Beware of ‘political Christianity’

Beware of ‘political Christianity’

Way back in the early years of this century, God help us, Christians’ major worry was the four horsemen of the apocalypse, as the new atheists were dubbed. Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens all wrote influential books although they also gained traction through the smartphone revolution that allowed easy mass access to the internet for the first time.

New Atheism has largely fizzled out. Christopher Hitchens died, with an admirable lack of self-pity, of oesophageal cancer in 2011. Daniel Dennett died just this year. Sam Harris is more concerned with the threat of AI and of Donald Trump than with new atheism.

Nowadays, he advocates a bespoke spirituality, embracing meditation and insights from neuroscience but devoid of God.

Most worryingly, Richard Dawkins has begun to say vaguely that he approves of cultural Christianity, without endorsing what he describes as the ‘nonsense’ of Christ as our resurrected saviour. Dawkins has said that he likes “to live in a culturally Christian country, although I do not believe a single word of the Christian faith”.

He likes Anglican services, traditional hymns, cathedrals and the poetry of the King James Bible. But as atheist commentator Alex O’Connor has said, “Christianity is more than just an affinity for evensong, disappointment with secular architecture and suspicion of Islam”.


I met Dawkins once and in a breathtaking piece of bigotry, he declaimed: “At least the Anglican Church gave the world the King James Bible. What has Catholicism given except the Sacred Heart picture?”

Obviously, Mozart, Vivaldi or even Tolkien did not count. Nor, apparently, did Georges Lemaitre, the Jesuit who popularised what came to be known as the Big Bang theory of evolution.

A Christianity without Christ is the real nonsense. As Russell Moore, the Evangelical editor of Christianity Today says, “In this case, cultural Christian has a distinct meaning for Dawkins, which amounts to ‘not Muslim’. It’s a way of defining who we and they are based on national customs, not on any concern for who (or if) God is”.

Christians of all denominations, including Catholics, have felt under siege in our culture. The danger is that they will turn to anyone claiming to be an ally.

Donald Trump’s cynical manipulation of the Evangelical and to a lesser extent, the Catholic vote is a case in point. It is just about possible to see why a Christian could have voted for Trump in 2016, with the prospect of abolishing Roe v Wade.

There is not a single reason to vote for Trump today as we know in even more gruesome detail his cruel wit, his narcissism and his lack of connection to any standards of truth. Aside from late-term abortion, he is pro-choice. The fact that Trump is selling a Trump-endorsed bible makes Dawkins’ embrace of cultural Christianity almost look benign.

I hope that at least some US Catholics will vote for Peter Sonski, of the American Solidarity Party, one of the few candidates with a platform compatible with Catholicism. We also need more Catholics to get involved in Irish politics and to be grateful to those who are already involved.

French Catholics have not been truly able to see their faith as a marker of national identity since the French Revolution but the cultural remnants linger”

In April, a Pew Research poll showed that 55% of US Catholics intend to vote for Trump, compared to 43% for Biden. Not that Joe Biden, who was both confused and incoherent during the recent debate with Trump, is any prize, either.

However, it is not just in the US that Catholics are expressing frustration by embracing questionable ideologies and individuals.

For example, French Catholics have not been truly able to see their faith as a marker of national identity since the French Revolution but the cultural remnants linger. In a La Croix interview, a prominent French political scientist and polling expert, Jérôme Fourquet, suggested that practising Catholics feel trapped between woke progressivism and identitarian Islamism.

As a result, they are attracted to Marine le Pen’s National Rally, fronted by Jordan Bardella. The National Rally slogan, ‘We are at home’ resonates with them, according to Fourquet. It implies that French culture is correct and others have to adapt to it.

Yet Marine Le Pen has left Catholicism far behind. Her niece, Marion Marechal of Reconquest, is a practising Catholic but even further to the right on immigration than her aunt.


But since Christians can never be truly at home in this world and we are all sojourners and strangers until we reach our home in heaven, it is another reason why we should be generous to newcomers forced to flee their countries.

Of course, we should be concerned with preserving Christian culture and heritage but only because it witnesses to Christ.

Endorsing politicians actively at odds with Catholic social teaching, or indeed, being pleased that Richard Dawkins now supports a nostalgic view of cultural Christianity, will just bring about the death of authentic Christian faith more quickly.