Britain’s decline: atheists are to blame

RABBI Shmuley Boteach, who calls himself “America’s Rabbi”, launched a blistering attack this week on Britain’s atheists, accusing them of spearheading the decline of the UK.

While there are many factors in this decline, I would argue that the new, militant atheism that is becoming characteristic of Britain is a key reason.

Rabbi Boteach

Atheism is a philosophy of nihilism in which nothing is sacred and all is an accident. While it has some brief, flashy moments, life is purposeless and meaningless. There is no soul to illuminate and no spirit to enliven – just dead, decadent flesh. Human love is a prank played by our genes ensuring the sexual propagation of the species, and poetry and faith are shallow distractions masking the inevitability of our certain demise. Men are insemination machines incapable of ever being truly faithful and women are genetically programmed to seek out billionaire hedge-fund managers, so much the better to support their offspring.

In contrasting godless Britain, where only 35 percent of people profess a belief in God, with the US, where 92 percent are believers, Boteach said:

My British friends argue that the demise of religion is a good thing, proving sophistication in sharp contrast to the religious hobos of America who speak in tongues and talk to dead people. I beg to differ. In his 1997 book A History of the American People, historian Paul Johnson makes the case that the remarkable growth of the US, from pioneering backwoodsmen to the most powerful and innovative nation on earth, was largely fueled by religious fervor. From the piety of the pilgrims to the faith-based values of the country’s founders, to the belief in manifest destiny and even the marketing of Coca-Cola as ‘the real thing’, Americans tamed the wilderness with the faith that their nation was a new promised land, destined to illuminate the earth with the torch of freedom and the light of human dignity.



49 responses to “Britain’s decline: atheists are to blame”

  1. Col says:

    My flesh may be decadent but mostly not dead. Unlike this shmuck’s long lost foreskin.

  2. Steve says:

    The first quote is a lovely bit of purple prose. ‘Women are genetically programmed to seek out billionaire hedge-fund managers’ is priceless.

  3. Paul M says:

    I would have thought that with him being a Jew would have meant that he would be a little hesitant to slander a whole group of people. He must have forgotten about the blood libel that those “brave, pioneering, powerful and innovative” christians he was praising smeared his co-religionists with.

  4. gsw says:

    Americans tamed the wilderness with the faith that their nation was a new promised land, destined to illuminate the earth with the torch of freedom and the light of human dignity.

    He forgot to mention that most went there to escape religious persecution!

    Poor man, besieged on all sides by “militant atheism”, militant is new-speak meaning: not willing to shut-up, roll-over and play dead.

  5. barriejohn says:

    What “decline”? This seems to be the best that he can come up with:

    Britain is better known for football hooliganism, the gratuitous depictions of women in its most-circulated publications and the demise of the family with one of the highest out-of-wedlock birthrates in the world.

    And he refers to Margaret Thatcher’s speechwriter and ex-Daily Mail hack Paul Johnson as an historian!

    In 1998 it was revealed Johnson had an affair lasting eleven years with writer Gloria Stewart. Stewart went public with the affair to the newspapers after what she saw as Johnson’s hypocrisy over his views on morality, religion and family values and also asserted that Johnson liked erotic spanking: “Paul loved to be spanked and it was a big part of our relationship. I had to tell him he was a very naughty boy.”

    However, the most hilarious aspect of this is his depiction of America, Reagan fashion, as some sort of beacon of morality and integrity!

  6. barriejohn says:

    BTW Melanie Phillips hasn’t been taking her medication again:

    Don’t attempt to read that whilst eating or drinking!

  7. Kev says:

    “Atheism is a philosophy of nihilism in which nothing is sacred and all is an accident. While it has some brief, flashy moments, life is purposeless and meaningless. There is no soul to illuminate and no spirit to enliven – just dead, decadent flesh.”


    Atheism is a philosophy of realism in which everything is respected and all is as it is. While it has some brief negative moments life is full of purpose and meaning because atheists realise that this life is all we have and make the most of it rather than living in fear of some sky fairy and the associated stories used by people who couldn’t get a proper job if they tried, and therefore spend their lives dictating to others. Their is no soul to illuminate because it simply does not exist. There is a spirit to enliven. The human spirit of doing right because it’s the right thing to do not because of fear of a fairy keeping an eye on you. There is a living, vibrant and joyful bunch of people who live the life they have in the best way they can, some get it wrong but most get it somewhere near right, some even get it very right. Eventually we will all be dead flesh…even those who have wasted a whole lifetime on their knees living in fear.

