Once, reading the Guardian was something respectable people - pillars of society - would do. They believed it made them better people, more balanced, fairer - they desired the words of Polly so they could feel that there was a kind of super-intelligence that could tell them what to think.
These days it is very different. The Guardian has been almost eliminated from our country. It has lost 48% of its adherents over the last six years - which is roughly the same percentage that the Church of England has lost in 4 decades.
With straitened financial situations, is it any wonder that the electronic edition has to turn to people writing GCSE-level essays?
And so "Is it any wonder religion is on the wane?" asks Benjamin Jones in the Guardian CiF. Bless him - as a "humble humanities graduate" he expounds on the way science answers questions which religion can't. I'm guessing when he says "humanities" he means "media studies", as there's no way anybody who's studied English, say, could come up with such a trite little piece.
To be fair, as somebody who doesn't show any evidence of knowledge in either field (I presume he does know that if modern people lived lives of "Methuselah-like" length the current expectancy at birth would be 969?) he does at least grasp that there's a difference between asking "how" and "why"? But to write that "...community, I wager, is a much stronger incentive for church attendance than theology" is to misunderstand profoundly that in fact community and theology are not discrete categories. You do one in the context of the other. Each feeds the other. The lived community of the church is itself theology.
It's fish in a barrel time, really. Benjamin Jones is right - rape has been used as a weapon of war by people fighting wars of religious origin. But rape was also used - possibly in the worst example in history - as a weapon by the Soviet Union in Eastern Germany and elsewhere as the Second World War came to an end. The USSR was an atheist state. I suspect Benjamin Jones's humanities degree isn't history, either.
I think we know what happens to "advanced" countries, when religious belief is dropping. It turns out they die. Fewer children are born to older parents. I don't think that's because atheists don't want to bring children into the world - at least I've never heard an atheist complaining that they were brought into the world when their parents knew they were doomed from the off. But maybe science may be "deeply satisfying", but not an answer so satisfying that you think it's worth further sharing it? Maybe if you think there's a point, there's a purpose, there's a plan, then you are more likely on average to have children. Maybe that's why Muslims contribute 4 or 5% of the population, but 10% of live births? I don't know. Maybe Benjamin Jones's humanities degree could come in handy? He could go and find out.