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What is the future for religion in Britain?

What is the future for religion in Britain?

It is rare for the subtitle of a sociology book to pass into common parlance, but that is what happened when Prof. Grace Davie published her widely admired book on Religion in Britain since 1945. The subtitle was “Believing without Belonging” and over the next two decades, aided by its pleasantly alliterative assonance, it would be heard on the lips of people who had not read the book whence it came (including, at first, the present author). Since then the helpful delineation of belief and belonging – what they mean, how they are measured, and where the British public stand on each scale – has been much debated.

Twenty-one years later the book has been updated and thoroughly rewritten and is shortly to be published under a new title, Religion in Britain: A Persistent Paradox. Grace Davie will be speaking at Theos later in the month but to mark the book’s publication – and hopefully to generate a lively debate on a topic of much contemporary interest – we have asked a number of the country’s leading sociologists of and writers on religion to answer for us the question “What is the future for religion in Britain?” – in under 1,000 words.

Contributors include Grace Davie, Adam Dinham, Frank Field MP (who reviewed the first edition when it came out in 1994), David Goodhew, Lois Lee, Sylvia Collins-Mayo, Tariq Modood, David Voas, Linda Woodhead as well as Theos’ own Ben Ryan and Nick Spencer.

Contributions cover migration, resacralisation, religious literacy, chaplaincy, secularisation, welfare, extremism, ethnicity, community support, atheism, social action, Generation Y, demography, public identity, establishment, Pentecostalism, cathedrals, Orthodoxy, and… well, there’s a great deal more but you get the picture. Religion being about more or less all human life, all human life is there.

The first blog will be put up next Monday with one a day for the next fortnight or so. The contributors don’t agree with one another, except when they do. Readers will be in the same position. But we trust they will, at least, be better informed, about the persistent paradox of religion, just as they were about belief and belonging, by the end.

Nick Spencer

Image from wikimedia, available in the public domain.



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