an information resource
for orthodox Anglicans

Decline in belief in God masks rise in superstition

January 7th, 2014 Jill Posted in Faith Comments Off

By Denyse O'Leary, MercatorNet

If people stop believing in God, they still have to believe in something

A Harris poll taken shortly before Christmas chronicled declining belief in God over the last eight years in the United States: From 82% in 2009 to 74% in 2013.
Similar declines were posted for belief in miracles (79% to 72%), heaven (75% to 68%), Jesus as God (72% to 68%), angels (74% to 68%), Jesus’ resurrection (70% to 65%), life after death (69% to 64%), hell (62% to 58%), the devil (62% to 58%), and the Virgin Birth (60% to 57%).
In all these areas, seniors (68+) are much more likely to believe than young people (18–36): God (83% to 64%), miracles (78% to 65%), heaven (73% to 62%), Jesus as God (75% to 58%), angels (68% to 59%), Jesus’ resurrection (74% to 55%), life after death (67% to 59%), hell (63% to 54%), the devil (60% to 53%) and the Virgin Birth (67% to 48%).
Do these poll results merely capture the fact that people grow more pious with age and experience? Well, consider this: The Harris poll correlates well with the most recent Pew Research Center survey of America’s religious attitudes, taken in 2012. It found that
just 19 percent of Americans identified themselves as white evangelical Protestants—five years earlier, 21 percent of Americans did so. Slightly more (19.6 percent) self-identified as unaffiliated with any religion at all, the first time that group has surpassed evangelicals.
Read here
AddThis Social Bookmark Button

“Thought for the Day” and a question of balance

December 27th, 2013 Jill Posted in Atheism, Faith Comments Off

From Brother Ivo

Well, it didn’t take long.

Having failed in their annual ambition to remove the birth of Christ from the Christmas season, the atheists returned on Boxing Day with assistance from their cheerleaders at the Today programme, who invited Sir Tim Berners Lee to guest edit the programme. We were not only offered an “alternative” Thought for the Day from an atheist “minister” but also a Thought for the Day from a Unitarian whose views could not be considered representative of Orthodox Christianity.

Like a resentful child showing off after attention has been centred upon a sibling, there had to be a cultural response from the atheist opinion formers at our State Broadcaster, and so there was.

Presenter Evan Harris noted that he could ask questions of their invented Thought for the Day presenter but not of the regular contributors: it was an implied criticism of the status quo, overlooking that there is no prohibition or inhibition upon the programme editors exploring religious matters anytime they choose 365 days of the year during the daily two hour programme.

Tim Berners Lee explained that he included the atheist spot as a “challenge” to the BBC establishment, as if the cultural ethos of the faith following majority were somehow dominating the everyday programme. Plainly this is not the case.

Read here

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Why do modern parents want their children to believe in Father Christmas, but not in God?

December 24th, 2013 Jill Posted in Christmas, Faith Comments Off

By Toby Young, Telegraph

I was woken at 6.45am today by my six-year-old son Freddie wanting to know if I believe in God. We’ve had this conversation before, but it takes Freddie a while to process things so I was happy to have it again. It didn’t occur to me that he had a special reason for asking this question on Christmas Eve.
“I don’t believe in God because there’s no evidence that he exists,” I told him. “In the absence of any evidence, I can’t bring myself to believe in something so unlikely.”
“Because you can’t see him?” he asked, trying to get his head around this.
“Well, yes, that’s one reason,” I said.
“So does that mean you don’t believe in Father Christmas?”
So that was why he wanted to have this conversation on today of all days. Why hadn’t I seen that coming? I immediately did a reverse ferret.
“Er, no, I do believe in Father Christmas,” I said. “Definitely. A hundred per cent.”
“So you've seen him?”
“Well, no…”
“So why do you believe in him?”
It was a good question. I don’t believe in him, obviously, but I want my children to. Why?
Read here
AddThis Social Bookmark Button

What does religion look like through the eyes of a six year old?

