Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Religious Climate

A few days ago Jenn at Conversion Diary asked "what is the religious climate in your country?". I found the answers fascinating, and noticed that within the UK in particular there was quite a lot of variation in the answers, ranging from quite positive to very negative. Here are mine for this little corner of Bedfordshire.

Where do you live? (Or, if you’re not currently living there, what part of the world is it that you’re familiar with?)

England, about 40 miles north west of London.  

What is church attendance like in your area? Are there many churches? Do they seem to have active memberships?

In our town (population 35,000) there are two Church of England churches, one Catholic, two Methodist (one very small with aging congregation), two Baptist (again, one very small), one Salvation Army and a Quaker meeting house. There are also a Christian Fellowship and a New Life Community Church that meet in local schools. Most active are the Catholic, Church of England, larger Baptist and New Life churches. I'd guess church attendance is about 5%, but a larger number attend occasionally, and the role of the churches in the local community is greater than the numbers attending would suggest. 

At a typical social event, how appropriate would it be if a person were to explicitly acknowledge in casual conversation that he or she is a believing Christian? For example, if someone at a party made a passing comment like, “We’ve been praying about that” or “I was reading the Bible the other day, and…”, would that seem normal or odd?

Mentioning attending Church is fine. Talking about praying or reading the Bible would be very odd.   

What belief system do the politicians in your area claim to practice? For example,  here in Texas almost all politicians at least claim to have some kind of belief in God, regardless of what they may think in private — to openly admit to being an atheist would be political suicide in most parts of the state. Is this the case in your area?

Of the leaders of the three main political parties one attends the Church of England, one is an atheist (I think) with a Catholic wife and children, and the third is an atheist Jew. Our local member of Parliament is actively Christian.  

How many families do you know who have more than two children? If a family with four children moved to your area, would their family size seem unusual? What about a family with six children?

Many families with three - two or three is the norm. Four is less common but not at all unusual. More than four is unusually large. One of the other mothers commented in the school playground last week that more families seem to be having third and fourth children, whereas a few years ago most stopped at two.  

What seems to be the dominant belief system of the people in your area?

Vague agnosticism. Most people are not religious, but very few are anti-religious. It is a very mono-cultural area, so of those that do practice a religion, almost all are Christian. 

Do you notice any trends? Do people seem to be becoming more or less religious?

I'd say Christianity is pretty much holding its own. Numbers attending church may have declined a bit in the 18 years I have lived here, but not dramatically. The churches I know best seem to have a good cross-section of ages, including younger people and families with children.


    Jennifer @ Conversion Diary said...

    Thank you so much for these fascinating answers! I really enjoyed reading this post!

    Victor S E Moubarak said...

    Fair report.

    God bless.

    Missus Wookie said...

    I've not managed to visit the Conversion Diary site recently. My answers would be quite different to yours, maybe when I'm feeling better.