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Britain’s anxious state isn’t helped by secularism

Flying back from a late holiday to Greece, I barely held it together, having lost my dear little horse Grace while I was away. Her show name was Amazing Grace. She lived up to this in the way she galloped so lightly it was as if her feet didn’t touch the ground.

The vet told me I would not believe how many animals choose the time their owner is away to make their exit. Underlying conditions often come to a head as soon as your back is turned – in this case a metabolic malfunction I had carefully kept under control for years led to a sudden colic while friends were looking after her. On the plane, on the train, back at home trying to unpack our suitcases, I kept breaking down, racked with feelings of guilt and regret.

And when I could bear to look at the news, it seemed that everyone else was breaking down too.

So many of us are complaining of being at the end of our tethers it feels like an epidemic. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are constantly in the media complaining about the strain of being in the media. Assorted celebrities post endlessly on social media about their emotional problems. Mental health has peaked as an issue in the public consciousness.

We are all emotionally exhausted and psychologically drained, it would appear. And while our capacity to complain about it publicly might be a good thing, a sign of healthy self-expression, it might also be because we have never before felt so collectively unstable.

The sense of the rug being pulled from under us is something we all feel, and it is a mistake to put it down to our own exceptional circumstances.

What is making our personal problems feel so unbearable, perhaps, is the underlying current of turbulence.

Whatever our personal view, the idea that the Brexit debacle was coming to a head one way or another was the one thing this country might have been able to unite around, in a common sense of relief.

However, with yet another extension, the torment is set to continue. This is a high stakes move, even though the Remain side paint it as safer than a hard Brexit. Yes, crashing out of the European Union to trade on World Trade Organisation terms might have been rough for a while, but the sense of instability from an everlasting seeming delay is far worse.

All politics is personal. And the impact on the public mood of a constantly deferred Brexit – of that plaster being torn painfully bit by bit instead of being ripped off – is potentially far more significant than any economic uncertainty. As we stare down the barrel of another extension, it is starting to look like a nation’s mental health is at stake.

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I’m not sure I buy this idea that the Remain side is dominated by the younger generation who must be allowed to set the agenda as it is their world now.

A friend of mine told me she had joined an anti-Brexit demonstration and was appalled to discover that far from being among the enlightened, she found herself surrounded by ladies-who-lunch, all spouting ill-informed drivel.

This friend then asked me for the first time to explain my point of view as a Brexit voter. I did my best to do so.

Then I asked her to explain how she felt and told her I wished there was a middle way. It’s a shame it has taken so long and that we have had to be brought to this point before empathy is possible.

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While I’m baffled by Greta Thunberg, not least because she is the only 16-year-old I know who wears her hair in a plaited pigtail, I do feel sorry for climate change protesters, because a lot of them look genuinely terrified.

Those once sensible folk marauding through our streets crying about the world coming to an end could well be victims of the rise of secularism.

If you conducted a poll of the demonstrators, I fancy it would reveal that the vast majority lack any kind of belief in a guiding force that is keeping us safe in the face of myriad threats.

The march of atheism is the real route to extinction, because it makes us feel hopeless. I know it is a mistake to let myself imagine that I can control the outcome of anything, never mind save the world. The idea there is something bigger than mankind looking after the planet may not be fashionable but it is the fastest route to sanity.

I don’t suppose the people who glue themselves to trains want to hear they are having zero effect, but it happens to make me feel better.

Melissa Kite is a contributing editor of the Spectator