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Inside and Outside

It wasn’t always like this. Only a few generations ago, people lived in a society where most people – except for a few intellectuals and oddballs – shared the same beliefs, ideas, and values; there was social cohesion, a measure of consensus, and agreement about what I call ultimate things.

All of this, in most western countries, has disappeared. We still, in a sense, live in a common culture (we still probably watch mostly the same television programmes); but the heart and soul of the person sitting next to you in the bus is as foreign as if he/she/it had come from another galaxy.

I have absolutely no idea about the people I see every day, what they value, what they aspire to, or what they might believe – about anything, and particularly about ultimate matters, such as our destiny.

One thing, however, is a reasonable guess: that most people do not share Christian, or even theist beliefs of a kind which those in the Judeo-Christian tradition can recognise. Because they are, to outward appearances, so similar to me (I can discuss the latest TV soap with them), it is easy to forget, to be lulled, or fooled, into the half-conscious assumption that they are the same as me.

There may be lovely people in your office or workplace (this has very much been my experience) – but do not suppose for a moment that they inhabit anything like the same thought-world that you do (there was no need to think like this, three hundred years ago), and the reason is that if one is a Christian, one is looking out on a totally different world, and it’s easy not to realise the fact (people who you share every day with you really do think it’s a good and liberating thing to allow the abortion industry to destroy much more human life than ever the Nazis managed).

Equally, the people outside have no conception whatever of what religious belief is like, or Christian life might consist of – they often think they do, but when examined, it normally proves to be a result of the distortions of the media, or the burgeoning materialist establishment under which we all live.

Many simply have no interest in looking further; they have their own ideas, and besides, there is always that mantra to repeat; religion is a personal thing. So remember, always, that yours may be the view from inside, and the view looking back, if there is one, can never be guessed.