New Scientist Article: God not-botherers: Religious apathy reigns

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  • AndersonsInfo

    God not-botherers: Religious apathy reigns

    • 01 May 2014

    Across the developed world, people are losing interest in god without becoming atheists. That's a good thing

    RELIGIOUS belief is usually a no-go area for British prime ministers. As Tony Blair's media advisor Alastair Campbell once put it: "we don't do God".

    The current occupant of No. 10 seems to have decided otherwise. In widely reported comments made over Easter, David Cameron said that people in the UK should be "more evangelical" and "more confident about our status as a Christian country".

    That provoked a chorus of dissent – some of it, rather unexpectedly, from the former Archbishop of Canterbury. Describing the UK as a "post-Christian country", Rowan Williams said that the era of widespread worship was over.

    Williams is right. It is clear that the UK's past was dominated by Christianity – with a strong streak of paganism – but its present is non-religious. Just under half of British adults profess no religious affiliation; Christians of all denominations are in a minority.

    That drift away from religion is an interesting phenomenon. The UK isn't becoming a country of committed atheists. Most of the unaffiliated neither accept nor reject religion: they simply don't care about it. In that respect, the UK looks a lot like much of the developed world. Even the US is heading that way (see "Losing our religion: Your guide to a godless future").

    So inasmuch as there ever was a contest between strident religion and militant atheism, it seems there was no winner. In practice, however, indifference to religion looks very much like atheism, and even more like secularism.

    That may alarm those who fear that the decline of state-endorsed religion will lead to social decay – a fear Cameron invoked when he said secularists "fail to grasp... the role that faith can play in helping people have a moral code".

    But that fear is groundless. As the prime minister said in his next breath: "faith is neither necessary nor sufficient for morality" – a position many biologists would agree with. Morality arises from the workings of our social brains. And our exploration of the world around us helps us frame moral codes that reflect the world as it is, not as we imagine it to be.

    Personal faith remains a private matter. But those passionate about religion's role in public life – whether to elevate or expunge it – should recognise they are in the minority. Increasingly, none of us "do God".

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  • cultBgone

    saving this

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  • Ucantnome

    its interesting that, i think, the former archbishop feels some christians are afraid to express their beliefs

  • cofty

    Most of the unaffiliated neither accept nor reject religion: they simply don't care about it.

    This is very true. Many British people still "believe in belief" as Dawkins put it.

    Thank you Barbara.

  • LV101

    Interesting and thanks for sharing.

    It will take the US a while to catch up with the UK - I might be wrong. Too many successful, wealthy, preachers here.

  • Oubliette

    As the prime minister, David Cameron, said in his next breath: "faith is neither necessary nor sufficient for morality"

    That is an awesome statement!

    This was one of the biggests surprises for me leaving JWs. I have since met many a-religious poeple that are much more moral than the majority of religious people I've known.

  • OnTheWayOut

    I would celebrate this and have a party, but people would not bother to come.

    Thanks for sharing.

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