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The dictatorship of relativism is heading for Britain

The Guardian says that traditional English identity is disappearing. What will replace it?

By on Wednesday, 12 December 2012

The Union Flag unfurled. Soon Britons won't be able to agree on anything (Photo: PA)

The Union Flag unfurled. Soon Britons won't be able to agree on anything (Photo: PA)

The results of the recent UK census make dismal reading for all Christians in this country. Not only has the number of people identifying themselves as Christian markedly declined over the last 10 years, so has the number of people getting married. Christianity is probably not on the point of extinction in this country – but if it were, this is what its terminal decline would look like. So there is no reason at all to be cheerful. The decline in marriage is particularly worrying: what would a country where marriage ceased to exist look like?

The Guardian, predictably, sounds cheerful about this increase in diversity, given, partly, one suspects, because “diversity” is, in our contemporary Newspeak, synonymous with all that is good and true. But its editorial has this to say:

Since the EU has become for the Tory party the symbol of everything that is wrong and strange about the world, it can be said that the census results, too, will increase hostility to it in the party. That is not just because some papers will predictably run on the increasing numbers of “foreigners” and “foreign-born” which the census reveals. The changing country that the census reveals is also a problem for conservatives in that it marks the disappearance of any kind of traditional English identity to which these foreigners could be assimilated.

Never mind the problems the conservatives may face, just look at that last sentence again. “The disappearance of any kind of traditional English identity” is surely not just a problem for conservatives, but for the rest of us as well.

The Guardian seems to think that we can get on without our traditional identity, and that its loss is not to be mourned. Well, perhaps there were aspects of the traditional identity that were not good, but the fact remains that a culture must have some sort of identity, something that unites us all. If we do not have shared and unspoken assumptions held in common, then this will mean endless arguments about practically everything, without some common standard to which we can all appeal to end the arguments.

The Americans have arguments, but they all end, if they continue long enough, at least in theory, in the Supreme Court, for all Americans love and revere their constitution. Here in Britain, a lack of a shared identity and shared assumptions is already apparent. That is why we are arguing over the nature of marriage and indeed sexuality per se; what was once a matter for agreement is now polarised. On one side stand those who believe marriage is as old as humanity and not to be interfered with; others think that “equality” (which is ill-defined) trumps all. But it goes further than this. We have a Conservative Prime Minister who thinks that conservatism means supporting gay marriage; and other conservatives who think the exact opposite. One thing is certain: the word conservative has now become meaningless, insofar as it can mean two opposite things at the same time.

So we need a national identity, if only to give us a sense of belonging and to save us all from this constant bickering. The Christain identity served us well. What will replace it? Something must, because we cannot continue like this, and nature abhors a vacuum. Unlike some, I do not think Islamification is on the cards; but something malign may well be round the corner, indeed, already here, and that is the dictatorship of relativism that Benedict XVI so presciently foresaw back in 2005. As he said then:

“We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognise anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one’s own ego and one’s own desires.”

This dictatorship of relativism will be nothing like the diversity so beloved of the Guardian. Indeed, such diversity is largely illusory. The only solution to this coming dictatorship is, of course, a return to faith and the realisation that we are not sovereign, God is. It is his world, not ours. But that seems a long way off. In the meantime, may God have mercy on us all, particularly those of us who get on the wrong side of the new dictators.

  • Mark

    Feminism killed marriage and multi-multiculturalism killed cultural identity. These two must be dismantled before a renewal can occur. Each of us must do our part.

  • paulpriest

     Dictatorship of Relativism is ‘on its way’?

    Someone’s never worked for Conference or the Tablet…

    Feel like the man at the end of “Invasion of the Bodysnatchers” running down the street screaming

    “They’re here already…you’re next…you’re next!!!”

  • Veuster

    If only the Church were brave enough to urge cohabiting couples to marry and mothers to stay at home and look after their children!

  • Alan

    Did England (let alone Britain, or the UK) EVER have a shared identity?  Did Londoners ever identify with Lancastrians, or the upper classes with the lower?  Did the tribes of 1500 years ago identify with each other?  Surely any large country inevitably contains highly diverse groups who do not identify with each other.  Personally I have far more in common with foreigners with similar educational background, for example, than with British people with a very different background. 
    I celebrate the ethnic and cultural diversity which we have today (as does nearly every other large country).  This has nothing to do with (dis)approval of various “lifestyles” which is a quite separate question.

