It's no secret that Europe has been shedding its religious identity for some time now. As time progresses, some leaders in religious circles have publicly pondered the impact this decline could have on various societies. Among those concerned is Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. In a recent piece for the Jerusalem Post entitled, "Godlessness Has Doomed Britain," Boteach describes the negative impact that this movement away from faith and religion has had on Great Britain. He writes:
Britain today has become one of the most godless societies on Earth. Its principle ‘religious’ exports today are thinkers who despise religion. From Richard Dawkins, who has compared religion to child abuse, to my friend Christopher Hitchens, who titled his 2007 book God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, the British have cornered the market on being anti-God – at least the Christian and Jewish varieties.
Boteach goes on to compare the disparities between the United States and England when it comes to stated belief. While 92 percent of Americans believe in God, only 35 percent of the British do. Startingly, 43 percent of Britons claim that they have no religion at all. A simple look at the percentage of individuals associated with the Church of England perfectly illustrates and corroborates the decline -- a drop from 40 percent in 1983 to 23 percent in 2009.
But, what's so different about America? Why do people here believe more readily in a higher power? Boteach writes that, "Religion lives and dies in America like a commercial enterprise, and is therefore highly entrepreneurial." With no official state religion, there's no one, on a national scale, defending the faith per se. So, in essence, there is a freedom to worship at will.
Boteach goes on to claim that Europeans often laugh at American evangelicals, while praising the decline of religion as a sophisticated move in the right direction. This, he claims, is not the proper way to view the issue. Instead, he laments Britain's decline in faith:
This decline of faith and optimism may account for why Britain – once the most advanced nation on earth, which gave the world parliamentary democracy and inimitable centers of higher learning – is today more famous for exporting reality shows like Big Brotherand Project Catwalk.
For while religion affirms the infinite dignity of the human person, its absence robs life of its sanctity. Universal exploitation and humiliation for fame and fortune are the inevitable outgrowth.
Certainly, America -- like Britain -- has many social and political problems. But, Boteach contends that the "spiritual underpinnings of the American republic" ensure that citizens continue to debate, soul-search and engage in national discourse. He contends that England should rediscover its own faith so that the nation can find its "sense of purpose" once more.