For three hundred years, one line of my ancestors were baptised, married and buried to the rites of the Church of England - unfailingly. They lived in tight communities, with 'family' the byword for trust and unified support. Then it stopped in the 1920s, completely. How? Surely World War One had a lot to do with it, as this book suggests? I've read that soldiers noted the keen support for the war in the organised Church of England - and sincerely believed that “God is with us”. Then they met a so called 'enemy' prisoner who said that “God is with us”. Some never sorted out the Church’s role in supporting both sides. They were surely right in thinking the Church had no justifiable position in supporting war so robustly.
The carnage was unspeakable. Looking back what can one say? The First World War was the full fruition of The Enlightenment, starting at the French Revolution which had rejected God, embraced atheism and deified science, technology and reason. Scientific progress had culminated in massive weapons of war. WW1 undid the optimism of the Enlightenment for good (one might think) because as we know in times of war, technology has a very dark side, indeed. Science and reason had previously been seen as The Light which would raise mankind from servitude to superstition to Freedom: these hopes were broken by 1919. Should Mankind have blamed God for World War One - for the arrogance which had loved science and technology more than Himself?
This may not be the whole explanation. As noted in the book, World War One shook the faith of religions all over the world. Mankind saw for the first time, forces and actions of cruelty that was so much more destructive than he was - and it deeply disturbed his soul. The book also notes that in this country churchgoing increased slightly after the War, for a few years, only to slump, before the relentless march of secularism, which had started long before 1914. Somehow the Enlightenment survived World War One - and then marched on. Today we have threats to our precious freedom of speech, massive debts, and in the UK seriously fractured families and communities.
It still marches on.....relentlessly.