Neil MacGregor, former Director of the British Museum, and now presenter of the Radio 4 series ‘Living with the gods’, says that we homo sapiens are also ‘homo religiousus’. He also notes that Britain now has an unique and very unusual society… the first ever to function without religious belief at its core. MacGregor contends that religion provides the overarching story that explains our place in the world and it also creates a sense of community, which has rapidly disappeared from the UK.
Nick Spencer of theology think-tank Theos concurs with Macgregor . ‘There’s not been a society known to history – or pre-history – that hasn’t had some form of religious belief and practice at its heart’.
I was also interested to see the comments of agnostic comedian David Mitchell on MacGregor’s views. Mitchell says ‘The vast majority of humans throughout history have grown up in contexts where questions like “Is there a God?” and “What happens when people die?” were answered with the same confidence with which a teacher today would explain gravity, and those answers were reassuring’.
Mitchell suggests that ‘to change so quickly from being a society where most people took comfort from the establishment telling them, loud and clear, that death is not the end, to one where many proclaim that it is, will have had an incalculable impact on our state of mind’. He concludes that this lack of a common understanding that death is not the end ‘is a more persuasive explanation than smartphones or commuting of why we feel so stressed’. Similarly, Nick Spencer notes that our society thinks that a highly individualized and materialist shape for human existence is enough to secure our wellbeing, but it isn’t. (my italics).
We are made in the image of God and we are made to know and worship God. The rescuing God has, in Jesus, come to bring us forgiveness and love. And he also came so we could know that, when we trust in him as saviour and Lord, we do indeed receive the gift of eternal life – life that doesn’t end when it finishes. If we are robbing whole generations of this security and hope, no wonder there’s more stress and less wellbeing around.
How vital then that we live as people of Christian hope who help to reverse the unfortunate and harmful ‘uniqueness’ in British society that MacGregor has pointed out.
Yours in Christ,