  8. barriejohn says:

    Well said, Kev.

  9. Great Satan says:

    What twaddle ! I’d say the major reason for Britain’s decline is the undue PC respect shown to religion, and one religion in particular.

  10. Jeff Pickthall says:

    You know they are on the ropes when they start defending all religious belief.

  11. Angela_K says:

    I agree Great Satan, Britain’s decline is in part due to religion not being stripped of privilege and political interference, in particular islam.

    Quote: “Americans tamed the wilderness with the faith that their nation was a new promised land, destined to illuminate the earth with the torch of freedom and the light of human dignity.” Yes, they murdered the native population and stole their land.

  12. This is nonsense – how could the atheists cause all this when they were busy creating the various Avian Flu’s and HIV, as well as hurricane and earthquake machines?

    We don’t expect you to talk Rabbi Boteach, we expect you to die.


  13. stargraves says:

    What a banal, redundant little man.

  14. AgentCormac says:

    What a sanctimonious arse this man is. Worst of all, an ignorant sanctimonious arse.

    Atheism is not a philosophy of nihilism. Nihilism is the rejection of all religious and moral principles, and the last time I looked the latter does not describe any atheists I know. Quite the contrary, actually. Atheism gives you the freedom to live a good life, to help and encourage others to do the same, without living in constant fear of a vengeful god, without having to be defined by an archaic set of rules and rituals that have been imposed on you from birth.

    For millennia the good rabbi and his counterparts in other religions have been responsible for the spreading of tribalism, hatred, mistrust, sectarianism, fear and dread of a terrifying and vindictive deity. I hardly think that qualifies him to start pointing his finger at those who choose to live in the light of our own reason rather than the shadow of his own superstition.

  15. Ivan says:

    So, putting aside the fact that a nation of 60 million was never going to be able to sustain military and economic dominance over the world beyond the limited duration gained by the advantage of being the first to industrialise and the fact that since relinquishing the Empire we have become wealthier, freer and more equal than ever before, how does he account for the rise of atheist China?


  16. Paul says:

    Shmuley published this same bile in the Wall Street Journal, a week earlier. He isn’t Hitchens’ “friend”; I’d be surprised to discover Shmuley has any friends outside the hate group known as Judaism. Notice how he omits “Islamic”, where he rightfully should’ve included it, when writing about the variety of god Jews and Christians worship. There are some uncomfortable facts Shmuley doesn’t want to address, evidently, but let’s look at his argument, anyway.

    Britain’s official state church is the reason for its godlessness (he says), however, atheism is the reason for Britain’s supposed decline. So what makes a country great is secularism, meanwhile, what makes a country poor is secularism. America, we are meant to believe(perhaps it really is a good thing if Shmuley’s readers have faith), is the world leader in secularism. Oh, but there’s just one problem. America is not that. We may not have an official state religion, as does Britain, but the infringements upon the establishment clause Americans suffer are far worse than what is similarly suffered in the UK. A shortlist of such infringements includes: the implementation of the assigned prejudices of religions in our laws (such as the gay marriage bans); the intrusion of religion upon public school science classes; and tax money paying for military chaplains and religious materials meanwhile there are no humanist chaplains available for military freethinkers. Simultaneously, on the other side of the secularism question, we find, for instance, that the US wont recognize polygamous marriages (a religious tradition), while Britain actually does recognize polygamous marriages from abroad. So, America does not have secularism, America has a degree of secularism, whereas in Britain we find a similar situation, albeit infringements upon separation of religion from state are symbolically greater, but such infringements are actually less restricting.

    Shmuley then gives a dishonest definition of atheism. What is important to note, is that this same nutcase has attempted to debate the likes of Daniel Dennett and Sam Harris; Shmuley’s lack of a basic understanding of evolution has therein been highlighted, unfortunately when it is highlighted, he storms off the stage rather than allowing himself to be corrected. For those who haven’t seen that debate, you can watch it here:

    Moreover, the truth is that it is the Abrahamic tradition wherein in one mates without love, (and the same could be said of the Hindu tradition). As biologist P. Z. Myers recently wrote in an article for The Humanist, marrying for love is an atheistic tradition, “Our ideal is a community of equals, while theirs is a hierarchy of power, a relic of Old Testament values in which marrying a woman was like buying a camel, a certification of ownership, and nothing must compromise the Big Man’s possession of properties.” You can find that article here:

    Also, America is undoubtedly more infamous than Britain for its respective assault on culture. However, in the bible belt states of Mississippi and Louisiana, our two least secular states (according to this article in Alter Net: we can also find America’s highest out-of-wedlock birthrates, the percentages of which are almost identical to the UK’s national average ( ( Meaning that Shmuley is a complete nimrod and as a religious leader, he is a living advertisement for atheism.

