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Religion and society in modern Britain

With over 170 distinct religions counted in the 2001 Census, the religious make-up of the UK is diverse, complex, multicultural and surprising. Less than half of the British people believe in a God and the latest British Social Attitudes results saw over 50% say they're not religious. Yet for some reason about 72% told the 2001 census that they were Christian. 66% of the population have no actual connection to any religion or church, despite what they tend to write down on official forms. Between 1979 and 2005, half of all Christians stopped going to church on a Sunday. Religion in Britain has suffered an immense decline since the 1950s. Four in five britons want religion to be private, not public, and have no place in politics. All indicators show a continued secularization of British society in line with other European countries such as France.

The primary social research tool in Britain is the British Social Attitudes Survey, an annual mini-census. The latest published results are for 2009 and show that 'No religion' was stated by 50.7% of the UK population. A few years before that, comprehensive professional research in 2006 by Tearfund found that two thirds (66% - 32.2 million people) in the UK have no connection with any religion or church. In 2003 August, only 18% of the British public said they were a practicing member of an organized religion, 25% they were members of a world religion. According to these results, one fifth of self-declared members would also not describe themselves as practicing that religion. Presumably the others remain members for traditional reasons or due to social pressure (Steve Bruce, 2006).

Tearfund (2007) on 2006 research

1964 1970 1983 1992 2005

Belong to a religion 74% 71% 55% 37% 31%

and attend services

Does not belong 3% 5% 26% 31% 38%

Those who 'do not belong' have first shed the practical and theoretical underpinnings of their religion, before finally overcoming social pressure to state 'your' religion. There are many who are not at the later stages of this secularisation process, so they still say they 'belong', although they are in the process of forgetting and discarding the physical and mental aspects of what they say they belong to. Sociologists know that if they count heads and ask about beliefs, more people say they belong to a religion, and say they have the beliefs of a particular religion, than actually do. People over-state their own religiosity; that's why statistics from polls will often give higher percentages of 'believers' than will head-counting and deeper investigations.

Currently, regular church attendance in the United Kingdom stands at 6% of the population with the average age of the attendee being 51. This shows a decline in church attendance since 1980 when regular attendance stood at 11% with an average age of 37. It is predicted that by 2020, attendance will be around 4% with an average age of 56. This decline in church attendance has forced many churches to close down across the United Kingdom with the Church Of England alone being forced to close 1,500 churches between 1969 and 2002. Their fates include dereliction, demolishion and residential conversion (Steve Bruce, 2005).

Though the main political parties are secular, the formation of the Labour Party was influenced by Christian socialism and by leaders from a nonconformist background, such as KeirHardie. On the other hand, the Church of England has sometimes been nicknamed "the Conservative Party at prayer".

Some minor parties are explicitly 'religious' in ideology: two 'Christian' parties - the Christian Party and the Christian Peoples Alliance, fielded joint candidates at the 2009 European Parliament elections and increased their share of the vote to come eighth, with 249,493 votes (1.6 percent of total votes cast), and in London, where the CPA had three councillors, the Christian parties picked up 51,336 votes (2.9 percent of the vote), up slightly from the 45,038 gained in 2004.

The Church of England is represented in the UK Parliament by 26 bishops (the Lords Spiritual) and the British monarch is a member of the church (required under Article 2 of the Treaty of Union) as well as its Supreme Governor. The Lords Spiritual have seats in the House of Lords and debate government policies affecting the whole of the United Kingdom. The Church of England also has the right to draft legislative measures (related to religious administration) through the General Synod that can then be passed into law by Parliament. The Prime Minister, regardless of personal beliefs, plays a key role in the appointment of Church of England bishops, although in July 2007 Gordon Brown proposed reforms of the Prime Minister's ability to affect Church of England appointments.

Religious Education and Collective Worship are compulsory in many state schools in England and Wales by virtue of clauses 69 and 70 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998. Clause 71 of the act gives parents the right to withdraw their children from Religious Education and Collective Worship and parents should be informed of their right in accordance with guidelines published by the Department for Education; "a school should ensure parents or carers are informed of this right". The content of the religious education is decided locally by the Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education.

In England and Wales, a significant number of state funded schools are faith schools with the vast majority Christian though there are also Jewish, Muslim and Sikh faith schools. Faith schools follow the same national curriculum as state schools, though with the added ethos of the host religion. Until 1944 there was no requirement for state schools to provide religious education or worship, although most did so. The Education Act 1944 introduced a requirement for a daily act of collective worship and for religious education but did not define what was allowable under these terms. The act contained provisions to allow parents to withdraw their children from these activities and for teachers to refuse to participate. The Education Reform Act 1988 introduced a further requirement that the majority of collective worship be "wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character" (Paul Avis, 2004).

