It’s bad enough that yesterday was Earth Day. Over at NRO, Andrew Stuttaford reminded us that yesterday was also the 500th anniversary of Henry VIII’s becoming the King of England. Except that Stuttaford, an English atheist who left England for New York, sees this anniversary as an occasion for celebration, and Henry as a “Liberator” and a far greater hero than the man he murdered, Thomas More.
The main thing that Henry “liberated” England from is, of course, the Catholic Church. Crediting Henry with English liberty, as Stuttaford does, seems a bit much, since the Magna Carta, the common law, and the prerogatives of Parliament all preceded Henry, as did the demise of serfdom, which had largely vanished from England and the rest of Western Europe by Henry’s time.
But to Stuttaford and the Daily Telegraph writer he approvingly quotes, that is enough: For them, the Catholic Church is backward, and anything that weakens Her influence is good. Such an attitude is quite common among Englishmen, including those who are atheists, such as Christopher Hitchens and Philip Pullman. Reading Pullman, who makes “the Magisterium” the villain of his atheist children’s stories and who dismisses The Lord of the Rings as “infantile” precisely because “For Tolkien, the Catholic, the Church had the answers, the Church was the source of all truth, so ‘Lord of the Rings’ does not touch those big deep questions,” one is reminded of what Tolkien wrote his son: “hatred of our Church is after all the only real foundation of the C[hurch] of E[ngland]—so deep laid that it remains when all the superstructure seems removed.” Even, judging from such ex-Anglicans as Pullman (a vicar’s grandson) and Stuttaford, after the superstructure of religious belief has itself vanished.
The triumphalism of Stuttaford and the Telegraph is a bit strange, though, since England is no longer Protestant, even if it is not Catholic. It is instead post-Christian and falling fast, with an intellectual class guided by the angry atheism of Richard Dawkins and Philip Pullman and their ilk and a lower class (predictably) assimilating the angry atheist message by leaving behind the strictures of Christian morality for lives marked by the dole, soccer hooliganism, fornication, and drunkenness. Stuttaford is aware of the shambles Britian is becoming; after all, he fled the place. But he apparently thinks it could be even worse: the land of Sir Mick Jagger and Sir Elton John could still succumb to Popery.