Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, said: “There are no Christians, as far as I know, blowing up buildings. I am not aware of any Christian suicide bombers. I am not aware of any major Christian denomination that believes the penalty for apostasy is death. I have mixed feelings about the decline of Christianity, in so far as Christianity might be a bulwark against something worse.”
Peter Tatchell, the human rights campaigner and one of the organisers of the Protest the Pope demonstration at Westminster Cathedral last weekend, came to the defence of a Christian street preacher who was fined £1,000 in Glasgow for saying that homosexuality was a sin.
Shawn Holes, a Baptist from America, was charged with “uttering homophobic remarks” in a breach of the peace that prosecutors said was “aggravated by religious prejudice”.
Mr Tatchell said: “The price of freedom of speech is that we sometimes have to put up with opinions that are objectionable and offensive. Just as people should have the right to criticise religion, people of faith should have the right to criticise homosexuality.”
Of course, I don't really think that Christianity is in decline in Britain. As far as I can remember, I have been part of a church that was shrinking only for a period of about 15 months, which was while the church I was a member of was between vicars.
What we are seeing is a decline (especially in cities) of the older culture which was massively more nominally Christian than the newer cultures are. We're seeing decline in churches that don't know how to do evangelism or be culturally relevant or that have lost confidence in the power of the gospel. We may well be seeing the death of the massive nominal fringe that churches have had for so long, and we're certainly seeing a decline in the influence of Christianity on mainstream culture. But I don't think any of that implies we're seeing a decline in Christianity per se.
Having said that, it's great to see Dawkins and Tatchell making so much sense.