In Scotland, the majority of schools are non-denominational, but separate Roman Catholic schools, with an element of control by the Roman Catholic Church, are provided within the state system. The Education (Scotland) Act 1980 imposes a statutory duty on all local authorities to provide religious education and religious observance in Scottish schools. These are currently defined by the Scottish Government's Curriculum for Excellence (2005).

Northern Ireland has a highly segregated education system. 95% of pupils attend either maintained (Catholic) schools or controlled schools, which are open to children of all faiths and none, though in practice most pupils are from the Protestant community.

Prisoners are given religious freedom and privileges while in prison. This includes access to a chaplain or religious advisor, authorized religious reading materials, ability to change faith, as well as other privileges. Several faith-based outreach programs that provide faith promoting guidance and counceling.

Every three months, the Ministry of Justice collects data, including religious affiliation, of UK prisoners and is published as the Offender Management Caseload Statistics. This data is then compiled in to reports and published in the House of Commons library. A comparison with the major surveys of UK adult individuals, the British Social Attitudes and the European Social Surveys. Religious representation is greater for prisoners serving a sentence of at least four years than for those of shorter terms.

Methodology for obtaining data is substantially different between the British Social Attitudes Survey and the Ministry of Justice reports. Prisoners provide the Ministry of Justice their religious preference/beliefs in order to receive respective religious privileges.




Religion in the United Kingdom has been dominated for over 1400 years by various forms of Christianity. According to some surveys, a majority of citizens still identify with Christianity, despite the fall of regular church attendance.

There are two major and state religions in Britain: the Church of England or Anglican Church and the Church of Scotland or 'Kirk'. These are Protestant Churches.The essential beliefs of Anglican church is defined by the Lambeth Quadrilateral which states four elements: the Bible, the Nicene Creed, baptism and Holy Communion. The Church of England has maintained close connections with the state and has representative bishops in the House of Lords.

The Church of Scotland accepts the doctrine of the Holy Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It also has close touch with the Parlament but unlike the Church of England does not have to take orders from the gavernment. The Church was given freedom from interference in spiritual matters.

Besides these two Churches there are many minor religions in Great Britain. There are at least five of them with a substantial number of adherents in Britain. These are usually composed of either immigrants or the descendants of immigrants.One is Jewish that is divided into religious groups. The largest groups are Orthodox, Sephardic Orthodox and Progressive (the Reform and Liberal branches).Others are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Muslims that aredivided into different sects and traditions - modernists and traditionalists.

Britain is a multi-faith society in which everyone has the right to religious freedom. Although Britain Christian society, people are usually very tolerant towards the faiths of others and those who have no religious beliefs.



Anglicanism – a tradition within Christianity comprising churches with historical connections to the Church of England or similar beliefs, worship and church structures.

Barbara Clementine Harris (born 12 June 1930 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) – the first woman ordained a bishop in the Anglican Communion.

Buddhism – a religion indigenous to the Indian subcontinent that encompasses a variety of traditions, beliefs, and practices largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, who is commonly known as the Buddha.

ECUSA (also officially known as the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America) – a mainline Anglican Christian denomination found mainly in the United States

Hinduism – the predominant religion of the Indian subcontinent, and one of its indigenous religions.

Holy Communion– a Christian sacrament or ordinance.

Islam – a monotheistic and Abrahamic religion articulated by the Qur'an, a text considered by its adherents to be the verbatim word of God and by the teachings and normative example (called the Sunnah and composed of Hadith) of Muhammad, considered by them to be the last prophet of God.

James Gordon Brown (born 20 February 1951) – a British Labour Party politician who was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Labour Party from 2007until 2010.

James KeirHardie, Sr. (15 August 1856 – 26 September 1915) – a Scottish socialistand labour leader, and was the first Independent Labour Member of Parliament elected to the Parliament of the United Kingdom.

Judaism – the religion,philosophy and way of life of the Jewish people.

Mary Douglas Glasspool (born February 23, 1954) – a suffragan bishop in the Diocese of Los Angeles in the Episcopal Church in the United States of America.

Neo-paganism – an umbrella term referring to a variety of contemporary religious movements, particularly those influenced by or claiming to be derived from the various historical pagan beliefs of pre-modern Europe.

Protestantism – one of the major divisions within Christianity.

Religious pluralism – an attitude or policy regarding the diversity of religious belief systems co-existing in society.

Sikhism– a monotheistic religion founded during the 15th century in the Punjab region, by Guru Nanak Dev.

The Bible –acanonical collection of texts considered sacred in Judaism or Christianity.

The Nicene Creed – the creed or profession of faith that is most widely used in Christian liturgy.

Vicky Gene Robinson (born May 29, 1947 in Fayette County, Kentucky) – the ninthbishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire in the Episcopal Church in the United States of America.

William Reed Huntington (1838–1909) – an American Episcopal priest and author.


Date: 2015-04-20; view: 34884

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