During Pope Benedict’s 2010 visit to Britain, the English philosopher Roger Scruton provided an apt description of the country’s true religion:

The official culture, represented by the BBC, the TV chat shows and the opinion pages of the quality press, is neither Christian nor English, but “multicultural”—and even Pope Benedict ended his visit with praise for the multicultural identity that has emerged in our country.  Nobody really knows what multiculturalism is, or how you belong to it or affirm it in your daily life.  But it is the official religion of the British Isles.  The main sign of this is that less and less people in public life bear witness to the Christian faith or express any opinion in matters of religion other than a vague hope that the many faiths will learn to live together peacefully.  You can be outspoken about religion, but only if you are an atheist, and only if your target is Christianity—the once official faith, whose loosened grip exposes it to assault from all who might once have been obliged to endorse its Credo.

The rise of multiculturalism and the rise of hostility to Christianity are related.  And while Scruton is correct that the precise contours of multiculturalism are ill defined, we do know that it involves an exaltation of non-Western culture and a diminishment of Western culture.  For this reason, we hear endlessly about “racism,” “homophobia,” “xenophobia,” “sexism,” “Islamophobia,” “antisemitism,” and the like; these are treated as sins against multiculturalism and used by multiculturalists to help undermine what remains of Western civilization.  We do not hear very often about Christophobia for the simple reason that, without Christianity, there would be no Western civilization.  The multiculturalists know this, which is why they embrace hostility to Christianity even while generally denying that such hostility exists.

I first became interested in this because of what Peter Brimelow has termed the “War Against Christmas,” an example of multiculturalist Christophobia par excellence.  I’ve been writing about the War Against Christmas since 2001, but I began noticing it much earlier.  One major incident occurred when I was in my third year of law school at the University of Michigan.  The year before, the law-school singing group, the Headnotes, had sung a number of Christmas carols at the school gathering held at the end of the first semester.  My third year, our new dean, Lee Bollinger, met with the Headnotes and told them they couldn’t sing any Christmas carols under his watch.  He noted that he was fond of one of the songs they planned to sing, Mel Torme’s “Christmas Song,” and that he might have allowed them to sing it if it mentioned Christmas inconspicuously somewhere in the middle, but that no song that ends by wishing the listener “Merry Christmas” was fit to be sung in public at Michigan.  Bollinger, a hardy academic apparatchik, is now the president of Columbia University.

Several years later, my sister’s oldest son, then in first grade, came home and asked my sister why we didn’t celebrate Hanukkah or Kwanzaa.  Mention of Christmas was forbidden at his public school, so the children learned about the glories of Hanukkah and Kwanzaa instead.  The only explanation for these and countless similar examples is Christophobia.  Hostility to Christmas is not the result of a generalized hostility to religion, since non-Christian and non-Western holidays such as Hanukkah, Ramadan, and the absurd Kwanzaa are being promoted even as Christmas is being suppressed.  Nor is the First Amendment the reason, since the suppression of Christmas is occurring in forums unaffected by the First Amendment and even in officially Christian countries like Britain.  Indeed, the British press was quite interested in Pope Benedict’s criticism during his visit of “those who argue that the public celebration of festivals such as Christmas should be discouraged, in the questionable belief that it might somehow offend those of other religions or none.”

Christophobia is also on the rise because Christian culture is being displaced by post-Christian culture, which is, as I wrote at takimag.com,

a culture centered [on] self-gratification, with comfort its highest aim; a high culture devoted to ugliness and degradation, and a mass culture marked by tawdriness and vulgarity; a loss of morals and a coarsening of manners, with notions of duty, self sacrifice, and restraint seen as anachronisms at best and tools of oppression at worst.

Christophobia passes over Christians willing to burn incense to this new culture, but it targets those Christians who hold fast to traditional beliefs and their expressions.  And since unfettered sexual gratification is the highest good recognized by the new culture, Christophobia is most often directed at Christians who affirm traditional sexual morality.

We have seen Tea Party candidates attacked precisely because they affirm some traditional Christian beliefs.  Carl Paladino was vilified by the New York media because he affirmed his opposition to homosexuality at a gathering of Orthodox Jews.  Christine O’Donnell was ridiculed because she has affirmed the immorality of masturbation.  And Colorado senatorial candidate Ken Buck was criticized by his opponent for opposing a “common form of birth control,” the morning-after pill, and opposing abortion in the cases of rape and incest.  Fifty years ago, of course, the views expressed by Palladino, O’Donnell, and Buck would have been squarely in the mainstream, because traditional Christian beliefs were normative in America.  Yet last year, opposition to the Ground Zero mosque was roundly denounced as bigoted and atavistic by many of the writers and commentators who regularly inveigh against Christianity.  The plan of an obscure Pentecostal preacher in Florida to burn the Koran on September 11 was met with fervent denunciations throughout the national media.  But the desecration of Christian symbols is either ignored or applauded.  Fifty years ago, no museum in America would have displayed “art” showing a transvestite Jesus engaged in a sexual act with a man.  A museum in Loveland, Colorado, recently did just that, without a peep of protest from the chorus of those horrified by the prospective Koran burning.  Fortunately, a female truck driver from Montana, filled with more fortitude than most American men, took a crowbar to the “art,” accomplishing what public disapproval would have done before Christophobia became mainstream in America.