  • Christopher

    So, you think that it is the function of mothers to remain at home in order to look after the children? With respect, you sound more Muslim than Catholic. My aunt was the proverbial bread winner in her family whilst my uncle (by marriage) was the homemaker, simply because she earned significantly more than he ever could. Besides, he has always been more of a mothering presence than my aunt. The family is solidly Catholic with one son a priest.

  • Mhairi

    Hmm, I’ve read quite a few of your comments – including those when you professed to be on the side of the angels – and you sure pick and choose what you want to champion. Relativism is no stranger to your thinking. How about being less judgemental?

  • Ghengis

     Karl Marx and Antonio Gramsci promoted feminism and multi-culturalism despite being rich white men because they new it would weaken democratic capitalism and facilitate a communist revolution based on false relativistic notions of equality

  • Veuster

    > So, you think that it is the function of mothers to remain at home in order to look after the children?

    Not in every case. There will always be exceptions. But surely, in the normal way of things, God intended fathers to be the breadwinners and protectors and mothers to be the homemakers and nurturers?

  • paulpriest

    The dictatorship of relativism is already here…
    That’s not a judgment call – it’s a simple plain fact.
    Throw as many unfounded accusations about me as you wish – or you can accuse me of the many things of which I really was guilty – being insulting, derogatory, dismissive and quite crudely or callously apposite or boringly long-winded or pugnaciously relentless…

    Picking and choosing that which one wishes to comment upon is not relativism.

    Now – is there anything else?

  • Brian A. Cook

    Are you scapegoating women who want to share in public life?  Are you scapegoating people who want to welcome ethnic minorities?  Feminism and multiculturalism are responses to negative realities, are they not? 

  • Kevin

    “If we do not have shared and unspoken assumptions held in common, then this will mean endless arguments about practically everything, without some common standard to which we can all appeal to end the arguments.”

    Great idea. When is the Church going to get one so we can stop arguing about contraception, the TLM, Vatican II, ecumenism, the death penalty, the SSPX, pro-abortion politicians receiving Communion, liturgical abuses, the male priesthood, the Soho “Masses”, civil partnerships, Limbo, whether there is anyone in Hell, liberation theology, Socialism, the reality of Adam and Eve, relativism itself?

    Because, to be honest, a lot of Catholics solve these questions by reading books with the imprimatur that were published before 1958. That is our “hermeneutic of continuity”.

  • Just Sayin’

    And we see it manifest in the self-stupefaction (drug) culture that you’re so keen on.

  • Q Dover

    “The only solution to this coming dictatorship is, of course, a return to faith and the realisation that we are not sovereign,*
    Return to the faith that existed in Europe in, say,1939, Father?
    For somebody who is a “doctor  of moral theology” your comments are staggeringly vacuous.

  • mollysdad

    In order to have a dictatorship of relativism you have to have a dictator. Who is he, and where does he live?

  • JabbaPapa

    What a ghastly comment !!

  • nytor

    “I celebrate the ethnic and cultural diversity”

    Yes, “liberals” always do.

  • Rizzo The Bear

    His name begins with ‘O’ and ends with ‘A’ and he lives in Washington DC, USA.

  • Rizzo The Bear

    I agree. Q Dover’s comment is distasteful to the max.

    And vacuous.

  • Recusant

    What a gormless post, and you chose perhaps the worst possible example. The House of Lancaster ruled England (from London) during the Plantagenet era, and indeed the Monarch is still head of the Duchy of Lancaster. The identity of Lancastrians and Londoners has been bound for years, and has been widely shared for centuries. 
    Your post stinks of assumptions that are untested by any collision with facts (for example do you “celebrate” the empirically observable reduction is social cohesion that accompanies diversity? You may well do, in my experience people who celebrate diversity live in very homogenous neighbourhoods). And what tribes of the year 500 are you referring to? The ones with a common coinage, religion and 400 years of Roman law probably did identify with each other. Please, do some actual reading before so ostentatiously celebrating your diversity in public.

