2016: Terry Eagleton, Distinguished Professor of English Literature at Lancaster University, delivers the ninth annual Theos lecture
The Spirit of Things Unseen: belief in post-religious Britain
17th October 2013
The decline of “religion” is well-charted in contemporary British life. According to the 2011 Census, 59% of people in England and Wales consider themselves as belonging to a religious group, a decline of 12% on the previous census.
Yet, for all that formalised religious belief and institutionalised religious belonging has declined over recent decades, the British have not become a nation of atheists or
materialists. On the contrary, a spiritual current runs as, if not more, powerfully through the nation than it once did. For example, over three-quarters of all adults (77%) and three fifths (61%) of non-religious people believe that “there are things in life that we simply cannot explain through science or any other means.”
The Spirit of Things Unseen is based on research, commissioned by CTVC and Theos and conducted by ComRes, which looks at the state of spiritual belief in “postreligious” Britain. It finds that spiritual beliefs, in particular the more esoteric ones, are no weaker today – and in some instances stronger – than they were in the past. Moreover, such spiritual beliefs are not the preserve of the elderly, who might be more inclined towards them on account of having grown up in a more religious culture; or the preserve of the ‘religious’ alone. Rather, they are to be found across the age ranges and across religious and non-religious groups.
The Spirit of Things Unseen is an important contribution to the on-going recognition that a “post-religious” nation is not a “postspiritual” one.
Click here for the ComRes data tables for The Spirit of Things Unseen.