December 20th, 2013 Jill Posted in Faith Comments Off

by Tom Payne, Telegraph

The gods have woken up from their nap. It is early evening, and they are dressed for a special day. It is Diwali, so tonight they are in peacock costumes as they gather around the central deity, Bhagwan Swaminarayan. They beam with youthful faces, bright like porcelain, and we crowd around, too, clanking £1 coins on to a salver so that we can warm our hands by the same flames that have warmed the gods. Or at least the murtis – the images of the gods.

I have come to the Hindu temple with my six-year-old daughter, Lilac, who is impressed by this, and especially dazzled by the light above the gods, which reminds her of the Strictly Come Dancing glitterball. It is the only light fitting she has seen recently that comes close to the massive chandelier that swoops from the ceiling of the London Central Mosque beside Regent’s Park.

Lilac has been spending her half-term inspecting London places of worship, chandeliers and all. The mosque was our first. The next day was a Gurdwara – a Sikh temple – in Holland Park. Then it was Saturday, so she went to the Sabbath service in the New West End Synagogue, Bayswater, as well as taking in the nearby Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral. And finally, on the Sunday, it is Diwali, when Lilac arrives at Neasden, family in tow, to join 30,000 devotees at the marble-white mandir. Our mission is not just to find London’s best-lit temple; we’re seeing how other people approach God.

Read here

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Lots of atheists, more Muslims, fewer Christians and Jews: this is the new America

December 16th, 2013 Jill Posted in Faith Comments Off

By Damian Thompson, Telegraph

The Washington Post has produced six massively detailed maps showing the religious make-up of America. The main map is above – if you want to enlarge it you'll have to click through to the Post's report here. The author/analyst, Niraj Chokshi, has uncovered some fascinating material – most of it lurking in the 2010 US Religion Census (data submitted by congregations, not the official US Census) but so much more surprising set out in map form. And here's an example.
Did you know there are – possibly – now more religious Muslims than religious Jews in Florida? I know, it seems incredible. Miami Beach has had 15 Jewish mayors, there are getting on for 200 synagogues in South Florida – and, of course, it was the hunting ground of the despicable Bernie Madoff. But here's a section from the map of Eastern states, grouped by region:
[...]  We're in difficult territory here because the US census isn't allowed to ask people their religious affiliation. But these figures from the Sperling data aggregator show Florida Muslims outnumbering Jews:
Read here
AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Has the Church been ‘caricatured’ as anti-gay? An FAQ

December 10th, 2013 Jill Posted in Faith, Gay Activism Comments Off

RC Archbishop Timothy DolanBy Michael Trimmer, Christian Today

What does it mean to be "anti-gay"? Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan recently gave an interview to NBC's 'Meet the Press' programme where he discussed the Catholic Church's position on, amongst other things, the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), abortion, and gay rights. The one sentence that many news outlets have chosen to run with from this discussion is where Archbishop Dolan said that the Church had been "caricatured" as being anti-gay, rather than actually having any real hostility towards homosexuals.

The primary reason people had this view, he said, was that opponents had "out marketed" the Catholic Church.

"When you have forces like Hollywood, when you have forces like politicians, when you have forces like some opinion-moulders that are behind it, it's a tough battle," he said.

"We're pro-marriage, we're pro-traditional marriage, we're not anti-anybody," he said, while in the same breath saying that the Church was not going to give up the fight to stop the 'stampede' towards gay marriage being accepted in every US state."

To many minds, this statement seems contradictory. How can the Church claim to not be anti-gay and yet be anti-gay marriage? Archbishop Dolan sees this question emerging within the Church.

"We get backlash from those who think we are too gracious and compassionate and loving and accepting of gays, and then we get backlash from gay people who feel that we are not tolerant enough of them."

So which is it? Is Timothy Dolan being hypocritical, or is there something more complicated going on here. The following are some common questions regarding the Church's position on homosexuality answered, explaining why Archbishop Dolan takes the views he does.

Read here

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Discrimination Against Christians?

