Atheism: Why the UK is losing its religion

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Atheism in the UK has reached record levels, so why are people losing faith?


“Only church leaders possess states without defending them and subjects without governing them.” So said Renaissance philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli in his historical treatise The Prince. Religion, he suggests, is a political necessity, the tool of a ruling class unable to rationally legitimise the massive social inequality of feudal society.

Whilst such a system might seem positively medieval to us now, in the age of the 1 and the 99% and lease-only housing in the capital, it seems that the legacy of ye olde, aristocratic Britannia might not be so remote. Religious states still exist also – Saudi ‘women can’t drive’ Arabia, for instance – and ‘secular’ Britain must count itself as one of only two sovereign states in the world to theocratically maintain the presence of unelected bishops within their political system (the House of Lords). The other is Iran.

But the times they are a-changing, and if the world wars of the 20th century began to erode religious faith in the west, then the proliferation of the world wide web has only exacerbated that process. “Religions have depended on the relative isolation and ignorance of their flocks, forever, and this is all breaking down,” asserts Daniel C. Dennett, the co-director of Tufts’ Centre for Cognitive Studies.

Dennett’s theory is certainly lent support by a recent YouGov poll, which found that “the place of religion in the lives of young Britons is smaller than ever.” Asked by YouGov which figures had any influence whatsoever on their lives, only 12% of British 18-24 year olds said religious leaders influenced them, less than half the number influenced by brands (32%) and politicians (38%), and significantly lower than those influenced by celebrities (21%).

Written By: Robert Hall
continue to source article at planetivy.com

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    • In reply to #1 by sycorax:

      Judging by David Cameron’s recent “Sincere greetings to everyone observing the ‘Holy month’ of ramadan…” message to the Muslim Community he isn’t keen on Young British Muslims losing their faith in Islam?
      Possibly he wants to form his next alliance not with Clegg but Islam.

      http://www.youtube.c

      Cameron is a politician. Politicians should only be taken seriously in as much as they are in a position to re-arrange our business for us while knowing sod all of their own. They are like oily spivs and talking bolox to the impressionable is the tools of their politic.

    • In reply to #1 by sycorax:

      Judging by David Cameron’s recent “Sincere greetings to everyone observing the ‘Holy month’ of ramadan…” message to the Muslim Community he isn’t keen on Young British Muslims losing their faith in Islam?
      Possibly he wants to form his next alliance not with Clegg but Islam.

      http://www.youtube.c

      Thanks for the link.
      I can’t decide whether Cameron’s speech is more patronizing than sycophantic or more boot-licking than patronizing, though certainly both.
      Do British politicians always talk this way to their subjects?, “dear” citizens?, or whatever? Sort of scary.

      Gee ! If I were a Muslim, I’m not sure I’d be all that thrilled with the rhetoric. If he’s so enthralled with the One True Faith, why doesn’t he just convert, or just go lick some other boots?

  1. I’m not sure it is helpful to dwell on Cameron, his politics, or his authority (or lack thereof) to opine on religious matters. Suffice to say he’s the first British (and possibly western?) leader to appoint a Minister for Faith, the Muslim Baroness Warsi, a cabinet minister who has never faced a democratic election and won (hence her elevation to the House of Lords).

    1.4% of us attend a weekly Church of England service, only 1.2% of under-16s. All Christian denominations together might account for 4% of us. The average age of CofE congregations and priests is over 60 and increasing. The Bible Society and the CofE’s own research (led by Andreas Whittam-Smith, founder of the Independent newspaper), both suggest that the CofE will be functionally extinct within 20 or 30 years, simply as a result of demographics.

    I take considerable pride in this, and wish other countries – especially America – would hurry up and join us.

    Reason can prevail, and we are proving it.

  2. The problem with polls is people will tell you what they think the pollster wants to hear, what will make them look good. We have seen, for example, how they grossly exaggerate church attendance.

    Such a poll, does not mean much as an absolute measure, just how it trends.

    I wish there were a way of figuring out what the influences really are.

  3. People in UK especially the cities… realised long ago that they have more similarities than differences and previous hate between groups began to be expressed in non violent ways like sport, music and food, etc… which led to a mutual understanding and allowed walls to come down…State schools were secular in general…and all of the above instilled a sense of national secular identity with a consensus of equal respect….Re shuffling the old definitions of one or the other “group” to a new wiser and wider all inclusive “group”….and one which is all the richer and more open minded for the various traditions woven through it…

  4. “Suffice to say he’s the first British (and possibly western?) leader to appoint a Minister for Faith, the Muslim Baroness Warsi,”

    What on Earth is a Minister for Faith?

    Chuckle, chuckle! ROFL!

  5. In reply to #8 by Alan4discussion:

    It is an appointment of politically “correct” multicultural tokenism, which allows her to regularly demonstrate the foot-in-mouth aspects of “faith-thinking”!

    I must confess to never having heard the phrase politically correct multicultural tokenism outside the pages of Private Eye and its From The Message Boards feature.

    Thanks for letting me know it isn’t made up and some people do actually talk like that.

