Sex equality, multiculturalism and spending cuts could explain religious decline, says expert

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By Xanthe Palmer

A TOP sociologist says most young white British people label themselves as ‘none’ when faced with choice of religion.

Professor Linda Woodhead, MBE visited Leeds Trinity University yesterday to discuss the decline in religion in the UK.

She has worked with YouGov and her team at Lancaster University and found that ‘nones’ have overtaken Christians.

The number of religious people in the UK has declined by over 20 per cent in 20 years.

Although this may be a slow fall, it has had a massive impact on churches and society.

Nearly two thirds of 18-24 year olds defined themselves as ‘nones’ and only 27 per cent were Christian according the YouGov study in 2013.

Professor Woodhead suggested three potential reasons for the decline in religion in the UK.

One reason was the ‘pluralisation’ of religions in the UK due to the multicultural society we now live in.

The UK was considered ‘mono cultural’ in the past, with the majority of the population being Christian.

However, due to such a range of religions now in the UK, people have more choice as opposed to just Christianity.

Professor Woodhead said: “Since the Second World War we have seen an increase in religions, meaning we become differently religious as we actually have to choose.”

Another explanation included the liberalisation of women’s rights and LGBT rights.

The younger generation have pioneered these changes in equality, yet both the Church of England and the Catholic Church have resisted these changes which could deter them from Christianity.

Professor Woodhead said: “An example of this is that churches exempted themselves from the sexual equality legislation in 1975 to ensure women were treated equally in the workplace.

“However they didn’t employ women at the time, and from that point they haven’t really supported equality.”

The third reason suggested in the debate was the entrenchment of churches.

As the number of churchgoers dwindles, less money is being put into churches to run them.

This means churches are closed down and offer less to their communities, discouraging people to come.

The result of more ‘nones’ in the UK means church services are considerably less popular, as well as baptisms and Christenings.

Professor Woodhead said: “The collapse of Christian funerals has been the last thing to go, the churches have kept a monopoly over funerals until the 21st Century.

“Most funeral directors offer non-religious funerals now, so it just shows how popular they are.”

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