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Trinity College Dublin Christian Engagement in a Secular World? Dr Gladys Ganiel TCD at Belfast

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Presentation on theme: "Trinity College Dublin Christian Engagement in a Secular World? Dr Gladys Ganiel TCD at Belfast"— Presentation transcript:

1 Trinity College Dublin Christian Engagement in a Secular World? Dr Gladys Ganiel TCD at Belfast

2 Trinity College Dublin What is Secularisation? The disconnecting of the relationship between church and state Decline in religious practice (church-going) Decline in belief in traditional or ‘orthodox’ Christian beliefs in the West Decline in belief in God

3 Trinity College Dublin Is Secularisation ‘Inevitable’? On present trends, which there is no reason to think will be reversed, the Methodist Church will finally disappear in about 2031 and the Church of England will by then be reduced to "a trivial voluntary association with a large portfolio of heritage property". (book review by Anthony Campbell)

4 Trinity College Dublin The Onion, ‘God Hinting at Retirement’ Attempting to downplay such concerns, God told reporters that he wasn't "going anywhere just yet" and that, in any case, the universe was largely self- sustaining these days. "This place pretty much runs itself by now," the Lord said. "And besides, how many people still notice I'm around? To be frank, I'm not even sure I'm much more than a beloved figurehead at this point.“ … "Maybe I'll visit Europe," God said. "I've never been in the Vatican, and I've heard it's supposed to be beautiful."

5 Trinity College Dublin Grace Davie: Believing Without Belonging Davie’s argument is that people may no longer go to church, but they continue to believe in God, the afterlife, the supernatural etc, in surprisingly large numbers

6 Trinity College Dublin What about Northern Ireland? Traditional social scientific indicators of secularisation buck European trends

7 Trinity College Dublin The lay of the land: Denominations Catholic37% Presbyterian22% Church of Ireland17% Methodist4% Other Christian7% Other religion and philosophies >1% No religion or not stated13%

8 Trinity College Dublin Decline in Weekly Church Attendance

9 Trinity College Dublin Belief in God

10 Trinity College Dublin Vacant Seats and Empty Pews Bernadette Hayes and Lizanne Dowds report on 2008 NI Life and Times Survey, lications/updates/updat e65.pdf

11 Trinity College Dublin Vacant Seats and Empty Pews 80% of NI population identifies with one of the main religious denominations, though in 1968 it was 96% In last 10 yrs ‘no religion’ has grown to be fourth largest Since early 1990s, decline in attendance among no religion have declined sharply, especially among Catholics

12 Trinity College Dublin Vacant Seats and Empty Pews The decline in weekly levels of religious observation has been replaced by less frequent attendance rather than by no attendance at all A majority of people in NI still believe in God, even among those who do not attend church on a weekly basis, But …

13 Trinity College Dublin Vacant Seats and Empty Pews Those who claim a religious affiliation but do not attend religious services on a weekly basis has now become the norm for the majority of individuals in Northern Ireland

14 Trinity College Dublin Iona Institute Survey Religious Knowledge in Northern Ireland (2007) sets/files/NI_religion_p oll.pdf

15 Trinity College Dublin Iona Institute Poll

16 Trinity College Dublin Iona Institute Poll

17 Trinity College Dublin Church Attendance Among Presbyterians Duncan Morrow, ‘Presbyterians in Northern Ireland: Living in a Society in Transition,’ ublications/updates/up date21.pdf

18 Trinity College Dublin Trajectories? Retrenchment – looking after your own Pietism or Privatisation Condemnation of the secular world Nostalgia for the way it used to be Selective socio-political engagement around ‘moral’ issues See Ganiel, Evangelicalism and Conflict in Northern Ireland

19 Trinity College Dublin Trajectories ‘Resident Aliens’ ‘Not of this world’ The ‘kingdom’ of God is bigger than the church Engagement as one ‘interest group’ among others – faithful witness It is good to be free of a relationship with political power

20 Trinity College Dublin Trajectories – Leaving People choose to leave their churches (and in some cases their belief in God) because of intellectual doubts, negative experiences of church (personal and political), harsh moral codes – but reluctant to claim atheism (Claire Mitchell and Gladys Ganiel, Evangelical Journeys: Choice and Change in a Northern Irish Religious Subculture, 2011)

21 Trinity College Dublin Trajectories – Disillusionment with the institutional church Some of those who believe but don’t ‘belong’ to churches are quite passive and take little interest in the church; Others ‘believe’ quite passionately but think that the church is a big problem.

