Rise of the Nones - Slow Death Of Christianity In Britain
By PNW StaffMay 31, 2016
Share this article:
The Christian faith in Britain has been assailed on all sides for decades as church attendance declines and immigration shifts the religious balance.
The traditional Christian British culture in all its trappings still desperately clings to life, but it's been put on notice with more MPs refusing to swear on the Bible in the Commons and phrases such as "God bless" passing out of use.
London has in Sadiq Khan its first Muslim mayor and this could be a cause to celebrate religious diversity until we realize, shockingly, a Christian mayor would also be representing a minority group.
Recent surveys have shown a sharp decline in the number of Britons who identify as Christian and a rise in those who deny any religious faith. For the first time in this century, Christianity has slipped into a minority position with 44 per cent of the population identifying compared to 48 per cent who don't follow any religious faith.
Although immigration has increased the British Muslim and Hindu populations, the 8 per cent of the population that belongs to no-Christian faith still trails those who have moved away from any faith.
At the turn of the millennium, the number of British Christians hovered around 75 per cent after decades of decline. The slow death of Christianity has not only continued but accelerated thanks to this rise of these Nones.
Now to identify publicly as religious, even wearing a cross, has assumed a negative connotation and started to become associated with notions of violent extremism.
Religious tradition does not come about in an act of creation, but rather follows from trends in demographic shifts and this is not the first decline in religiosity to affect Britain.
The cultural shifts of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, brought on by the industrial revolution, corruption in the religious hierarchy and the rise of humanism, saw a dramatic decline in Christianity in Britain as well and it isn't hard to see why.
Families that moved from traditional parishes to settle in urban areas were uprooted from traditional society. Seeds of doubt had been spread, too, while a new belief in the powers of science was growing. But the Church recovered from this decline to achieve new prominence in the hundred years that followed.
The clergy took active roles in campaigning for social reform in a society that saw the effects of the abuses of industrialization and, in doing so, become relevant once again.
Labor laws, protection of children from sexual exploitation and the creation of a state that cares for its citizens are all advances we owe to a resurgent 19th century Church.
Not only that, priests recognized their duty to evangelize and spread the Word as if stepping into an unfamiliar land and millions flocked back.
What can we learn from history before it's too late? It's no coincidence that the ever increasing tendency to identify as nonreligious has coincided with the rise of an impersonal culture of virtual interaction.
Just as two centuries ago Britons were uprooted from their rural communities to labor long hours in urban factories, today's younger generations find less connection with family, community and church and more with online social networks or the latest games and distractions.
Secular liberalism has picked up the torch of social activism once carried by the Church. The cause is different, but the social breakdown and loss of faith is the same.
Doubtless, some measure of tradition will carry on for years to come in Britain, but at what point will it become just lip service, empty of any meaning? A revival won't happen without action on the part of the faithful.
Just as the Church and its members adapted to industrialization and the destruction of traditional structures, Christians must actively spread their faith and look to the new digital landscape to renew belief and address the social issues of today.
Failure to do so, runs the risk of Christianity sliding into extinction replaced by nothing.