Age of faith

I know there are people who dismiss the present age as an age of godlessness, and who look backwards longingly to various periods of time when people practiced more religious ritual and devotion.

But when, exactly, was there ever a better age of faith than this?

Was it in the early centuries of Christianity, a time when St Augustine said: “All diseases of Christians are to be ascribed to demons”?

Was it at the time of the Reformation, when John Knox prayed: “Lord, put an end to my misery”, and when Martin Luther was so discouraged at the state of religion that he described himself as “old, decrepit, lazy, worn out, cold and now one-eyed”?

Was it in the Middle Ages, when people were so insecure and afraid of hell that they burned people alive who held different opinions?

Was it at the start of the Nineteenth Century, before the insights of Darwin shook awake the scientific and genealogical world?

So often in the past there was very little faith in economic justice; little kindness to people who are poor; little faith in human progress; or in the possibilities of social advancement.

For many centuries there was very little faith in the ability of ordinary men and women to be trusted with the vote.

There was little faith that monstrous evils like child labour and human slavery could ever be abolished.

There was little faith that ordinary people could be trusted and allowed to worship God according to the dictates of their own consciences.

The incredible cruelties often shown to people who committed misdemeanours or who challenged contemporary beliefs indicate that those who authorised such punishments were lacking faith in almost any possibilities of human redemption.

Many people assume that the early Nineteenth Century was an age of faith. But was it, really?

History tells us that on Easter Day at St Paul’s Cathedral in London there were only six communicants.

Things really aren’t so bad today.

Some may think we are living in an age of fear. But for others this may be an age of faith.