December 9th, 2013 Jill Posted in Discrimination, Faith Comments Off

Grégor Puppinck, First Things

Christians are facing more and more difficulties in Western society. Every day, especially in Europe, churches and cemeteries are desecrated; blasphemy pretends to be an art for the general public; activists like Femen attack symbols of religion, and the media rarely miss an opportunity to belittle Christians and the Catholic Church. It is this latent hostility towards Christianity which explains the indifference, or even the complaisance, of our society towards the desecration of its religious heritage and the persecution of Christians throughout the world.

Take the example of the United Kingdom: Since the adoption of the Equality Act 2010, penalties and convictions have dramatically increased. For example, a couple was denied approval to be a foster family because of their opinion on homosexuality, a doctor had to leave his position within the social service after he abstained from the decision to entrust children to same-sex couples, Catholic adoption agencies have been forced to cease operations due to their refusal to allow the adoption of children by same-sex couples, a City Council civil servant and a marriage counsellor were dismissed in the name of non-discrimination, after having respectively expressed their inability in all conscience to celebrate a civil union and to offer sexual advice to a gay couple.

However, is this discrimination?

Read here

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Religion, Marriage, Divorce: The Numbers

December 5th, 2013 Jill Posted in Divorce, Faith, Marriage Comments Off


Does religion matter in marriage?

The U.S. is a significantly religious country in terms of how many people believe in God and give a religious affiliation – which should mean that marriage is an important part of life to most people, whether they marry once, many times or never. Unfortunately, some marriages do not last happily ever after, as witnessed by increased divorce rates in the past 40-plus years.

Divorce has been around since before the founding of the United States of America. However, divorce laws are dictated by each state, so some states have historically limited the conditions for divorce. It wasn’t until 1970 that the divorce process in the USA arguably got easier, when California started allowing no-fault divorces and other states eventually did the same.

Religion, Marriage, Divorce: The Numbers

While Americans as a wholly mostly consider themselves religious, divorce rates have increased regardless. Here are some stats on marriage, divorce, and religion.

Note: Because of federal laws, the US Census Bureau does not have mandatory questions on religious affiliations. As such, there is no 100% comprehensive report of religious affiliation for US citizens and residents and thus no complete study of the populace on the inter-significance of religion and marriage. However, there have been other surveys with varying sample sizes conducted specifically to determine religious affiliation and any connection to marriage and divorce. The stats listed below are from these various surveys.

Read here



AddThis Social Bookmark Button

A Double Decline of Marriage and Religiosity: Why Does It Matter?

November 22nd, 2013 Jill Posted in Faith, Marriage Comments Off

by Collette Caprara, The Foundry

Analysts at a recent forum on the downward trends in marriage and religion in the United States agree that the two are not isolated phenomena but, in fact, influence and exacerbate one another.
Brad Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project, has shown that family dissolution is linked to a further erosion of civil society in which American men are increasingly disconnected from core cultural institutions, including a religious congregation. Likewise, Mary Eberstadt, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, has found that marriage and family life often engender an impulse for religious engagement and that, as more couples cohabit, divorce, or never marry, religious participation has decreased.
The impact of the downturns in family formation and religious practice have real-world and long-term implications for the lives of Americans—particularly the rising generation.
Children raised by two married, biological parents tend to fare better than peers in other households. Those who grow up in married-parent families are 82 percent less likely to live in poverty, and intact families tend to fare better in a wide range of economic measures. Youth who are raised in an intact family tend to fare better on a range of emotional and psychological outcomes, have higher levels of academic achievement and educational attainment, and are less likely to engage in high-risk behaviors such as sexual activity or substance abuse and less likely to exhibit anti-social behavior.
Read here
AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Roman Catholic Church says no new academies over cap on believers

November 16th, 2013 Jill Posted in Children/Family, Education, Faith Comments Off

Michael Goveby John Bingham, Telegraph

The Roman Catholic Church has ruled out opening any more new schools under the Coalition’s favoured academies programme unless it drops a cap on the number of places which can be reserved for churchgoers’ children.

In a snub to Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, the Catholic bishops of England and Wales issued a joint statement announcing that there would be no new schools set up under the current policy.

Britain is facing a growing shortage of school places because of a soaring birth rate and immigration.

Half of English local authorities are expected to have more pupils than places within the next two years and in some areas the shortfall could be as much as 20 per cent.