22 Trinity College Dublin What’s happening outside church institutions? Post-evangelicalism The emerging church, the emergent church, emergence Christianity Pub Christianity

23 Trinity College Dublin Critique of the (evangelical) churches The churches have been interested in the wrong issues (sexual matters, personal morality; in NI – unionist politics) Churches should be more concerned with social justice Reject literalist reading of the bible Churches have created unrealistic expectations & images of Christ Doubt should be embraced, not resisted

24 Trinity College Dublin

25 ‘Churches should carry warning labels, like cigarettes: Churches can seriously damage your health.’ – emerging Christian, Belfast

26 Trinity College Dublin Everybody in Northern Ireland has had a conversion experience as a teenager, and clearly for most of those people it didn’t work out. I’m not saying that they don’t bear a degree of responsibility for what they do after having a conversion experience but when you’re 14 and you go forward at a meeting and you cry and you feel like you are going to go to hell if you don’t do this, and when someone tells you afterwards – not using these words – even though you’re 14, and you like to stay up late, and you don’t get up early for school, and you have difficulty at home, what you have to do to maintain this faith commitment is to read the Bible every morning, with Bible reading notes. And if you’re an adolescent male, to not masturbate. And the reason I use those examples are adolescent males don’t get up early, they don’t read, and they’re adolescent males, and they’re going through normal human development. And there seems to be a culture within conversionist, conservative evangelical movements that have dominated in Northern Ireland that actually impede normal human development. – emerging Christian, Belfast

27 Trinity College Dublin Alternatives? Reform of Church Institutions A ‘cultural update’ approach ‘Seeker’ churches Some pub churches Calling the church back to concern for social justice

28 Trinity College Dublin Alternatives? Alternative Institutions House churches, home groups ‘Emerging churches’ ‘Collectives’ (i.e. Ikon in Belfast)

29 Trinity College Dublin These alternative groups may be a person’s primary religious community; or people may attend a traditional church as well as interact with their alternative community …

30 Trinity College Dublin Alternatives?: Religionless Christianity John Carroll, The Existential Jesus In this book, Jesus is presented as a strong critic of religious institutions and leaders The establishment of the church is portrayed as a sort of consolation prize for people who can’t follow Jesus or don’t understand what he was really about

31 Trinity College Dublin Alternatives? Religionless Christianity Peter Rollins, The Fidelity of Betrayal Christianity is not a set of beliefs about God, but a critique of all religion. It is especially a critique of religions that align themselves with social and political power. The central task of Christians, then, is to interrogate their own religious beliefs and institutions, with an emphasis on discerning how they exclude or oppress the poor and the outcasts.

32 Trinity College Dublin Alternatives? Religionless Christianity Kester Brewin, Other Brewin on anarchist Hakim Bey’s ‘Temporary Autonomous Zones’ (TAZ) or ‘pirate utopias’ The operate outside the constraints of the dominant religious, political & social systems, providing space for freedom & love

33 Trinity College Dublin Alternatives? Religionless Christianity The idea is that religious institutions are at best flawed, at worst inherently harmful for people. Christianity should be de-institutionalised But where does that leave community, accountability and our traditional church structures?

34 Trinity College Dublin Is Christianity Doomed? What trajectories for social and political engagement seem most promising to you? Can ‘emerging’ critiques revitalise Christianity? How can and should existing churches engage with these critiques and alternative expressions of Christianity?

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