The influence of religion is fading away in society, and people are finding new, alternative ways to structure their ethical and moral beliefs. Christianity used to be the dominant religion of the UK and now the country shares many more faiths. The Christian holidays and festivals, like Easter and Christmas, still remain part of many people’s lifestyles, but regular attendance to church and other typical Christian practices are less popular than they ever have been. I am not writing to state how the Christian faith is diminishing, but to look to see if religious belief across the board is deteriorating, if we still have a desire for faith, and if atheism is becoming the rising philosophy.
We are, nominally, a Christian country that has a monarch – the ‘defender of the faith’ – and many of our laws coincide with the Ten Commandments. Christian morals are the backbone of how our society functions. We were once a mono-religious society, but do we need the religion for everything to continue to work now?
Matthew Smith recently wrote an article for The Indiependent called ‘Breaking Down The Atheist Taboo’. It’s a great read, but is there really an “unease” when someone reveals their absence of religious belief? Atheism is becoming a growing belief, and I think that it is less common for someone to reveal themselves as theist, rather than vice versa. If anything, reaction is usually more tolerant towards atheists than ‘believers’. Science and technology are becoming a predominant tool for humans in order to discover and explain the things happening in this world and the surrounding universe. Theories are put forward and, when praised and accepted, are taught as common knowledge in education across the UK. However, these are only theories and can always be disproven and replaced. Sociologists noticed the secularisation happening in society, but now say that some people are abandoning the modern approach of science as there is no stability to the theories that are constantly edited and reformed. Religions always have a constant belief that is taken as factual by strong believers and is scarcely ever changed.
It has been noted that although the practice of religion has become less common, people still look for a faith and a sense of supernatural perspective to our lives. The strict structure of religious groups, like the Church of England, do not appeal to many anymore. Marxists believe that religion is just a way of oppressing the poor and benefitting the rich, that it is a man-made set of beliefs that only functions to serve the bourgeoisie. But other sociologists, like Durkheim, argue that religion is the social glue that binds everyone in communities together. Although it is man-made, he says, it brings society together and helps everything function smoothly.
Practices that originate from religion, like meditation, have been broadly accepted by many religious and also non-religious people. “Meditation is one of humanity’s best-kept secrets”, says B. Alan Wallace in his book Mind in the Balance. Many people use it as a method of calming and concentration, but it is also a method of worship for many theists. This practice blocks all surrounding distractions and worries of life, and provokes the sense of oneself and focuses upon that. Even the exercising of meditation implies the need to explore the non-physical element of our being.
I believe we all have an instinctive nature to explore the questionability of another dimension to our lives. The materialistic view that life is simply just all we see now, and nothing else, seems incorrect to me. We share intimate emotions with others and feel things we cannot explain in the language we use. We fall in love and cannot explain all the reasons why. We see grand landscapes and scenes that leave us in a state of awe. These things demonstrate to me that there is a wider spectrum to our lives than just ‘this’. Of course, science presents theories that attempt to explain all these things, but we feel a more profound sensation that I even struggle to construct into words as I write this.
Russell Brand, in his book Revolution, talks about ‘awareness’. An awareness of something greater than we are. “The awareness that is aware that it is aware”. Russell states he unlocks this during meditation. It is an awareness of oneself but also of a supernatural greater force. This concept is something that cannot be likened to any other word we may use. “This all encompassing realm, this consciousness beyond mind, cannot be captured with language any more than you can appreciate Caravaggio by licking the canvas, or Mozart by sniffing the notes on a stave”. Russell explains the ineffability of this awareness of a wider realm that we can unlock. The padlock that impedes the understanding of this inexpressible domain can easily be unlocked, we just have to ‘find the key’.
Brand also explores how religion is taught. He says “No teacher of RE ever said to me, ‘Beyond the limited realm of the senses, the shallow pool of the known, is a great untameable ocean and we don’t have a fucking clue what goes on in there.’”. Religion is educated as practices and set beliefs, not as true sensations of religious experience. No true faith is explored while being taught, just the limited rules and common philosophies each religion follows. Why not allow an exploration of the mind and consciousness? Beyond the sensory experiences that limit our growth? Another example of the stunting of individualism the education system provokes.
So, is religion diminishing? If it is, perhaps it is just the formal, structured idea of religion, the major institution in our society. The search for faith and a pervading force that is bigger than us continues to grow as we look further beyond ourselves. We have a desire for faith, an instinctive urge to discover and to develop, and we will not stop until we retrieve all of the answers. The denial that many have of a God, through atheism, may be a growing force, but those that pursuit a rational answer with philosophical sense still seek meaning to the indescribable feeling we all possess.
Words by Will Moore