Churches are the biggest providers of education outside government itself with the Anglican and Catholic churches alone jointly providing almost two million places.

Read here


AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Why is the UK making it so difficult for religious couples to adopt?

November 15th, 2013 Jill Posted in Children/Family, Faith Comments Off

by Jemima Thackray, Telegraph

There is a crisis in the UK adoption system: England alone now has more than 4,600 children waiting for permanent homes. In trying to find solutions, the Department of Education recently funded some extensive research to identify the types of people most likely to adopt so they can target likely candidates more strategically.
More than four million people were polled and the results were “rather unexpected”, according to Catharine Dowdney, spokesman for the Government funded organisation First4Adoption. “The survey found that more than half (55 per cent) of everyone who said they are ‘certain’ or ‘very likely’ to adopt a child described themselves as ‘actively practising a religion’ – that’s a huge proportion of people considering we live in a secular society,” she explains.
But this begs the question: how secular actually are we? Last month another study, conducted by ComRes, revealed the following equally surprising results:
AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Church ‘moving away’ from selecting school pupils based on religion

November 14th, 2013 Jill Posted in Education, Faith Comments Off

By Alice Philipson, Telegraph

Church of England faith schools are no longer as focused on selecting pupils based on their religion, the Archbishop of Canterbury has revealed.

The Most Rev Justin Welby said it was possible to create a very good school without selection and that opening the doors of a school to every part of a community could help the Church achieve its aim to alleviate poverty.

It comes just a month after a study revealed middle-class parents are increasingly monopolising places at the most sought-after faith schools.

Figures from the Fair Admissions Campaign, a coalition of organisations which are pushing for an end to religious selection in state schools, found faith schools are far less likely to reflect the economic status of families living in the local area than traditional community comprehensives.

“What you are seeing in the Church schools is a deeper and deeper commitment to the common good,” the Archbishop told The Times. “There’s a steady move away from faith-based entry tests."

Read here

Read Church schools: statement by the Archbishop of Canterbury

Cranmer comments here

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

The end of the secular era

November 13th, 2013 Jill Posted in Faith Comments Off

by Jenny Taylor, Lapido Media

THE RELIGION gravy-train is beginning to roll. Vast resources are being made available to study religion from a myriad angles, most notably security. Islamic extremism – 9/11, 7/7 and the nightmare fall-out of America’s hapless foreign adventures – sparked a thousand religion research projects, not least being the £340million Global Uncertainties Programme.

Religion is trendy. (Not Christianity of course. Not church. Perish the thought.) But any shaven-headed sociologist with an ear-ring, any hijabbed and articulate ‘outreach worker’, any multi-faith professional in fact will look oddly at you if you mention the traditional reticence of the British about faith. Good grief. Even the leader of the English Defence League is ‘taking religious instruction’ from the sheikh – Usama Hasan – who runs Quilliam Foundation.
We are at the end of the secularist era. The New Religious Era is upon us.
This is now so obvious that even to say so in a meeting of religion academics is to invite waspish rebuke to the effect of ‘What planet have you been on all your life?’ When in fact, it was not only not obvious even ten years ago, but downright subversive to say so.
In 2004 I wrote the following for a learned journal after a decade of wrestling with these things for my doctorate:
‘The time may not be far hence, post-September 11, when what is known as secularization will seem an absurdly inadequate and antiquated notion. However, the overt religiousness of immigrants was still so strange a phenomenon to ethnic Europeans in 1998 that a Council of Europe Seminar in Strasbourg on 24 – 26 November produced a resolution that the term ‘secular’ should be re-examined in light of immigration. The document stated that,
Read here
AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Faith is back at the heart of government, says Baroness Warsi

November 13th, 2013 Jill Posted in Faith, Politics Comments Off

By Matthew Holehouse, Telegraph

Faith is being put back at the “heart of government,” as it was under Sir Winston Churchill and Baroness Thatcher, a minister will say today.

The Coalition is one of the “most pro-faith governments in the West,” Baroness Warsi, the Minister for Faith, will say. “More often than not, people who do God do good.”