  • Sweetjae

    Most of the time I agree with you, being faithful to the Church’s Teachings, yet this one is not one of those. I’m no white yet I consider myself a Catholic and faithful (trying) to Her Teachings and one of those Teachings is to love your neighbor as yourself, even if his skin color is yellow, olive, red, white or black and regardless of what he eats, kosher food, curry, chilly and others or what type of music he listens to, I do celebrate it as well as the Holy Pontiff and the entire Church. You should too.

    Because the Garden inside Kingdom of God has countless variety of flowers, big and small, vivid and pastels, long and short that all adorned His Feet.

  • Sweetjae

    The social cohesion should primarily be the common language and national identity. In this case, English and being a Briton comes first. There will always be a “separation” of tribes as you called it, tha’s perfectly normal human nature and preference. As long as there is no promotion of division along the national identity, humans can live side by side with celebration!

  • Deacon Augustine

    “…whether there is anyone in Hell..”

    Kevin, for anybody who believes in the inerrancy of the Word of God that can never be an open question.  The New Testament affirms that the Sodomites are enduring eternal hellfire:

    Jude 7 “As Sodom and Gomorrha, and
    the neighbouring cities, in like manner having given themselves over to
    fornication, and going after other flesh, were made an example, suffering the
    punishment of eternal fire.”

  • Guest


  • savvy

    But it is strange that a State which is so influenced by multiculturalism treats the views on this issue of every other human culture with contempt. (There was plenty of homosexuality in ancient Greece but it was never confused with marriage.) And strange that a State which has treated marriage with such contempt that its tax policies financially favour unmarried cohabitation should suddenly press vehemently for an extension of the right to marry.

  • Brian

    Obama has shown no evidence of being like Mubarak or Morsi or Qaddafi or Assad. 

  • scary goat

     Yeah, I thought it was here already too.  Has been for a long time.  I remember it starting to creep in in my childhood in the 60s.  Now you’re hard pushed to find anywhere where it hasn’t taken over.  I am not particularly patriotic, and not in the least racist….I couldn’t care less what anyone’s nationality or skin colour are, but some things in life need to be stable….like fundamental truths.  On second thoughts maybe it didn’t start creeping in in the 60s…..maybe it became inevitable from the 1600s.  And in the meantime we have had 400 years of English culture that wasn’t always entirely favourable.

    Sometimes on my travels in the local countryside I see ruins of monasteries, or old village churches, or cathedrals that were once Catholic…..and I wonder how life might have been if England had remained a Catholic country.  Who knows.

    Funny thought just popped into my head about a film I nearly bought a couple of years ago and now I can’t remember what it was called. I suddenly feel desperate to get it.  It was a kids comedy about some French kids whose parents suddenly went marxist in their views and the kids didn’t like it and fought back with a plan of their own because they wanted to continue with their FHC preparation.  Anyone got any idea?

  • cullenD

    ” being insulting, derogatory, dismissive and quite crudely or callously apposite or boringly long-winded or pugnaciously relentless…”
    Now that you “confessed” are you not supposed to be repentant and even strive not to repeat again the traits of which you are guilty?. 

    Or are you actually proud of those traits and just being dishonest in your reply. Although not admirable those are surely the results of being entrenched and surrounded. They are merely tactics you use in a defensive, and often offensive, manner. 

  • paulpriest

    I’ll let Chesterton answer that one…

    “If a critic tells a particular lie, that particular lie can be
    pointed out.  If he misses a specific point, that point can be
    explained.  If he is really wrong in this or that, it will be on this
    or that that the insulted person will eagerly pounce.  But “malice and
    spite” are vague words which will never be used except when there is
    really nothing to pounce on.  If a man says that I am a dwarf, I can
    invite him to measure me.  If he says I am a cannibal, I can invite him
    to dinner.  If he says I am a coward, I can hit him.  If he says I am a
    miser, I can give him half-a-sovereign.  But if he says I am fat and
    lazy (which is true), the best I can answer is that he speaks out of
    malice and spite.  Whenever we see that phrase, we may be almost
    certain that somebody has told the truth about somebody else.”
    The Illustrated London News, 13 November 1909.

