Assess the view that religious beliefs and practices are changing to reflect a new era of diversity and choice.
Current religious beliefs and practices are very different in Britain from 100 years ago. No longer do the masses attend the established church, attendance is down to 6% of the population and the 2001 Census identified 170 distinct religions in Britain. 72% claim to be Christian but less than half of the population believe in God and only 18% claim to be a practicing member of an organised religion.
Clearly today’s patterns are very different from those of the past. How then to explain them? There are two fields of thought here. Secularists take the simple opinion: lack of attendance and reduction of belief means a lack of interest and a decline in interest and influence of religion. However, opponents of secularisation claim it is not as simple as that. Society itself has changed dramatically in recent years but that does not mean a decline in society, just a change. Religion, therefore, can not be expected to stagnate in a changing society but must also change with the times. Religion then must met the needs of a late modern or postmodern society which offer levels of diversity and choice which have not existed before and can not do this by behaving as it did in a modern or pre-industrial society.
Grace Davie is a proponent of this point of view. For her, religion has simply become more privatised, that is: it is now a private matter of personal preference. This is more appropriate for a society which emphasises individualism and simply echoes what is happening in other institutions in society: the family, for example, is no longer a simple traditional nuclear family, other groupings are now widely accepted. People are then free to decide whether they wish to attend church, worship on their own or even use modern technologies to help them worship, whereas in the past the norm was to attend church and people felt obliged to do...
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