    Shmuley concludes that what is better about America is that we will inevitably debate morality in the public arena because we are statistically more often religious than British people. What follows is that America thereby eventually forces the supposed morality of the majority’s religion on the rest of society. Which obviously contradicts everything else Shmuley was trying to argue for here. Could you try to be a bit less sanctimonious next time, Shmuley? Anyway, if you compare the rates of violent crime in the US to the UK you will see that America’s religious society is much more dangerous. When you note that the UK’s worst violence occurs because of sectarianism (in Ulster or in Glasgow), Shmuley’s article becomes gibberish.

  17. Har Davids says:

    What Shmuley doesn’t seem to know, is that militant Atheism is not restricted to the UK, it’s all over the place, even in the Land of the Free.

    Just like the religious lots, we aim for a World domination, this time replacing superstition by ratio and common sense.

  18. Freya Cassandra says:

    Errr idiot! If Britain is on the decline how come most of Nortern Africa and the Middle East want to move here and see us a s the promised land and not USA, maybe because we are free from religion, we are also free form persecution unlike homphobic, anti abortion, racist USA! Also thousands of Chinese stufy here as well as many other nationalities, we were involved in Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan etc We’re also busy show casing our latest export Kate n Wills, so our influence in the world is great n we’re not trillions in debt like u guys, we are in debt tho! Try cracking open a Newspaper once in a while instead of a Torah u looney!

  19. Bill Murray says:

    I think this rant is actually quite sad.

    I am especially saddened by this tosser’s use of “…the belief in manifest destiny…” in any positive way. I suppose it is to much to hope that he may have read “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee”.

    I guess the cornered animal is always the most dangerous and unpredictable.

  20. The Woggler says:

    I’ve just finished reading James Frey’s ‘The Final Testament of the Holy Bible’. What it says about the reality of God are debatable (and the book IS a work of fiction), what it says about the reality of religion and the gods they promote is absolutely true. I.e., religion is about control, the gods they promote are false, and they couldn’t give two hoots about the affairs of man anyway. Highly recommended.

    Rabbi Boteach and his religionut cohorts should be forced to read it.

  21. barriejohn says:

    Why would this man be concerned about the rights of Native Americans? He obviously supports the state of Israel, and look at the way that they behave towards the Palestinians.

    Here’s another example of his nonsense, when actually criticising Israel over its reaction to the Egyptian uprisings (where they have good reason to be wary):

    Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East and it ought be the region’s foremost champion of human rights. It’s also the homeland of a people who gave the world the earliest foundation of democracy, namely the Bible’s declaration that every human is equally created in the image of God.

  22. Broga says:

    Boteach’s rant is so full of holes it is difficult to know where to start. Anyway, a few comments. The first is that the USA is in big trouble itself: 4 trillion dollars adrift and serious discussions about whether it will default on its debts (admitedly unlikely); unemployment close to 10 per cent and rising; a health service in hock to the insurance companies; housing a disaster area; a vicious, vengeful religious population and the suffocating lack of freedom that brings.

    As for his comments on atheism I certainly don’t recognise myself or any other atheists I know. Boteach seems to think that because he chooses a variety of religious fantasies they must be true and positive. The religious population in the USA (and elsewhere) occupy the least well educated and literate and are pawns for their politicians and religious leaders to manipulate.

    Boteach is another example of religious desperation. The suckers are jumping ship (some encouraging figures on the Irish situation in the current Freethinker) and the cold wind of reality is blowing round Boteach and his friends. Atheism spreads and atheism must win as it is based on fact, reason and decency (including equality) while the ranting of Boteach is fantasy, inequality and the denigration of women and gays.

  23. Ivan says:

    I should add that according to his “logic” Scandinavia should be falling into chaos whilst Saudi Arabia and Iran take over the world. Luckily for him, a Jew, this is not the case.


  24. Reginald Selkirk says:

    “Atheism is a philosophy of nihilism…”

    Wrong from the start. He apparently doesn’t even understand what atheism is, and isn’t, so there is little hope that he could correctly assess its impact.

  25. Frank Kone says:

    If your pathetic religious-nut-worldview is your definition of a good UK, you can bet your underused little ass I will continue to fuck with it.

    You’re welcome!