  • scary goat

     Hmmm…..I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle here….or more exactly it depends on what people mean by certain terms.  In a way, I agree with your point about “responses to negative realities” but I think the problem lies in an excessive response or an incorrect response.  Is feminism (at least in its current form) the answer to a maiden’s prayer?  As a woman, I doubt it.  Also multiculturalism is not necessarily the right response to racism.  I have no wish to return to “the bad old days” but I am not convinced that our responses have provided wonderful answers to all the old problems either.  I think the current models have caused a lot of confusion and damage.  I am not in favour of extreme reactions.  There has been a bit too much throwing out the baby with the bath water.  I’m inclined to think that evolution is better than revolution.  Fix the problems…..don’t turn the world upside down. And that is what we now seem to have….an upside down world. 

  • cullenD

    A census is a blunt tool, but it’s worth looking at the results. A 10% increase in people saying they have no religion. That’s 4 million new people. 

    The number of catholics has stayed stable at 5 million. But if we consider the repeated surveys that show that about 20% of self identifying catholics attend mass once a week, the numbers become clear. The number of “practising catholics” is a quarter of those who newly chose not to be included by religion in this census. 

    Was stable 5 million catholic figure sustained by demographics (Eastern Europe immigration) rather by a cultural staidness in belief?

  • scary goat

     I think there can always be exceptions depending on the personalities involved.  In the case you mention, it was the family’s choice that the father was the home maker.  BUT there was a home maker.  More normally that would be the mother, but if it suits a family better for it to be the father, that’s fine.  The point is there was still a home maker.  In so many families these days BOTH parents work, often causing a lack of family cohesion for the children. 

    I am not convinced that in the past the male bread winners necessarily stomped all over their women.  My grandparents, going back to the early 20th century, were a case in point.  The father was the bread winner, but a very mild man.  The mother was a strong, bossy woman, who controlled the house….but my grandfather was happy.  All he wanted to do was work and provide, and he was quite happy to be told what to do at home.  My own father with clear memories of that generation said many people were like that. The woman was queen of the home. 

    Of course the bread winner (male or female) can abuse their financial power. But the feminist view that women must be financially independent to avoid male abuse seems a bit extreme.  My father said most men loved their wives and took care of them.

    Many women struggle these days trying to juggle family commitments, work, unstable relationships, financial worries, guilt if they work, guilt if they don’t work. Talking about a family who chose to be a bit different from the norm isn’t really the point.  The point is more about current social trends which are damaging.

  • cullenD

    Don’t do that. I want to hear your reply. Not a quote.

    I will read that, but I doubt it will answer any of questions.

  • cullenD

    ERRR have you read the first sentence…

    “If a critic tells a particular lie”

  • cullenD

    I still don’t get how you use that. Is it some sort of defence for you an intolerant person? 

  • Jordy

     I am truly confused as too why they would discourage traditional marriage through the tax laws and the media, then encourage gay marriage, and at the same time encourage immigration. The 1st two could have been about population numbers reduction but then immigration would raise population levels again; seems like someone wants to decimate our culture. Any logical explanations?

  • cullenD

    And as you started word games you are a ….fcku iwt.. 


  • PauloVI

    I am one of the lost. I am a practicing Catholic, I just felt it was none of the Governments business what I believed, as I recall quite a few others felt the same, I put some daft comment, which presumably was read as “no religious affilliation”.


    You are quite right, Father, and the full implications of relativism in all things will work themselves out to the detriment of society and the very people who are, at the moment, so gungho when it comes to ‘freedoms’ that relativism offers. America too is now a divided nation, split more or less 50/50 between traditionalists and relativists – some states have even set up petitions to secede from the Union, gaining more than 100,000 signatures to date. Not the right way to go but indicative of the level of anger, disappointment and perhaps, underlying matters, downright fear about the way their democracy is moving, for themselves and above all their families, children and grandchildren. Similarly, in the UK too, the prospects are not good. And what is so disturbing in this whole situation is the lack of informed analysis, rational thinking as to the changes underway and their consequences, especially their inevitable unintended consequences. Prudence, that queen of virtues, has never been more noteworthy for its absence, in society generally, and especially among the ruling elites in government, whose duty it is to think long and hard, and above all prudently, when it comes to even contemplating profound changes to society, never mind their implementation. 


