After the recent release of statistics suggesting the diminishing prospect of religion, it needs to be asked whether religion still has a place in society, whether it will be respected by future generations and if it will eventually die out.
St Mary’s University, Twickenham, recently presented results of a survey suggesting 48.5% of the population in 2014 defined themselves has having ‘no religion’ – almost double the results for non-religious people in the 2011 census. (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/may/23/no-religion-outnumber-christians-england-wales-study)
Religion has always been a prominent part of British society, particularly Christianity, with the Church of England being the official religion of the country with state connections. If the Church loses significance and influence in society, a real change in societal structures would be needed. For example, the monarchy is considered the ‘Defender of the Faith’ for the Church of England and so this would need adapting. However, a less traditionally religious monarchy in the future could alter this duty anyway. Bishops also still have the right to sit in and vote in the House of Lords, a key political influence of the church.
Religious pluralism is evident in the UK, with many religions present in our society. Despite this survey showing an increase in non-religious people, Hindu membership in the UK has more than doubled in the last forty years. This suggests that perhaps change is happening in the country with a more equal balance of different religions rather than a core Christian Church at the centre of society. Nonetheless, Christianity is still the largest worldwide religion with over 2 billion followers, followed by Islam and then Hinduism.
What is obvious from this data and other survey results is that religion is losing influence after each generation. Some would suggest that religion is not imposed in child socialisation as it used to be. The survey shows that despite over a third of the UK population being brought up Anglican, only a fifth now identify as such. The less religious socialisation that occurs and as each generation cares less about religion, the faster it will decrease. 50% of all Christians in England and Wales are over the age of 55, and this age will undoubtedly increase. Current youthful generations share completely different morals and values to what the Church of England and many other religions promote which may be why religion is decreasing. I believe that a revolution of the church is absolutely necessary in order for it to be accessible for even more people. The hierarchy of the church must be deconstructed and the core beliefs should be promoted, without the redundant practices and ideas that are no longer needed.
Surveys and data suggest religion will slowly deplete until they are non-existent. Some would suggest we would then live in an atheist society, bounded by science, rationality and logic. However, the Church of England responded to the survey with a statement saying the survey suggests “a growing plurality in society rather than any increase in secularism or humanism. We do not have an increasingly secular society as much as a more agnostic one”.
Faith is still evidently important in society but perhaps religion itself is losing significance. Different versions, adaptions and denominations of main religions are emerging to suit the spiritual needs of society and this may be the way forward. Belief does not necessarily mean belonging and the label of a certain religion may not appeal to some. However, the belief in the supernatural and non-physical may still be prevalent, despite the decrease in religious adherence.
Words by Will Moore
– This post was an article written for The Indiependent, a link for which can be found on the ‘about‘ page.