Churchill and Thatcher would have welcomed the Coalition’s promise to protect the right of town halls to hold prayers and the creation of more faith schools under Michael Gove’s Free Schools programme, she will say.

Public policy was “secularised” under the previous, Labour government, Lady Warsi will tell an audience at the Churchill Archives at the University of Cambridge.

But Churchill saw totalitarian regimes as “godless” while Thatcher regarded politics as second to Christianity in defining society, she will say.

Read here

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Will Prince George work his magic on the Church of England?

October 24th, 2013 Jill Posted in Faith Comments Off

By Melanie McDonagh, Spectator

Well, Prince George has already done his bit for the Church of England. Simply by getting baptised he will bolster a sacrament that pretty well defines Christianity and is, like the state church which he may yet be head of (assuming disestablishment never happens), in sharp decline.

In 1950, nearly 70 per cent of the population was baptised into the CofE, with most of the remainder christened into other denominations; in 2010 it was fewer than 20 per cent, and falling. Perhaps Kate Middleton can do for baptism what she does for Reiss dresses – bring it back into fashion. Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, gave a splendid little pep talk on video about the event, saying that he hoped it would inspire others to get their babies christened; at the same time he warned against thinking that it was something just for ‘special people’ as opposed to everyone.

Nothing, really, could have summed up the decline of the CofE so much as that observation. Once getting a child christened was just what you did, just like getting married was something you just did. In Alfie, the original, brilliant film, Michael Caine observes his girlfriend getting their child christened without him – it was a rather moving moment – and it defined his distance from his baby. Now the British working class may have a sort of folk memory of the sacrament from their grandmothers but it’s a opt-in rather than an opt-out custom, not something you do by default. It’s something children learn about in the same way they learn about Diwali, as an interesting thing religious people do.

In these circumstances it may seem a bit perverse to make the whole thing less accessible, but that’s what I’m suggesting. I want godparents to be chosen from people who can believe what they’re saying at the event. And what they’re being asked to do – like Prince George’s were – is to renounce Satan (and all his works and pomps) and to declare they believe in God.

Read here

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Lessons in humanism from age five in new RE lessons

October 23rd, 2013 Jill Posted in Children/Family, Faith Comments Off

by Graeme Paton, Telegraph

Primary school children should be taught about humanism and different approaches to marriage in religious education lessons as part of a new Government-backed curriculum designed to address a “crisis” in the subject.

A national framework for RE published today suggests that secular views should be placed on the same footing as Britain’s main religions in the classroom.

Children in the reception year – aged four – should begin learning about different faiths and visit places of worship such as churches, mosques and synagogues, it is claimed.

From the age of five, pupils should be encouraged to discuss why “some people pray every day, but others not at all” and compare Christian marriages to those conducted by humanists.

The document also suggests that primary pupils should learn about minority faiths such as Jainism, Baha'i and Zoroastrianism even if they have small numbers of followers nationally.

At the start of secondary school, children should debate different religious and scientific views of the origins of life, in a move that is likely to include lessons on creationism.

Read here

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Cultural religion may be declining but atheism is not filling its shoes

October 23rd, 2013 Jill Posted in Atheism, Faith Comments Off

By Gillan Scott, God & Politics in the UK

At the end of last week the BBC’s head of religion and ethics, Aaqil Ahmed gave a damning appraisal of the current state of religious understanding in Britain. ‘The public has such “poor religious literacy” that a modern audience would be baffled by the Monty Python film The Life of Brian – because it would not understand the Biblical references’.

Ahmed, in an interview with the Independent claimedthat failings in religious education over two generations were undermining public understanding of contemporary national and international issues. “You had generations that missed out. We have poor religious literacy in this country and we have to do something about it,” he said.
Certainly if you spend time with children and teenagers discussing religion and belief, you will quickly appreciate that this is undoubtedly the case. The recent withering Ofsted report on the state of religious education in schools is a reminder of this, but this needs to be appreciated in the context of Ahmad’s comment that this has been an ongoing issue for generations and is in no way a recent phenomenon. Schools should take some of this blame. RE has too often been considered a poor relation to other subjects for years despite being compulsory. But much of the blame should be placed at the feet of successive governments and the national curriculum which has required schools to teach the understanding of religion and faith in an incoherent and piecemeal way for quite some time.
AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Religion and the Foundations of Morality

October 22nd, 2013 Jill Posted in Faith, Morality Comments Off

by Kenneth W. Kemp, Public Discourse

We don’t need to know that God exists to know good from bad. It is enough to know human nature—what kind of being we are and what kind of actions will bring us to fullness of being.