The situation is far worse elsewhere.  On the eve of the Pope’s visit to Britain, a blogger using the pen name of Archbishop Cranmer posted a sampling of ordinary Britons who had been harassed by the police or their employers for expressing traditional Christian beliefs: the street preacher who was arrested for violating the Public Order Act for saying that he believed that homosexuality was contrary to the Bible; the longtime employee of the Wandsworth Town Council dismissed for mentioning God in the workplace; the hotel owners in Liverpool charged under the Public Order Act for telling a Muslim guest eager to engage in a religious debate that Muhammad was a “warlord” and that Islamic dress for women was a form of bondage; the 67-year-old grandmother who received a warning from the police for complaining about a gay-pride parade; the nurse forced to appear before a disciplinary panel for offering to pray for her patients; the nurse moved to a desk job after she refused to stop wearing a cross at work.  All of this occurred in a country in which the Church of England is the established church.  Particularly instructive was the example of the British Airways flight attendant who was put on unpaid leave for refusing to conceal the cross she wore, on the grounds that wearing the cross was contrary to British Airway’s policy of “respecting and understanding other people’s beliefs.”  By contrast, Muslim flight attendants are allowed to wear the hijab, and Sikh flight attendants are allowed to wear turbans, because it was “not practical for staff” to conceal those items “beneath their uniforms.”  One wonders how long the interlocking crosses of St. George, St. Andrew, and St. Patrick that make up the Union Jack will be safe.

Pope Benedict’s visit to Britain was preceded and accompanied by serious eruptions of Christophobia.  Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins spent considerable effort scheming to have the Pope arrested when he arrived.  Although that scheme failed, the Pope’s opponents were outspoken in their contempt for Benedict’s faith.  Novelist Julie Burchill said that, “If one is a Catholic, then surely double-speak and duplicity are second nature.”  Atheist novelist Philip Pullman volunteered that “I hope the wretched Catholic Church will vanish entirely.”  And Dawkins, writing on the Washington Post website, described Benedict as “A leering old villain in a frock,” the leader of a “profiteering, woman-fearing, guilt-gorging, truth-hating, child-raping institution” that is destined to tumble about Benedict’s ears, “amid a stench of incense and a rain of tourist-kitsch sacred hearts and preposterously crowned virgins.”  Did the Post ever publish similar condemnations of the Soviet Union, let alone such a description of any non-Christian religion?  Not to be outdone, activist Claire Rayner declared,

I have no language with which to adequately [sic] describe Joseph Alois Ratzinger.  In all my years as a campaigner I have never felt such animus against any individual as I do against this creature.  His views are so disgusting, so repellent and so hugely damaging to the rest of us, that the only thing to do is to get rid of him.

Unlike Christian street preachers and hotel operators, Rayner was not charged with a violation of the Public Order Act for wishing that someone rid her of this meddlesome priest; oddly enough, she died shortly after the Pope’s visit.

Before expiring, though, Rayner joined Dawkins, Pullman, and 50 or so others in writing an open letter to the Guardian, stating that “Pope Ratzinger should not be given the honour of a state visit to this country,” because “the state and the organ­ization of which he is head has been responsible for:

Opposing the distribution of condoms and so increasing large families in poor countries and the spread of Aids [sic].

Promoting segregated education.

Denying abortion to even the most vulnerable women.

Opposing equal rights for lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Failing to address the many cases of abuse of children within its own organization.

Incidentally, some of the signatories seem quite unconcerned about pedophilia when the pedophile doesn’t wear a Roman collar.  Signatory Peter Tatchell, who led the march against the Pope in London, has written that

Several of my friends—gay and straight, male and female—had sex with adults from the ages of nine to 13.  None feel they were abused.  All say it was their conscious choice and gave them great joy.  While it may be impossible to condone paedophilia, it is time society acknowledged the truth that not all sex involving children is unwanted, abusive and harmful.

Similarly, Richard Dawkins wrote in 2006 that “we live in a time of hysteria about pedophilia,” and that

All three of the boarding schools I attended employed teachers whose affection for small boys overstepped the bounds of propriety.  That was indeed reprehensible.  Nevertheless, if fifty years on, they had been hounded by vigilantes or lawyers as no better than child murderers, I should have felt obliged to come to their defense, even as the victim of one of them (an embarrassing but otherwise harmless experience).

