Amid public debate sparked by Prime Minister David Cameron's recent statement that Britain is a Christian nation – a view supported by more than half the country's public – former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, tells a newspaper that Britain is now a "post-Christian" society, which, though remains haunted by Christianity.
Britain is "post-Christian in the sense that habitual practice for most of the population is not taken for granted," Williams, who is now master of Magdalene College, Cambridge, told The Telegraph in an interview. "A Christian nation can sound like a nation of committed believers, and we are not that."
Williams, a member of the House of Lords, added, "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."
He expects "a further shrinkage of awareness and commitment" due to a lack of knowledge about Britain's Christian legacy among younger generations, who could bring "a certain freshness" as they will not see Christianity as "the boring old stuff that we learned at school."
Williams doesn't see the country's Christians as a persecuted lot, except for some individuals having had "a rough time" due to the "real stupidity" of some groups.
In the run up to the Easter, Prime Minister Cameron had said, "I am proud of the fact we're a Christian country and we shouldn't be ashamed to say so."
A survey conducted last week by the British newspaper shows substantial support for Cameron's view.
More than 56 percent of respondents said they regard Britain as a Christian country. The figure rises to 60 percent among men and 73 percent among those over 65.
The survey also indicated that almost two-thirds of practicing Christians appear to be frightened of speaking out about their faith. About 62 percent said the rise of religious fundamentalism had made Christians afraid to express their faith.
Besides, 62 percent who hold Christian beliefs but do not worship regularly said they feel Christians are given "less protection" than other religious groups by the state.
In his Easter speech, Cameron also said there was a need to expand the role of faith and faith organizations in the country.
He said the church and political institutions "can get wrapped up in bureaucracy; we both sometimes can talk endlessly about policies and programmes and plans without explaining what that really means for people's lives."
What the church and political institutions need more of, is evangelism, he added. "More belief that we can get out there and actually change people's lives and make a difference and improve both the spiritual, physical and moral state of our country, and we should be unashamed and clear about wanting to do that. And I'm sure there are people here of all political persuasions and no political persuasions, and I'm certainly not asking you to agree with everything the government does, but I hope you can see – hopefully more than moments, but real moments of evangelism, enthusiasm and wanting to make our world a better place."