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The Changing State of Religion in Contemporary Britain.

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Presentation on theme: "The Changing State of Religion in Contemporary Britain."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Changing State of Religion in Contemporary Britain

2 From Christian to Post-Christian Society? Britain had “a degree of moral consensus such as few large societies have ever manifested…Britain is still generally a Christian country”. (Edward Shils and Michael Young, following the Coronation in 1953)

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4 1. Perception that Christianity has lost its position of dominance. 2. Religious traditions increasingly viewed as part of a broader global context. 3. Power of the media to shape the presentation of religion in British life Emerging Themes…

5 1. Christianity as a contested tradition…

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7 The religious profile of England and Wales according to national census data Christian71.75%59.30% Muslim2.97%4.80% Jewish0.50% Hindu1.06%1.50% Sikh0.63%0.80% Buddhist0.28%0.40% Other0.29%0.40% No Religion14.81%25.10% Not Stated7.71%7.20% N52,041,91656,075,912

8 million in church11.7% million in church9.9% million in church7.5% million in church6.3% ENGLISH CHURCH CENSUS: KEY FINDINGS

9 Christianity carrying associations of national identity, a vehicle for ‘Britishness’?

10 Christianity as an ambient identity marker?

11 Common phrases in English language that have their origins in the King James version of the Bible… ‘A broken heart’ (Psalms 34:18) ‘A cross to bear (Luke 14:27) ‘A labour of love’ (1 Thessalonians 1:3) ‘A leopard cannot change its spots’ (Jeremiah 13:23) ‘A sign of the times’ (Matthew 16:3) ‘A double-edged sword’ (Proverbs 5:4) ‘All things to all men’ (1 Corinthians 9:22) ‘As old as the hills’ (Job 15:7) ‘At his wits end’ (Psalms 107:27) ‘Baptism of fire’ (Matthew 3:11) ‘Bite the dust’ (Psalms 72:9) ‘By the skin of your teeth’ (Job 19:20) ‘Go the extra mile’ (Matthew 5:41) ‘Give up the Ghost’ (Acts 12:23) ‘The writing is on the wall’ (Daniel 5:5-6) ‘Woe is me’ (Job 10:15)

12 “The subjective turn is thus a turn away from ‘life-as’ (life lived as a dutiful wife, father, husband, strong leader, self-made man etc.) to ‘subjective-life’ (life lived in deep connection with the unique experiences of my self-in-relation).” (Heelas and Woodhead, 2005: 3)

13 Secularism and the New Atheism: Non-religion as a new identity?

14 Changing levels of self-identification for major religious groups in Britain ( ) [source: British Social Attitudes Survey]

15 2. Religious movements as global – rather than British - phenomena

16 The ongoing significance of population change and patterns of migration Increasing social mobility and geographical movement – implications for community? Religion as bound up in expressions of ethnic difference for those marginalised from the dominant (white) centre? The EU and freedom of labour – heightened presence of migrant workers, some importing their own expressions of Christianity

17 Kingsway International Christian Fellowship, Walthamstow, London. Largest church in the UK? 10,000 members, mostly of African descent.

18 “…the fact that the evangelicals overall declined at only half the rate of non- evangelicals was almost entirely due to the huge increase in non-white evangelicals.” (Brierley, Pulling Out of the Nosedive, p. 98)

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20 The American influence on British churches

21 Billy Graham, Trafalgar Square, 1954

22 The power of the brand...

23 Kingsway International Christian Centre, London Abundant Life Church, Bradford Varieties of Large Church in the UK

24 Vineyard Church, St Alban’s Calvary Chapel, Florida

25 3. How the media shapes the public presentation of religion

26 Communication and Information Technologies A Network Society...? Bypassing traditional constraints…?

27 Religious Reality TV - media mutating religion into consumer entertainment…? The Retreat

28 “Many of us saw religion as harmless nonsense. Beliefs might lack all supporting evidence but, we thought, if people needed a crutch for consolation, where's the harm? September 11th changed all that. Revealed faith is not harmless nonsense, it can be lethally dangerous nonsense. Dangerous because it gives people unshakeable confidence in their own righteousness. Dangerous because it gives them false courage to kill themselves, which automatically removes normal barriers to killing others. Dangerous because it teaches enmity to others labelled only by a difference of inherited tradition. And dangerous because we have all bought into a weird respect, which uniquely protects religion from normal criticism. Let's now stop being so damned respectful! ” Richard Dawkins, The Guardian, 26 th January, 2006.

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31 ‘The Root of all Evil’ TV series S6LU S6LU Missing clips from interview with Alistair McGrath: ed The tendentiousness of media output…

32 Religion in Britain: a question of mapping a profile or landscape Religion in relation to Britain: a question of a changing cultural relationship Conclusions? Do religious phenomena reinforce or challenge existing understandings of British identity? Who frames the public debate about religion? In whose interests?

33 “In a detraditionalized world of deregulated religion, it is hardly surprising that new alliances are formed, or that new combinations are sought from the fragments of older, once coherent cultural forms. These players in the plot – social actors – deserve to be taken more seriously that they often were by secularization theorists. They seek credible ways of expressing faith in contemporary modes, but outside the walls of conventional churches.” (David Lyon, 2000: 17) Deregulation of Religion…

34 Suggested Further Reading Brown, Callum G. (2006) Religion and Society in Twentieth Century Britain, Longman. (chapters 6 & 7) Brown, Callum G. (2009) The Death of Christian Britain (2 nd ed.), London and New York: Routledge. Bruce, Steve (2002) God is Dead: Secularization in the West, Oxford: Blackwell. Chambers, Paul (2005) Religion, Secularization and Social Change in Wales: Congregational Studies in a Post-Christian Society, University of Wales Press. Davie, Grace (1994) Religion in Britain Since 1945: Believing Without Belonging, Oxford: Blackwell. Garnett, Jane et al (eds) (2007) Redefining Christian Britain: Post-1945 Perspectives, London: SCM. Heelas, Paul and Woodhead, Linda (2005) The Spiritual Revolution: Why Religion is Giving Way to Spirituality, Malden, MA; Oxford; Carlton: Blackwell. Voas, David (2003) “Is Britain a Christian Country?”, in Paul Avis (ed.) Public Faith? The State of Religious Belief and Practice in Britain, London: SPCK. Weller, Paul (2009) Religious Diversity in the UK: Contours and Issues, Continuum. Woodhead, Linda and Rebecca Catto (eds) (2012) Religion and Change in Modern Britain, London: Routledge.


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