Dawkins even wrote back then that “I can’t help wondering if [the Catholic Church] has been unfairly demonized over this issue.”

Most of the other charges represent conventional leftist complaints against Christianity that could be leveled against any Christian professing traditional beliefs or wishing to maintain schools independent of state control.  They were made against the Pope mostly because the Catholic Church is the world’s most visible Christian institution.  But the righteous indignation of the Guardian polemicists is a foretaste of what is coming to all those who defend traditional morality.  Increasingly, those who shape opinion in the West hold sacred the condom, not the cross, and woe betide any man who continues to adhere to the morality that molded and sustained the West.

The rise in Christophobia is of obvious concern to Christians, but it should concern non-Christian conservatives as well.  The ultimate goal of the Christophobes is the suppression of Christianity, even though the decline in Christian belief has been accompanied by an explosion of illegitimacy, divorce, and other social pathologies, not to mention a coarsening of manners and public behavior.  Steve Sailer has argued persuasively that “the most striking and important difference” between America’s white working class and its far more troubled British counterpart is “the strength of Christianity here.”  Generally speaking, too, there is a correlation between Christian religious practice and political conservatism throughout the West.

The disappearance of Christianity does not mean the elimination of public morality but its misdirection.  In Britain’s case, as Roger Scruton observed, that misdirection takes the form of a bizarre desire to erase the nation’s heritage and replace it with a bureaucratically mandated “multiculturalism.”  The Daily Mail reported three years ago that the Institute for Public Policy Research, a leading Labour think tank, was advocating the downgrading of Christmas as part of an “urgent and upfront campaign” to promote a “multicultural understanding of Britishness.”  The decline in Christianity has fostered not only the transformation of some sins into virtues but a public morality that finds the greatest sin—perhaps the only sin—to be an offense against multiculturalism.

A recent poll found that 43 percent of Britons could not say what Easter celebrated, and, according to atheist columnist Polly Toynbee, British art galleries “now have to write the story of every religious painting on the label as people no longer know what ‘agony in the garden,’ ‘deposition,’ ‘transfiguration,’ or ‘ascension’ mean.”  Indeed, as Francis Phillips wrote in the Catholic Herald, before the Pope’s visit to Britain,

To add to the jollity the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales has produced a sheet entitled “Some Helpful Hints: terms for Catholic events”.  Clearly designed to enlighten all those ignorant viewers who might be confused by the strange words used during the commentary accompanying the Holy Father, it explains that “congregation” means “audience” or “crowd”; “liturgy” or “Mass” means “event” or even “show” or “gig”; liturgists are “performers” or “artists”; the word “altar” means “table”; the “sanctuary” is a “stage”; and the “sacristy” is “backstage”.

This glossary was widely, and rightly, ridiculed, but how much of a stretch was it for a country where nearly half the people don’t know what Easter is?

The antidote to such cultural amnesia is, of course, a return to our roots.  Such a return may mean a revival of Christianity.  As Scruton wrote,

The most positive effect of the Pope’s visit, however, was one that even the BBC could not prevent—and that was the public display of Roman Catholic ritual at its most gorgeous and replete.  For many television viewers the mass [sic] at Westminster Cathedral was their first experience of sacramental religion.  The mystical identity between the ordinary worshipper and the crucified Christ is something that can be enacted, but never explained.  It is enacted in the Mass, and as Cardinal Newman recognized, it is the felt reality of Christ’s presence that is the true gift of Christianity to its followers.  For those who experience it the quibbles of the atheists and the protestors seem as trivial as BBC News.  For many Englishmen, I suspect, the Pope’s Westminster mass [sic] was the first inkling of what Christianity really means.

In 2002, I attended a concert at Vienna’s Augustinerkirche featuring Mozart’s Coronation Mass.  Of course, I was moved as I listened to Mozart’s magnificent music in the Gothic splendor of the Augustinerkirche.  But I also found myself thinking heretical thoughts—at least by today’s definition of heresy.  How could anyone listening to such music, in such a setting, come to the conclusion that all cultures are equal?  No other culture has produced music like that, or architecture like that.  These are simple facts, not value judgments.

My wife and I recently purchased a print of Notre Dame at an event sponsored by the Cleveland Museum of Art.  I told the art dealer, who was originally from Belgium, that the great Gothic cathedrals are the most amazing buildings on the planet.  He at first demurred, saying that in his profession he could not express such Eurocentric sentiments.  But then he agreed and went on to tell me that, as an art student, his class spent two days studying just the sculptures on the outside of Chartres Cathedral.  That cathedral, like Mozart’s Coronation Mass and the Augustinerkirche, was a product of the Christian imagination.  Without that imagination, there would be no West.  And without a revival of that imagination, the West will not survive.