Twice this fall, Dennis Prager has argued in National Review Online that religion is a necessary foundation for morality. I appreciate the effort he has put into challenging the antireligious polemic of writers such as Richard Dawkins. I agree with him that religion helps us to be good. On one important point, however, I believe that he is mistaken.
Because that point seems to be a view widespread among some Christians (though not, I think, one solidly grounded in traditional Christianity), I think that it is worth taking a closer look at Prager’s views.
Prager first makes his point abstractly:
If there is no God, the labels “good” and “evil” are merely opinions. They are substitutes for “I like it” and “I don’t like it.” They are not objective realities.
He then gives a concrete example:
What would reason argue to a non-Jew asked by Jews to hide them when the penalty for hiding a Jew was death? It would argue not to hide those Jews.
Let’s begin with the abstract version. And let’s begin not with good character but with good health. On what basis do we judge high blood pressure, say, to be bad health? We don’t need to bring God into the picture. Human reason can tell us that high blood pressure is unhealthy. We don’t need to bring our own subjective preferences into the picture to see this. High blood pressure is bad health even for the suicidal.
Read here
AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Faith schools may lose the right to teach religion from their own perspective and be forced to tell pupils more about other faiths

October 20th, 2013 Jill Posted in Children/Family, Education, Faith Comments Off

by Chris Pleasance, Mailonline

Faith schools could lose the right to teach their own belief and instead have to give more weight to other religions.

A report by the Religious Education Council for England and Wales says RE has become marginalised and should be added to the national curriculum.

But that would make it a legal requirement for all school to teach the same syllabus, regardless of their faiths.

The report, a three year review of religious teaching in schools, could form the basis of a new curriculum when it is released next week.

Chairman John Keast has admitted that it would be difficult for faith schools to teach their own denomination, but said one solution could involve optional modules for students.

Speaking to The Times, he said: 'These are quite important and difficult issues to overcome. I don't personally think they are insuperable.

'I think you could get sufficient agreement on a national body of religious education knowledge and skills and understanding that everyone should know for the modern world.'

Since 1944 RE has been given a special status as a compulsory subject but which has no specified content.

Instead the subject matter is agreed by a committee of faith leaders, teachers and politicians agree the topics covered in each area.

Read here


AddThis Social Bookmark Button

It’s no laughing matter: Britain has become a nation of religious illiterates ‘who are baffled by Biblical references in Monty Python film The Life of Brian’

October 19th, 2013 Jill Posted in Faith Comments Off

By Ian Burrell, Independent

BBC figure warns that shared understanding of different faiths is now so low the even jokes are losing their meaning

The British public has such “poor religious literacy” that a modern audience would be baffled by the Monty Python film The Life of Brian – because it would not understand the Biblical references, a senior BBC figure has claimed. 

Aaqil Ahmed, the BBC’s head of religion and ethics, told The Independent that failings in religious education over two generations were undermining public understanding of contemporary national and international issues. “You had generations that missed out. We have poor religious literacy in this country and we have to do something about it,” he said.

He was speaking at the launch of an ambitious three-part BBC2 series which will address the subject of pilgrimage from a broad perspective and is intended to attract the interest of Atheists as much as religious believers.

“If you tried to make The Life of Brian today it would fall flat on its face because the vast majority of the audience would not get most of the jokes. They don’t have the knowledge,” Ahmed said. He questioned whether modern audiences would appreciate that the “great joke about the Sermon on the Mount” in the 1979 Python film, where a woman asks “What’s so special about the cheesemakers?”, was a reference to Jesus’s words “Blessed are the peacemakers” from the Bible.

Read here

AddThis Social Bookmark Button