    Just to set the historical record straight, Karl Marx lived a life of financial hardship, often surviving on handouts from Engels; Gramsci came from a distinctly un-wealthy peasant family in Sardinia. Gramsci in particular is an extremely interesting thinker, undoubtedly influenced by the Catholic concept of the ‘common good’ and Catholicism’s more organic, holistic approach to society, its much greater emphasis on community and the individual, rather than protestantism’s and western secular society’s emphasis on exasperated individualism alone, leading to the atomisation of society, community and family. It can be argued that protestantism’s at times excessive focus on individuality, at the expense of community, is precisely what fed into capitalism and from there into secularism. A concept of the individual and the individual’s rights that is entirely at odds with the traditional catholic balance of both rights and duties, with the individual, as a social animal (as Aristotle put it), fully realising himself and his abilities as an active participant in the community. Gramsci pursues this kind of analysis and is an extremely subtle thinker. Another example of how we often learn far more about ourselves from our enemies than we ever do from our friends. 

  • teigitur

    You love numbers and the odd census, don t you Damo? ?Blunt tool or not.The numbers are never clear, especially on “practice”. Most” Catholics” I know no longer attend every week, but when it suits them, or they feel the need of solice, or they want something. All very well and good, but not real reasons to be present at the perpetual miracle that is the Mass.Relativism indeed.

  • Sceptic

    Great article. I guess it was Jacqui Smith (remember her anybody?) who as Home Secretary said that the Churches were expected to comply with legislation whatever it happened to be. That’s political relativism. It exists in Britain not just because of the decline of tradition, but also because we don’t have a written constitution — and the left-right cultural split makes it impossible to unite over the unwritten constitution we do have. Add the evaporation of traditional social structures and values, partly caused by the ending of effectve religious education, and it’s not hard to see why we have a vacuum at the heart of our society, worse (I think) than in other advanced industrial countries.

  • Old Buffer

    Mhairi: Apparent inconsistency, or blatant inconsistency for that matter, does not constitute relativism. Looks like as the word starts to be more widely used, its meaning starts to melt.

  • cullenD

    It’s difficult to define what is a practising catholic. A “solace catholic” is new to me, but it’s a darn good term! Most catholics I know would fit that category.

    I do like numbers, although they can be misused, but I think the facts are pretty clear in this case. If you were to take 20 years as a generation, and if the same thing were to happen in the next 10 years, christianity will become a minority identification. That’s an amazing change, no matter what your opinion, in one generation.

    The pope is fully correct in his idea of a smaller, and more devout, church. Also on his call for a new evangalisation. 

  • parepidemos

    Sadly, Mhairi is correct in her assessment of paulpriest, and as you see it is something in which he glories rather than repents. Failed seminaries do sometimes have such tendencies. It is rather pointless to engage with him; to be effective it would require some humility on his part. As Mhairi indicated paulpriest used to have another name (onthesideoftheangels) and he was equally unChrist-like under that misnomer just as he is under ‘priest’. I shudder to think what kind of a priest he would have made.

  • parepidemos

    Whilst I very much like Chesterton, I would prefer to let Christ answer since He alone is Judge…

    “Do not judge and you will not be judged…How dare you say to your brother ‘Let me take the splinter out of your eye’ when you ignore the plank in your own. Hypocrite! First take the plank out of your own eye; then you will see clearly enough to take the splinter out of the eye of your brother.”

    The Gospel according to Saint  Matthew 7;1-5, the Holy Land. Date not certain, but late 1st century anno Domini.

  • Arthur Rusdell-Wilson

    I often wonder what part of “conservative” the modern Conservative party has failed to understand.

  • Nesbyth

    I agree with savvy on the point that in Greece homosexuality wasn’t confused with marriage.
    However, Rome in its decadence under Nero, for example, did have homosexual marriages and Nero “married” a young man who was dressed in a frock and veil.

  • savvy

    Was this made the law of the land or something just eccentric people did?

    We are seeing the move the enshrine this in law globally, whether people like it or not.

    You might want to check out the UN”s sexual rights movement or the Yogakarta principles. It’s very problematic because it says that sexual rights trump free speech, religion and parental objections.

  • Nesbyth

    I always like what paulpriest writes.
    I don’t think you’re debating skills are up to much if all you can to is to denigrate.

  • teigitur

    I think the reality is its always been a minority identification, perhaps even in Ireland, though that could be disputed more so than on the adjacent larger island.