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Archbishop gives Easter sermon

The Archbishop of Canterbury has given his final Easter address Photo: PA

Young people's hostility towards faith is not as extreme as society perceives with many taking the issue of religion seriously, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said in his Easter sermon. Speaking at Canterbury Cathedral, Dr Rowan Williams argued that a number of youngsters appreciate the role religion plays in shaping and sustaining human existence and are keen to learn about it.

He warned that now was the "worst possible moment" to downgrade the importance of teaching religion in secondary schools. Delivering his last Easter sermon as leader of the Church of England, Dr Williams said: "There is plenty to suggest that younger people, while still statistically deeply unlikely to be churchgoers, don't have the hostility to faith that one might expect, but at least share some sense that there is something here to take seriously - when they have a chance to learn about it. It is about the worst possible moment to downgrade the status and professional excellence of religious education in secondary schools - but that's another sermon."

Dr Williams, who will resign as Archbishop of Canterbury at the end of the year to take up a post at Cambridge University, also told followers that the ultimate test of the Christian religion is not whether it is useful, beneficial or helpful to the human race but whether or not its central claim - the resurrection of Jesus Christ - actually happened.

"Easter makes a claim not just about a potentially illuminating set of human activities but about an event in history and its relation to the action of God," he said. "Very simply, in the words of this morning's reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we are told that 'God raised Jesus to life'." He added that any understanding of the significance of the resurrection which fell short of this truth would be to misunderstand it. Dr Williams said: "We are not told that Jesus 'survived death'; we are not told that the story of the empty tomb is a beautiful imaginative creation that offers inspiration to all sorts of people; we are not told that the message of Jesus lives on. We are told that God did something."

The religious leader said that Easter raised the "uncomfortable and unavoidable" question that religion maybe more useful than the "passing generation of gurus' thought". He told the congregation that the answer would not be found in instant scientific analysis but in a longer measure of the effect of belief in the lives of believers. Dr Williams later reinforced his point that it was the the truth of the resurrection that counts, not its effect."When all's said and done about the newly acknowledged social value of religion, we mustn't forget that what we ultimately have to speak about isn't this but God: the God who raised Jesus and, as St Paul repeatedly says, will raise us also with him."

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