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God is not dead in the UK

Written by: on June 26, 2014

According to the UK Office for National Statistics, (ONC), Christianity is officially in steep decline in England and Wales. The figure for those who claim to hold to Christianity across all regions in these countries fell from 71.7 percent in 2001 to 59.3 percent in 2011. [1] Even more dramatic is the sharp increase of those professing “no religion”, from 14.8 percent to 25.1 percent, a stark picture of a striking move away from Christianity towards unbelief. That’s one quarter of the English and Welsh population who claim to have no religion, with the highest proportion found in Wales. Conversely, there was an increase in all other main religions, with Muslims increasing the most from 3 percent to 4.8 percent in 2011. [2] As Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, writes, “There is a move against organized religion – people still have their spiritual side but there is less trust in organized religion than there was.” [3]

In his book, Culture and the Death of God, Eagleton takes the reader on a whirlwind tour of primary intellectual thought over the last three to four hundred years, starting with the Enlightenment, progressing to Modernism, Post Modernism, Romanticism, Culture and so on. He brings the reader through an exploration over the dominant ideas of the age and enables one to see just how religion has suffered under the gunfire of philosophical ideas. He articulately explains how each of these philosophical constructs has attempted to do away with God and religion, and yet often ending up restating many of the divine attributes under new terminology. For postmodern UK, this attempt to do away with God is clearly reflected in my opening statistics. We are a nation in which many believe no absolutes exist, one in which perhaps “a nostalgia for the numinous is finally banished.” [4] At least in some quarters.

Despite the disappointing statistics, however, Eagleton also explains how philosophers cannot escape from the basic premise that humans have restlessness that is not easy to satisfy outside of God. Eternity is in the heart of mankind and in attempting to run away from the Divine, will simply often bring one full circle. Towards the end of his book, he describes how some have turned to alternative forms of religion and spirituality to satisfy their spiritual hunger: “There are also traces of the transcendent in the bogus spirituality of some postmodern cultures. It is the kind of soft-centred, cut-price religiosity one would expect from a thoroughly materialistic society… It comes as no surprise that Scientology, packaged Sufism, off-the-peg occultism and ready-to-serve transcendental meditation should figure as fashionable pastimes among the super-rich, or that Hollywood should turn its eyes to Hinduism.” [5]

Despite the ardent attempts of many philosophers, each era has failed to properly dispose of God, Eagleton claims. The effort to satisfy human restlessness outside of God has simply left us wanting. I see this hunger in the town where I have recently church planted. Many traditional churches are closing and the perception of organized religion is one that is irrelevant and archaic. Even so, there exists a hunger to know about God and a desire for His relevance in their lives. People recognize the void that materialism has created and feel a need for more in life. Eagleton agrees that the perceived vacuity of western living has ironically created a renewed hunger for the divine. God is still not dead, it seems. Nor is the desire for Him.


[1] Office for National Statistics. 2011. Religion in England and Wales 2011, 1

[2] ONS, 3

[3] John Bingham: Christianity Not ‘fading away’ says Archbishop Ahead of Census Figures (The Telegraph, 11 December 2012, accessed 18 April 2014)

[4] Terry Eagleton: Culture and the Death of God (USA: Yale University Press, 2014), 190

[5] Eagleton, 191

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Liz Linssen

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