Religious attitudes

Parish ChurchIn the early years of the twentieth century, over seven million people in the United Kingdom described themselves as practising Christians. They constituted around 17% of the population. During the century this statistic decreased, until, by 2000 only around 12% of UK citizens actively observed the Christian faith. 

 
Reasons for the decline included:
  • The long-term legacy of eighteenth century rationalism
  • The impact of the First World War. The mainstream Christian churches backed the war effort and lost credibility as the war dragged on with huge loss of life and little to show for it (see The First World War)
  • The impact of scientific discoveries, particularly in biology
  • Rising standards of living, which made people less concerned with life after death
  • Growing individualism (see Post-Modernism & individualism).

Secularism

The United Kingdom was unusual among western democratic nations in the sense that it continued to have an Established Church, the Church of England. Nevertheless, as the twentieth century progressed, the nation became increasingly secular in character:
  • The Christian view of the nature of the universe and the place of mankind within it became less widely accepted
  • British society became more pluralistic, particularly in the second half of the century
  • Christian views on ethical and moral questions became increasingly marginalised, particularly in the last quarter of the century as Post-Modernists dispensed with external ‘truth-claims’.

The impact of multiculturalism on traditional practice

The United Kingdom has a long history of integrating immigrants from a variety of nations. The twentieth century, and particularly the second half of the century, saw unprecedented levels of immigration (see Colonialism and post-colonialism). 
 
From the outset, official government policy towards the range of cultures of the immigrants was one of tolerance and respect. Part of that tolerance and respect was an attitude that the religious views of the immigrants were as valid as Christian views. As ethnic minorities grew as a proportion of the population and as church membership declined, traditional Christian views on issues of public concern increasingly became just a small part of a broad tapestry of views.
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