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on 29 November 2014
As a believer (i.e. believing there is no god with which humans can communicate or ask favours of) this is not a book that would have appealed to me by its title alone, but it came to my attention because the writer currently attends an Anglican church within a mile of my Eastbourne home, and it was recommended to me by another member of that congregation.

Rather than being a pro- or anti-Christian document, it is basically a review of how worship in the UK has changed over the last few decades. The author has certainly packed a lot of denominations into his life and describes them so readably, and accurately from my own youthful upbringing, that I have already bought a couple of extra copies for use as 2014 Christmas presents, though I have yet to decide which of my friends would benefit most from them.

By my calculation, Mr Moreton appears to be only a little beyond halfway to my age of 86 years, so I can hope that his religious journey will mature even further and I look forward to reading (or more likely having read to me) a sequel in 20 years or so to show that he has come to share my favourite text - "He who believes he has not been brainwashed is brainwashed; he who knows he has been brainwashed is not brainwashed". (I can't quote chapter and verse for that, but it must surely be somewhere within the 17 gospels rejected for various reasons from the original bible.)

I do not know Mr Moreton and have never knowingly met him, despite his apparent close proximity, so it is from a completely unbiased viewpoint that I recommend his book as a source of knowledge and entertainment.
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on 23 August 2010
Is God Still An Englishman? is a made up of three seamlessly interwoven strands - a social and political history of the British people's increasing disillusionment with authority, government and institutions over the last 30 years; a history of the UK church over the same period and how this is related to wider social change; and a startlingly honest and open account of Cole Moreton's own personal religious journey. Many of the events described are still sharp in the nation's shared memory and consciousness. Moreton's ability to identify how different social trends knit together, and to pinpoint key events that fed change in the 'atmosphere' of the nation, are insightful and persuasive. It's also a beautifully written and very readable book - stimulating, funny, touching and discomforting. Recommended not only for those interested in recent church history, but anyone wanting to delve deeper into the evolution of the British collective conscience over recent decades.
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on 30 April 2010
Is God Still An Englishman?
How we lost our faith but found new soul.
Cole Moreton, Little Brown, 2010

If you only read one book about religion this year, make sure it's this one. Cole Moreton has produced a fantastic social history of popular faith in England over the last thirty years. It begins with the Royal Wedding of Charles and Diana in 1981 and takes in every major event from then till now, tracing how each event has been a nail in the coffin of the established Church of England as the arbiter of the nation's spiritual beliefs. In 1981, the great English God was still more or less in control though his days were numbered even then. Since the Elizabethan Settlement in 1559 when the Church of England was formally established defined but the Acts of Supremacy and Uniformity in pretty much the form we knew it in the 80s. The tenets of this national religion, were fair play, the stiff upper lip and knowing one's place in the great scheme of things. Over the last 30 years, Moreton maintains, the high place of this God, his national church and the Establishment which maintained them have been gradually eroded, till Anglicanism is just one of the possible faiths on offer in the post-modern market place and has lost its distinctiveness, splintering into several different tribes, all fighting for the dwindling stock of believers and adherents.

Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily. While this great national faith gave the nation a shape and form which held it together over five hundred years, it had become stifling, crippling creativity and new expressions of faith. Moreton outlines how the Soul of England is changing to become more accepting, more honest, less rigid and buttoned-up. In the process he tells his own story of being let down but the certainty-riddled faith of his youth and his search, still not entirely over, for something more real.

The book is powerfully written in an informal style, taking chart hits for chapter headings, yet it is a serious piece of social history which gives us an entirely consistent interpretation of the events of the past thirty years and the transformation of the God of the English from Colonel Blimp and sends him out naked for a gambol in the forest. The kinds of Christians who still pine after the certainty of their youth will no doubt find its conclusions unsatisfactory, but they cannot deny its argument and will need to take it into account in any self-assessment they attempt in the future. For the rest of us, this book is a Progressive Patriot of the Spirit and a rallying call for a more open-ended truth and a spiritual search which, like the spirit, blows where she will.

