Merry anomic post-Christian European Christmas!

More people in Britain think religion causes harm than believe it does good, according to a Guardian/ICM poll published today. It shows that an overwhelming majority see religion as a cause of division and tension – greatly outnumbering the smaller majority who also believe that it can be a force for good…

Most people have no personal faith, the poll shows, with only 33% of those questioned describing themselves as “a religious person”. A clear majority, 63%, say that they are not religious – including more than half of those who describe themselves as Christian…

Only 13% of those questioned claimed to visit a place of worship at least once a week, with 43% saying they never attended religious services.

See what they did? They set up a false dichotomy — “force for good” versus “source of division” — then used it to arrive at the fallacious conclusion they were seeking. Virtually all moral systems, including socialism, are sources of division; some are also forces for good, and some lesser number sufficiently good that they make society better on balance notwithstanding the division they cause. The Guardian didn’t poll that last point. Or maybe they did. They neglected, conspicuously, to post the raw data so there’s no way to tell.

I sure would be interested, too, in finding out if any particular religion was identified as more likely to cause “tension” than others. I’m willing to bet they didn’t poll that question, either.

Then again, would the Guardian really whitewash its facts? Well, yes, of course it would:

From Bethlehem to Blackburn – and, sadly, Baghdad more than either – religion, identity and the way politicians respond to them are shaping the first decade of the new century. Bethlehem, scene of the nativity, has been religiously diverse for most of the last 2,000 years, but now its Christian community is fleeing the economic damage wreaked by Israel’s wall.

They’re fleeing a lot more than that. Think this might have been worth including in an editorial about religious divisions?

The town’s Christian population has dwindled from more than 85 per cent in 1948 to 12 per cent of its 60,000 inhabitants in 2006.

There are reports of religious persecution, in the form of murders, beatings and land grabs…

The sense of a creeping Islamic fundamentalism is all around in Bethlehem…

George Rabie, a 22-year-old taxi driver from the Bethlehem suburb of Beit Jala, is proud of his Christianity, even though it puts him in daily danger.

Two months ago, he was beaten up by a gang of Muslims who were visiting Bethlehem from nearby Hebron and who had spotted the crucifix hanging on his windscreen.

“Every day, I experience discrimination,” he says…

Jeriez Moussa Amaro, a 27-year-old aluminium craftsman from Beit Jala is another with first-hand experience of the appalling violence that Christians face.

Five years ago, his two sisters, Rada, 24, and Dunya, 18, were shot dead by Muslim gunmen in their own home…

The fear of attack has prompted many Christian families to emigrate, including Mr Canawati’s sister, her husband and their three children who now live in New Jersey in America.

They can’t kill Jews so they busy themselves with Christians. Which the milquetoast who leads the Church of England no doubt would point to as evidence that the Guardian’s right — that it is, after all, because of Israel’s wall.

Not in Iraq, though. There, it’s business as usual.