mr. Bevin, Sir Stafford Cripps. God, through His Church. can save souls out of any wreck : but if these men really want to ,save civilisation it is up to them to repudiate a secularism which has brought the people of this country to a level of open and unashamed paganism.