Why I Am Not an Episcopalian

Richard Hall

I am no longer a communicant in the Episcopal Church or even a professing Christian, though for aesthetic reasons I retain affection for the forms and rituals of the Anglic an service. In this way, I resemble the agnostic novelist Thomas Hardy, who was enamored of church liturgies, and the atheist philosopher John McTaggart, who defended the established Church of England. You might say that I am a cultural Christian in the same way that Freud was a cultural Jew. Christianity, irrespective of its truth, must be appreciated and understood as an inexpungable part of Western culture.

I was baptized in 1946 in the church of St. Andrews in Darmsden, a hamlet in rural Suffolk, England. Curiously, the church had been consecrated exactly eight hundred years earlier, in 1146, though the current building dates from the Victorian era. The decision to have me baptized there was not an expression of personal piety on the part of my parents. It was simply a matter of custom, and the location of the church was convenient. Though my maternal great-grandmother was a strict Wesleyan Methodist and my paternal grandfather twice removed was the great Baptist preacher Charles H. Spurgeon, my immediate family was not religious. My mother attended church regularly, mostly for social reasons. My father, a confirmed agnostic, did not.

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