As recently as 1882, Neasden in north London was an obscure hamlet of several large houses, a few cottages, and a smithy. Then the Metropolitan Railway and, later, the North Circular Road went through and thousands of often jerrybuilt houses sprang up along their lengths, as London bit ravenously into Middlesex. Although Neasden rapidly became a location for railway depots and factories, it also gained a reputation for being synonymous with featureless, smug suburbia. “Neasden, the borough everybody’s pleased in,” went a comic song in John Betjeman’s evocative documentary about the Metropolitan Railway, Metroland, and the humorous conceit has been raised into common parlance by the satirical magazine Private Eye.

Few events, then, could have so pointedly exemplified the eclipse of old London and the possibly terminal decline of Anglicanism as the recent opening of a vast, phantasmogorical Hindu temple in the middle of Neasden, at the end of an unremarkable residential street. Few would have been able to envision the ornate, impressive structure that has sprung up over the last two and a half years (although it does slightly resemble nearby Wembley Stadium), which is now the largest Hindu temple in the Western world.

When Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the leader of the Swaminarayan movement which has built the temple, had a vision of a Hindu edifice in Britain that would “last a thousand years,” the money and labor were speedily forthcoming from Hindus around the world, in a selfless corporate gesture that should make most Britons and Christians blush. Thousands of tons of specially imported Italian marble, Bulgarian limestone, and wood were hand-carved by 1,500 volunteers in India, and assembled under the supervision of an English architect, into a sumptuous shrine, deified in its own right, where every part of the temple relates to a part of the human body, and the 13 idols—including the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Siva, Siva’s wife Kali, Kama (god of sexual love), and Gouri/Isani (goddess of abundance)—may be appropriately idolized. Some of the carved designs have not been used for six centuries, and no steel was used in the construction, so as not to attract magnetic fields which might “disturb meditation.”

All of the newsreaders and reporters who covered the temple story seemed to have been told to smile as widely as they could when they introduced the item, so as to avert possible complaints of subconscious racial discrimination. The coverage focused on the understandable happiness of the Hindus and the architecture of what one reporter called “the Taj Mahal of the West.” One of the Hindu coordinators said that this will “put Neasden on the map,” implying that tourists would come from all over the world to marvel, and one reporter with an Asian name showed her Hindu slip when she said how it “promised sanctuary.” It is interesting to consider what would have been the media reaction, or the reaction of local Labour councillors, if any Christian sect which had a heritage of belief in a caste system, ophiolatry, suttee, and incarcerating menstruating girls had begun building a cathedral in Neasden. Undoubtedly the commentary would, at best, have been sneering and, at worst, there would have been dark whispers of sexist, elitist, vaguely “racist” conspiracies.

White, and presumably nominally Christian, locals showed confusion when quizzed by reporters about how they felt. They tried very hard not to appear negative, although it was obvious they did not like it. One local commented that the temple “will cause lots of problems—parking and suchlike,” but you could not help suspecting that he was really thinking of more elemental “problems”—such as the permanent symbol of his own territorial, social, and spiritual displacement that will now confront him every time he walks down his street.

This was the only dark note east in the fulsome reportage, except when one reporter mentioned, in passing, that Hare Krishnas were having problems with their too-small temple a few miles away. One was left with the disquieting impression that soon there would be an equally massive, massy Krishna temple in London—which seems inevitable, given the feebleness of (especially Anglican) Christianity, the anti-Western bias of the multiculturalist ideology, and the 1991 Census statistics which demonstrate that white Britons in the borough of Brent will almost certainly be in the minority within 20 years. John Major’s famous speech to the contrary, it looks as if there will not be too many spinsters cycling to Mass in Neasden in 2015.

The faith implicit in the raising of this temple serves only to underline our corresponding Western lack of religiosity, from which we suffer greatly, as T.S. Eliot foresaw. A society without faith, without a collective conscience or sense of objective morality, which is cynical and prone to materialism, and whose established church has been secularized and politicized is a society lacking an essential cohesive agent. Genuine religiosity, particularly Anglican religiosity, although not dead, is dying, to be replaced by a frivolous and nonjudgmental “Thought for the Day” kind of approach which recently found its logical conclusion in the excesses of the so-called “Nine o’clock Service” in Sheffield, a rave “service” run by a former rock band manager under the auspices of the Church of England, with a “healing process” which involved sexual assault on some 20 foolish women.

I am not, I hope, insulting Hindus or Hinduism, an admirable religion which has long had Western adherents, when I say that I find this magnificent building symbolic of doom—doom for the dying, gentle Anglo-Saxon London of Metroland and, ultimately, for the dwindling England of spartan Protestant and ornamented Catholic churches alike. No amount of Yoga, TM, anthropomorphism, vegetarianism, or Gandhian civil disobedience—not even the edifying Upanishads or Laws of Manu—can wholly compensate for the permanent loss of European and Christian civility, feeling, and thought, which is imminent in at least some parts of central London.

It is impossible that the materialists who now dominate the established churches will be able to reinvigorate Christianity—indeed, in cynical old Britain, it is unlikely that anybody could ever do that. And it is equally unlikely that the professional minority-masseurs who dominate the media and inner city local government will help in the reestablishment of Christian, European culture in Neasden, or at least not attack it elsewhere: there is no practical gain— quite the contrary—nor is there even any moralistic self-satisfaction to be gained in standing up for the West. As the old Hindu proverb puts it, “When an elephant is in trouble, even a frog will kick him.”