  26. Daz says:

    Bloody hell, who does he think he is? The pope?

    And, lest we forget, “Americans tamed the wilderness with the faith that their nation was a new promised land,” by murdering or evicting the people who already lived there. Just like the ‘taming’ of the original promised land, in fact. And just like the modern Jewish settlers of Israel did in 1948 and onwards.

    “The marketing of Coca Cola.” WTF?

  27. Broga says:

    @Daz: Yes, “Tamed the wilderness” by genocide. The christian pastors gave blankets infected with plague to the Native Americans who had no built in immunity. I suppose by taming the wilderness he means concreting it over, filling it with teeming ant hills of humans busily slaughtering themselves as they survive their slums and wiping out much of the wild animal population. Add to that an advertisement for cheap food every few hundred yards and an obese population that exceeds even the UK.


  28. Stonyground says:

    Well I think that the concept of scapegoats is a Jewish idea. Isn’t he proved wrong by the fact that when you look at the levels of general wellbeing from country to country, there is an impressive looking correlation with how irreligious the country is. The most heathen countries fare best on just about every measure, so the guy is just wrong.

  29. MrMonist says:

    In the prick’s favour this is the first article he’s ever written where he doesn’t mention his studies at Oxford or his great friendship with the king of kiddy-fiddling Michael Jackson (who incidentally regarded Jews as ‘bloodsuckers…)

  30. Broga says:

    @Stonyground: I don’t think the religious effect in the USA can be too strong as they have 7 million of their citizens is prison. Perhaps they are not praying long or hard enough. Or maybe to the wrong god? Or maybe the pesky atheists are to blame?

  31. Daz says:


    I’ve seen references to the US prison population’s ratio of religious to non-believers being even higher than the general population, too. Which drives the point even further home.

  32. Stonyground says:

    This guy is getting something of a pasting over at as well.

  33. AVisitor says:

    “Atheism is a philosophy of nihilism in which nothing is sacred and all is an accident.”

    Or a happy coincidence. It doesn’t have to be phrased in such negative language as religious people(mainly Abrahamic) have a habit of doing. Plus Nihilism and Atheism are not the same thing.

    “While it has some brief, flashy moments, life is purposeless and meaningless.”

    Life’s purpose and meaning is what you make of it. Most people just want to get along as best they can in an often hostile and unpredictable world.

    “There is no soul to illuminate and no spirit to enliven – just dead, decadent flesh.”

    Yet more morose terminology. “Illuminating the soul” and “enlivening the spirit” can be great metaphorical terms for learning new things or doing something fulfilling which you enjoy like making music. And flesh isn’t truly dead until it’s, y’know, dead.

    “Men are insemination machines incapable of ever being truly faithful”

    We Men certainly are capable of being faithful, though I’m not quite sure what he means by “truly faithful”.

    “My British friends argue that the demise of religion is a good thing, proving sophistication in sharp contrast to the religious hobos of America who speak in tongues and talk to dead people.”

    I agree with the “speak in tongues” part at least.

    “the remarkable growth of the US, from pioneering backwoodsmen to the most powerful and innovative nation on earth, was largely fueled by religious fervor.”

    I wonder if that was REALLY the case.

    “From the piety of the pilgrims”

    Who fled England to escape religious persecution

    “to the faith-based values of the country’s founders”

    Many of whom where Deists(such as Thomas Jefferson) and not Abrahamics. Unlike Abrahamics, Deists have a healthy respect for science and reason and the founders of the United States made it a Secular Republic purposefully to avoid the religious sectarianism which had led to so much war and bloodshed in Europe.

    “to the belief in manifest destiny”

    Er, “manifest destiny”?

    “even the marketing of Coca-Cola as ‘the real thing’”

    What the heck does that even have to do with Christianity, or any religion? It was probably just Coca-Cola adopting a catchy phrase in order to draw in customers and make money, y’know, like businesses do.

    “Americans tamed the wilderness with the faith that their nation was a new promised land, destined to illuminate the earth with the torch of freedom and the light of human dignity.”

    Lol, human dignity? You mean things like institutionalized racism, sexism and homophobia which still persist and have vicious proponents in some warped areas of American culture to this day? Yeah, thanks American Christians.(Also, isn’t seeing any land other than Israel as “the Promised Land” blasphemy, since it goes against Yahweh’s word since he never mentioned it in the bible? I don’t know…)

    Anyway, enough of that. I didn’t read the full article written by Boteach because I felt it would be a waste of time if what I’ve critiqued is any indication. In conclusion, all I can say is: ReasonSpeed, American Secularists 😉

  34. MaryD says:

    I think this man has a point.

