On February 9th, 2008 at 9:36 pm, Lifeofthemind said:
Henry VIII always felt himself to be a Catholic. He probably believed that marrying his late brother’s (presumably unconsummated) widow was illegal. His title of Defender of the Faith from the Pope, that the English Throne uses to this day, was for his critique of Luther. Henry was an interesting and accomplished man.
The problem with the Church of England is that after the Civil Wars of the 17th century the teeth were drawn from the established religion. Establishment is not designed to increase the power of the Church but to defang it, house-train it and make it harmless. The tradition arose of sending the fool in the family into the Church. Tolerance became the central formal doctrine of the Church of England. The important thing was they had to be tolerant of royal whims and peculiarities and also of regional or political Protestant minority groups. The expectation was that the non-conformists of the Chapel would in return be politically loyal to the Crown. That was centuries before anyone thought about Moslem immigration. Tolerance for Jews and Catholics came more slowly. Troublesome non-conformist sects were largely exported or channeled into industrial and political movements. That is the historical basis for the Liberals and ultimately the Labor Party.
Americans sometimes have trouble understanding how the recent carnage of the 20th century, especially the First World War, created the deep strain of pacifism that Britain, and many other parts of Europe, exhibit today. It is much harder for us to understand how the horrors of the religious wars of the 17th century produced the desire for secularism and tolerance that dominates elite opinions in Europe.