Thursday, 1 August 2013

Hope & Despair: Faith in the Modern Age

Address given at New Meeting House, Kidderminster on 28th July 2013
Faith is in decline. In the 2001 census, the number of people in the UK identifying as Non-Religious was 14.8% of the population. In 2011, this proportion had risen to 25.1%. As a population, we just don't seem to find religion as relevant as we used to - with a quarter of us identifying as non-religious. Christianity seems to be the hardest hit, with other faith groups actually increasing in numbers. Evangelistic churches, usually combined with a rigid doctrine, are also bucking this trend - with 7 in 10 churches expecting that their congregation would increase over the next 20 years. 5 in 10 of the churches stated that their congregations were already "noticeably growing" (Evangelical Alliance). Where there is a defined message and content, congregations are increasing. People who are looking are looking for answers, not more questions. Religion, it seems, has become another consumer product. On the other side, militant atheism is also on the rise - made popular by the writers Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and the late Christopher Hitchens, defining religion as something harmful to society. Religion is being portrayed as a divider of people and those who subscribe to religious belief are described as being deluded and naive. So the divide widens and society becomes more polarised between believer and non-believer, the religious and the not.