    By any realistic measure the US is bankrupt, totally buried in debt, yet somehow the world has blind ‘faith’ in the mighty dollar.

    All together now children: “Do you believe in Tinker Bell?”.

  35. Daz says:

    Bloody hell! I just agreed with MaryD on something. Somebody call me an ambulance*…

    *This feeder-line provided free of charge.

  36. Normand says:

    Phew! I’m so relieved that the decline of Britain is not blamed on us gays this time and now I can sleep on my two ears tonight. LOL It seems to me that these religious nuts always have one group or another to vociferate against and persecute like it’s their bread and water. Sad, really.

  37. AgentCormac says:


    I hadn’t got a clue what she was on about. And as for the Tinker Bell bit – WTF?!

  38. Stuart H. says:

    I thought Jewish humour was big on irony – if he can’t spot it in Johnson’s writing guess this makes Boteach the Jewish equivalent to a black guy who can’t dance.
    Before Boteach quoted Paul Johnson, maybe he could have done a little basic research and found that Johnson is old school ‘high church’, into hunting, fine wines and gourmet food, the arts, etc, etc, and like his high church mates, probably can’t think about the land of Coca Cola and the Big Mac without retching. I’m not fond of his views on many things, but he’s no born-again simpleton.
    I suspect that Johnson’s real point was that a nation whose citizens can be dissuaded from thinking can be led into doing anything to anybody. Anything in that passage could equally apply to either Nazi era Germany or current day Middle Eastern wingnuts.

  39. remigius says:

    Britain’s decline: theists are to blame

    Headline fixed.

  40. Tim Danaher says:

    Boiteach is a mental midget. I watched his debate with Hitch on YouTube and it was excruciating watching him spew utter, uninformed bullshit: (from memory) “Even Steven Jay Gould, the great biologist, didn’t believe in evolution: he believed in punctuated equilibrium.”

    I kid you not.

    Here it is:

  41. Ivan1971 says:

    Why all the vitriol in these posts? The Rabbi simply made a valid argument that one would expect him to make as a ‘defender of his faith.’ It’s one thing disagreeing, but quite another to have to resort to simply hurling abuse at the guy in the absence of being able to formulate a reasonable, cogent argument. For a bunch of people who promote the rational, atheists are patently lacking the social skills to initiate a rational discussion.

  42. JohnMWhite says:

    Ivan, you’d be pretty annoyed too if someone mischaracterised you and everything you stood for in the most negative way possible for the sake of their own aggrandisement and the imposition of a vicious, cruel way of life on as many people as possible. And besides, rationality has nothing to do with social skills (much of our social skills are actually rather illogical, but provide a necessary function), but rational people do tend to become aggrieved when their position is twisted to the ends of irrational fear and hatred.

    Really you just want to have a moan at people saying something you’re uncomfortable with because you’re a craven quisling who would sell their own mother in order to appease the asserted privilege of religious people to stamp their feet and get their way in every facet of the miserable lives they would force all the planet to endure.

    See what I did there? Sucks, doesn’t it? Though actually I might well mean what I just said as something more than an illustration, since you yourself are mischaracterising atheists by tarring them all with the same brush and blatantly ignoring that a good few people did make coherent arguments against the claims made by this rabbi. What I honestly think you are saying is “it’s one thing disagreeing, it’s quite another actually letting people know about it”. Too bad for you, atheists never know when to shut up.

  43. Ex Patriot says:

    If Briain is in decline it is not because of the Atheists but because of religious ass hats like him and all so because of the 3m muslim idiots in the country, they should all go back the desert where they came from and then they can go back to screwing the camels, which probably the best most of those half men can get

  44. JohnMWhite says:

    Yes, a religious/ethnic group should all go back to where they came from and get up to whatever exaggerated nonsense we make up about them so we can dehumanise them. That’ll show them for their fascist intolerance of other people!

  45. Anonymous says:

    @Above: Lol, well said!

  46. ORAXX says:

    So, Britain’s ‘decline’ means things were better when a Christian Britain let millions of Irish starve? First of all, Britain’s ‘decline’ is a questionable proposition on it’s face. This appears to be a classic case of equating correlation with causation.

  47. Heather Flight says:

    Perhaps the author should wander through the Projects and reconsider his decision to contrast Britain with the USA. I’d like to see how his book would have turned out had he written it not so terribly long ago at a desk in Mississipi.

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