  6. I’d be a little bit careful before celebrating this. Firstly whilst the traditional mainstream churches are in decline along with religion overall, there does seem to be an alarming number of Brits converting to either the more evangelical, fundamentalist branches of Christianity and to Islam. For conversions to Islam we only really have estimates but even the most conservative put it at 5000 per year. Extrapolating figures from Scotland, which asks for religion as a baby on its census as well as chosen current one, puts the figures at 61,000 converts in the last ten years.

    In addition to that there are the younger Muslims from moderately Muslim backgrounds who have embraced a more hard line version much to the bewilderment of their parents who fought against it. Girls whose mothers have never worn a hijab opting for one for example. Faced with the warm fuzziness of large numbers of members of the CofE or much smaller numbers of fundamentalist Muslims and Christians, I think I’d be happier with the former.

    Secondly I’m not sure how much Dennett’s assessment of religion requiring isolation and ignorance applies to the UK, if at all. Ignorance, lack of education and low IQs are not traits I’d associate with the typical CofE or RC congregations here. They tend more to a middle class demographic with the more disadvantaged being less inclined to any church at all. The correlations between belief and education seems to be an American phenomenon.

    Even then I’m not sure it is stupidity that makes those people religious so much as desperation in a country without much hope for the poor and dispossessed. Here and in largely secular Europe we have not had the large scale problems the US has had with religious lunatics and I’m sure that owes more to our welfare state than anything else. I think we probably need to look at other motivators for belief here, stupidity and even blind superstition don’t seem to fit the data well at all.

    • In reply to #12 by PG:

      “61,000 converts in the last ten years” (to Islam) means one person in 10,000 per year. I’m really not bothered about that, and suspect the traffic in the opposite direction is at least as great (I know a few apostates, not all of whom are out of the closet).

      There is some growth in Pentacostalism, mostly amongst the Afro-Caribbean community, but that’s included in the percentages I quoted. Somewhere approaching a million pitch up weekly at a CofE service, a little less for Catholicism. Methodists and Baptists turn out around the 300,000 mark apiece, give or take, and best estimates are that the (many) Pentacostal etc churches manage a similar number. So fewer that 3 million people of all Christian denominations a week go to church – maybe 4.5% of us in a good week?

      That is a colossal decline from say 50 years ago when I was a child.

      Also, a fair number of these people are pew-warmers, ingratiating themselves with the church to get a vicar’s letter to ease their passage into the local faith school at taxpayers’ expense, because of the common perception that faith schools are educationally superior. (They may appear to be, because they select against people who would drag down their averages, but that’s a whole new topic).

      • In reply to #14 by Stevehill:

        In reply to #12 by PG:

        “61,000 converts in the last ten years” (to Islam) means one person in 10,000 per year. I’m really not bothered about that, and suspect the traffic in the opposite direction is at least as great (I know a few apostates, not all of whom are out of the closet

        HI Steve Hill, I wouldn’t dispute your figures at all and know a fair few apostates as well, my spouse for starters, but my point was how vocal are the new converts compared with the declining old guard. Part of my point was those leaving would have represented no real problem had they stayed whilst those joining are more often hard line, Wahibi, Saudi inspired, backward looking Muslims. Ten apostates probably doesn’t really balance out one Anjem Choudhery inspired jihadist with an axe.

        I could work in a room full of Anglicans or Catholics and not know they were religious or hear anything particularly offensive – and indeed have done. I know Muslims in their thirties and forties who have been born and raised here and have moved well away from their parents ideas and comfortably into the modern secular world. None of the above groups would have caused any trouble at all nor wanted to.

        However the children of those Muslims are beginning to cause new problems. In schools female teachers have real problems with blatant sexism from such groups (not solely from those groups but they do present a specific problem). They are moving to a more extreme form of Islam. Parents are despairing at their daughters choosing things like the burkha.

        Converts to the more extreme ends of the Christian religion are equally problematic. They are the ones very vocally pushing to have creationism and homophobic attitudes taught in schools. They are the ones trying to convert people in the work place. They are far from restricted to the Afro Caribbean community and are the only churches growing in numbers around here. So whilst religion is declining overall, the numbers of lunatics as a percentage seems to be increasing.

        What I’m trying to say is the decline seems to be with the more sane, normal and pleasant branches of religion – the jam, fetes and carol concert ones. And as the reasons for needing to believe something are myriad and complex, my concern is that what is available is increasingly unpleasant.

        And I’m also concerned at extrapolating Dennett’s findings in the US to here and thinking education/IQ are the only factors. They are a technologically advanced nation with an education system. So are we. They have had major problems with religion, we haven’t really. Their religious lunatics are drawn from the poor and dispossessed, there is no such correlation here at all. We need our own analysis of the situation to reflect the pertinent issues here in more detail rather than relying on what is pertinent to the US. Personally I think the existence of a social safety net and opportunities are bigger aids to getting rid of belief once and for all but that is just opinion.

  7. I won’t think of GB as a progressive nation until we can free ourselves of state sponsored brainwashing around the issue of monarchy. Lest we forget, the head of state is also the head of the established church and claims divine right to rule us as subjects; to be head of the army, the state and judicial system.
    If we can get over this medieval subservience I will think we are making progress; not likely given the almost fanatical devotion and enthusiasm show by the media in this country for propping up this symbol of inequality in perpetuity.

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