Derek A Collins, Editor, Another Plane
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on 3 August 2011
I don't know why I wasted my time on this book (although by persevering as far as page 292 I happened across a splendid typo, 'the Royal Anglican Regiment').

The only material here with any claim to originality is the author's reflections on his experiences of charismatic Christianity and other religious observances. These are virtually all based on a metropolitan view of the world, and are utterly self-indulgent. He is prone to windy generalisations based on nothing much. Whenever he refers to 'we' I want to say 'not me, mate'. As a specific example, he talks at the end of the book about Morris dancers. I know a Morris dancer quite well, and what she tells me about what she and her friends do bears no relation at all to what is here presented as the general experience, in this case of paganism.

Part of the book is about the Church of England in the last 30 years. This is a pretty easy target: and suffice to say that what is here would scarcely get into the columns of a broadsheet newspaper without more depth and analysis. There is a good deal of routine left-wing ranting against Mrs Thatcher and the Queen, and a peculiar chapter on Diana Princess of Wales which again assumes that everybody thinks the same as the author does. (Personally I greatly prefer the properly reasoned approach of Francis Wheen in his splendid Mumbo-Jumbo book.)

Self-indulgent, smug and unoriginal. Don't waste your money.
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on 11 July 2016
This is a personal, well-written, informative and entertaining review of the relationship between the Church of England and the people of England over the last few decades. If this is something that interests you (as it does me), I recommend this book.
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on 30 August 2011
A highly readable review of the place of faith and belonging in Britain over the past 30 years. Cole Moreton is informed, fair, angry, gracious, betrayed and hopeful in equal measure as he charts the changing fortunes and wasted opportunities of the established church since the wedding of Charles and Diana in 1981. However this is not a book about church so much as a carefully researched and wide ranging journey through recent key events and changes in Britain. As a gifted story teller, Moreton is able to assemble such apparently diverse elements as the miners' strike, Jade Goody and the Church Commisioners'financial advisor who had a taste for expensive cigars and travel on the QE2 and make of them a coherent picture of who 'we' are and how we've changed over the past 3 decades.
This book is a 'must read' for believers who think about their faith but it's equally a stimulating guide for anyone in Britain who has ever thought that there must be more to life than Eastenders, Hello magazine or Sky TV.
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on 1 September 2014
The opening pages about the sad death of a friend were a little sentimental for my taste but once he got on to the recent history of the Church of England, it got more interesting. (I skipped the detailed section on money mismanagement of church funds.) You might not agree with all his conclusions and he seems to have been involved with the outer movements of youth work, perhaps too peripheral to form a credible critique of mainstream church work. However, as a review of events from 80's to present it is an entertaining read.
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on 12 May 2010
I've just finished reading Is God Still An Englishman. It's an excellent book. It entwines the author's very personal, moving and funny search for meaning in life, with a social, political and spiritual history of England over the past thirty years.
This is definitely not a book just for the experts, it's for anyone who wants to know what has happened to the UK during their lifetime. How and why it has changed.
The same goes for if you want to know what on earth has happened to the Church of England. This story does not flinch from covering some of the less savoury episodes.
But it's not blinkered. Though the story begins inside the Church of England, it opens out to take in other Christian and non-Christian faiths. (Even Dawkins gets a look in.)
This is high quality stuff, but the author wears his erudition lightly. It very accessible, not at all dull and dusty.
I recommend this excellent history, which is also a very enjoyable, often amusing, personal journey too.
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on 11 June 2010
I got a lot from this book. Although not agreeing with everything written, I think that Cole Morton has opened up some valid debates and introduced many interesting takes on life in England now. At least we all can question things today, having much more information at our fingertips. We are free to choose and not necessarily follow standard religion in blind faith if that's not our desire. Hopefully, though we will choose the path of 'good' if not 'God.'
I liked the author's openness and honesty and to me he appears to have a 'good soul.'
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on 29 January 2012
This is such a well written book. It opens up events in recent English history and questions the way we see God. This is a great read for anyone.
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