England’s culture is far less religious than that of the United States. Mainly experts attribute this to the centuries of religious infighting and reprisals between rivaling institutions leading up to the modern era. Shine a light on the religious history of England, as well as other more atheistic cultures. Explore why those cultures have gravitated towards atheism and how this shift affects the people as a whole.
I think several hundred years of wars has a lot to do with it. I don’t think you can walk a block in England or in Europe without stepping over ground that blood was spilled for king and god.
I don’t think it’s our history of religious warfare that is responsible for the decline in religion. Arguably the centuries with the most heightened religiosity were the 16th and 17th and they were also the centuries of the most religious bloodshed. That would suggest that the best thing you could do to restore religious fervour in Britain is to declare war on the Papacy. A big part of our religious identity was built on the superiority of protestantism which is something that declined in tandem with our status on the world stage.
Part of the reason why the United Kingdom has a less Christian dominated culture is that we have a state church. In the U.S there has effectively been a free market in terms of religious movements from the very beginning, whereas in England the Anglican church was dominant and made membership a requirement for attaining certain offices. In fact we still have a law that says the monarch cannot be a Catholic. I think if you have true separation of Church and state it allows religion to prosper in many ways. The C of E became weakened significantly in the 1960s and now it is in complete decline. That said, according to polls, the belief of the population seem to have transferred to ‘belief in a higher power’ and an impressive amount of people believe in completely irrational things.
I think probably the biggest reason the U.S is so religious is that it is an immigrant society formed of different groups of people from different countries retaining ties with one another through their native culture and beliefs. ‘Religio’ comes from the Latin ‘to bind’ and shared faith traditions are important in a society of people with no shared origin.
Perhaps these little snippets from http://www.cofe.anglican.org can shed some insight:
The history of the Church of England from the 18th century onwards has been enriched by the co-existence within it of three broad traditions, the Evangelical, the Catholic and the Liberal.
Enriched? Co-existence? How much infighting occurred before they determined the “three broad traditions” enriched one another and that they could and should co-exist? (Good thing they were “broad” traditions!) Don’t you just love how the ole Church applies a positive spin on what had to have been turbulent times just to maintain an illusion of unity? Seems to me that the C of E realized that in order to maintain power they had to put forth a face of unity.
Here’s how they break down the contributions of each “broad tradition”:
The Evangelical tradition has emphasized the significance of the Protestant aspects of the Church of England’s identity, stressing the importance of the authority of Scripture, preaching, justification by faith and personal conversion.
Soooo, the evangelical tradition was embraced in order to emphasize authority…
The Catholic tradition, strengthened and reshaped from the 1830s by the Oxford movement, has emphasized the significance of the continuity between the Church of England and the Church of the Early and Medieval periods. It has stressed the importance of the visible Church and its sacraments and the belief that the ministry of bishops, priests and deacons is a sign and instrument of the Church of England’s Catholic and apostolic identity.
The Catholic tradition to emphasize rituals and give a bunch of men who majored in nonsense something to do: impart the rituals.
The Liberal tradition has emphasized the importance of the use of reason in theological exploration. It has stressed the need to develop Christian belief and practice in order to respond creatively to wider advances in human knowledge and understanding and the importance of social and political action in forwarding God’s kingdom.
Sooo…. reason must be used not only to advance human knowledge and understanding, but also be used to forward “God’s kingdom,” and to provide justification for social and political action. The former adheres to cognitive reasoning the latter to providing reasons (or justification) for certain actions.
As for the current status of the church, here’s where the C of E might have fucked up: in allowing the liberal tradition to emphasize reason in the first place. Utilizing reason in theological exploration is bound to lead to recognition that all of theology is based on wishful thinking and human delusions.
It should be noted that these three traditions have not existed in strict isolation. Both in the case of individuals and in the case of the Church as a whole, influences from all three traditions have overlapped in a whole variety of different ways.
There they go again, emphasizing the notion that they are unified.
since the 1960’s a fourth influence, the Charismatic movement, has become increasingly important. This has emphasized the importance of the Church being open to renewal through the work of the Holy Spirit. Its roots lie in Evangelicalism but it has influenced people from a variety of different traditions.
So what say you Lord Kitchener? Was it this fourth influence, the Charismatic movement, that led to the population’s new agey notion of “a higher power” and other weird beliefs and “irrational things?” (Isn’t there a big UFO or alien movement cropping (pardon the pun) up in parts of the UK?) The glut of self help books may play a role as well.
The anglican site itself maintains, that to this day, the C of E is “A Church committed to mission and unity.” Here are a few of the reasons they cite for changes in religion and religiosity in England:
There has been the challenge of responding to social changes in England such as population growth, urbanisation and the development of an increasingly multi-cultural and multi-faith society.
There has been the challenge of engaging in mission in a society that has become increasingly materialist in outlook and in which belief in God or interest in â€˜spiritual’ matters is not seen as being linked to involvement with the life of the Church.
There has been the challenge of providing sufficient and sufficiently trained clergy and lay ministers to enable the Church of England to carry out its responsibility to provide ministry and pastoral care for every parish in the country.
There has been the challenge of trying to overcome the divisions of the past by developing closer relationships between the Church of England and other churches and trying to move with them towards the goal of full visible unity.
They want unity damn it! Unity Now!
All I can say to them is: godd luck with that.
(Anyone else notice that they put the word spiritual in single quotes… now why would they do that?)
Ooops. Just noticed this is supposed to be a forum for ideas for projects… all apologies for not having a clue… other than the comparative study mentioned above. Wait… maybe a project could consist of leaving comments on the site http://www.cofe.anglican.org.