Are We Happier Now?

In a recent post for The Times, journalist Rod Liddle laments the loss of Christianity. It’s not because he’s a Christian, when it comes to belief in God, he agrees with the liberal bishop he once interviewed who, when asked about God’s existence, responded, “How the bloody hell would I know . . .”

But the loss of belief in God, or, to be more precise, the “banishment” of Christianity in the UK hasn’t produced the sort of utopia some might expected or hoped for. Liddle writes:

Humanists welcome the decline of the church. But they have provided nothing to put in its place. Two prominent God-bashers, Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, both rewrote the Ten Commandments to prove that we hadn’t needed them in the first place, but their efforts were transient and banal, the kind of uplifting guff you might read on a leaflet from your local NHS trust. The truth, I suspect, is that, however simplistic its shibboleths, Christianity inculcated in us a certain quiescence; it worked. We do not seem to be any happier now, do we?

Whether or not Christianity is true is another topic altogether. The point of Liddle’s article is that it — Christianity — seemed to work in forming a better culture, once upon a time. Now our favorite past time is “buying more crap for ourselves,” he tells us. He notes that our individualistic and materailistic freedoms have led to “a plethora of single mums who are skint and paid for by the state, while the children are much, much worse off mentally and educationally.”

In leaving Christianity behind, he’s not convinced we’re left any happier. That’s a point worth considering. It hits close to Jesus’s offer that in losing our lives, specifically our claims to moral autonomy, we would find true life. Maybe he was on to something.