However, in the interview, Lord Williams of Oystermouth (aka, Rowan Douglas Williams) — who stood down as archbishop of Canterbury at the end of 2012 and became master of Magdelene College at Cambridge University in January 2013 — conceded that Britain’s “cultural memory” was “quite strongly Christian.”
Despite its strong Christian cultural memory, Lord Williams said that Britain is “post-Christian in the sense that habitual practice for most of the population is not taken for granted.” He explained his reasoning: “A Christian nation can sound like a nation of committed believers, and we are not that. Equally, we are not a nation of dedicated secularists.”
Lord Williams continued: “It’s a matter of defining terms. A Christian country as a nation of believers? No.”
“A Christian country in the sense of still being very much saturated by this vision of the world and shaped by it? Yes.”
Lord Williams, noted the Telegraph, suggested that there may be “a further shrinkage of awareness and commitment” as a result of a lack of knowledge about Britain’s Christian legacy among younger generations, under the age of 45.
The former archbishop’s interview came soon after Prime Minister David Cameron wrote in an article for the April 16 Church Times (an independent Anglican newspaper): “I believe we should be more confident about our status as a Christian country, more ambitious about expanding the role of faith-based organizations, and, frankly, more evangelical about a faith that compels us to get out there and make a difference to people’s lives.”
In his article, “My faith in the Church of England,” Cameron was careful to explain that he was not advocating second-class status for non-members of the Church of England:
First, being more confident about our status as a Christian country does not somehow involve doing down other faiths or passing judgement on those with no faith at all. Many people tell me it is easier to be Jewish or Muslim in Britain than in a secular country precisely because the tolerance that Christianity demands of our society provides greater space for other religious faiths, too.
The prime minister also warned about the practical consequences of living in a secular nation:
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Photo of the Canterbury Cathedral