For three centuries, the British Empire took the lead in the global expansion of Christianity. It seems startling, then, that in the modern world a British background appears to be closely correlated to extreme secularism.
Britain itself is one of Europe’s least religious societies, and faith is just as little in evidence in the old imperial offshoots of what used to be called the White Commonwealth. When an academic report last year projected that religion might vanish altogether in nine countries by 2100, the list included three British dominions overseas—Australia, New Zealand and Canada—as well as the longtime British possession of Ireland. Globally, secularization looks like a British disease.
Philip Jenkins is professor of history at Baylor University's Institute for Studies of Religion and author of The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade and The Many Faces of Christ: The Thousand-Year Story of the Survival and Influence of the Lost Gospels.