One hundred years ago, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the bloody carnage of World War 1 ended. A generation of young men had given their tomorrows in the hell-hole of the trenches so that those back home might be safe. So that the values upon which our nation was founded might continue to be enjoyed by us, today.
In 21st century Britain, how exactly do we honour that sacrifice?
Yes, we wear our poppies and, for a few brief days, light up the moat encircling the Tower of London with 10,000 lights in memory of those who died. We attend armistice services up and down the country, and we bring out old photos of now far distant relations we never knew. But do we actually honour the supreme sacrifice of those who died in any meaningful way?
On 17thOctober the Government announced that seven more faith and belief groups would this year, and for the future, be represented at theNational Remembrance Service at the Cenotaph
This, it was explained, would reflect the significant but little-known contribution made by minority ethnic communities to Britain’s war efforts, while at the same time sending out a signal across the world that this country values the contribution of its diverse communities.
Among the faith groups mentioned are Jains, Zoroastrians, Copts, Humanists, Mormons, Baha’is and Spiritualists.
While the honouring of minority groups who fought and died alongside British troops is to be commended, the inclusion of Humanists and Spiritualists as faith groups is surely a travesty. Humanists, after all, entirely reject any idea of God and advocate the removal of all religious belief from public life. Spiritualism too cannot properly be classed as a religion. Based on the belief that spirits of the dead exist and can communicate with the living through the agency of a medium, any concept of ‘deity’ amongst adherents is open to wide variation, and practitioners would say rather that it is a belief system embodying and based upon universal ‘truth’.
But perhaps more persuasively, neither group expresses the values on which our country is founded, and for which those who gave their lives died – so why are we honouring them by inclusion? Especially is this true of Spiritualism. The strength of Christian faith amongst the soldiers is well chronicled, and all soldiers were given a copy of the Bible, which they reportedly regularly read!
It is undeniable that over the course of the war many, who lost loved ones, did in their anguish turn to spiritualism – desperate to maintain contact with a dead child, husband, or comrade, no matter how spurious the means. The most famous proponent of the movement that grew up is perhaps the writer, Conan Doyle. But at the same time it was recognised that this, as an interest, could be deeply unhealthy, and it was more widely regarded with concern.
It should be remembered that Britain at that time was very strongly Christian, and not only was communication with the dead and all forms of divination expressly condemned in the Bible, but The Witchcraft Act 1735 prohibited occult practices, including, within its broader definition of what constituted witchcraft, communication with (evil) spirits. This Act remained in force till 1951, when it was only finally repealed by the Fraudulent Mediums Act, which prohibited a person from claiming to be a psychic, medium or other spiritualist in order to obtain money by deception. In other words, from that time séances without financial benefit were tolerated – but not encouraged, the harm such engagement could do being widely acknowledged.
The diverse, supposedly multi-cultural, mish mash of ideas underlying the Home Office announcement does nothing to honour those who died. In fact, if anything it renders their sacrifice essentially meaningless. How one wonders, if asked, would the fallen respond?
Shame then on this nation, that turns its back on our Christian heritage – on the values that once truly made Britain great – and celebrates sexual licence and the occult. We are a nation deservedly under judgment.