Chapter 13 Britain Summary

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13 RELIGION

The vast majority of people in Britain do not regularly attend religious services. Most people's everyday language is no longer enriched by their knowledge of the Bible and the English Book of Common Prayer. It is significant that the most well-loved English translation of the Bible, known as the King James Bible, was written in the early seventeenth century and that no later translation has achieved similar status. Most people in Britain cannot strictly be described as religious. However, this does not mean that they have no religious or spiritual beliefs or inclinations. Surveys have suggested that three quarters of the population believe in God and between a third and a half believe in concepts such as life after death, heaven and hell. A majority approve of the fact that religious instruction at state schools is compulsory. Nobody objects to the fact that the Queen is queen `by the grace of God', or the fact that she was crowned by a religious figure in a church. Religious participation in Britain. `Active participation' can vary. The category `Independent Christian' denotes the various charismatic and Pentecostalist groups mentioned in the text. The road to tolerance. Until 1828 nonconformists were not allowed to hold any kind of government post or public office or even to go to university. Excluded from public life, many developed interests in trade and commerce and were the leading commercial figures in the industrial revolution. Catholics were even worse-off, having to worship in secret or with discretion. Catholics were given the right to hold public office in 1829. There is still a law today which forbids Catholic priests to sit in Parliament. RELIGION AND POLITICS

There are no important `Christian' or anti-clerical political parties. Except perhaps for Muslims, there is no recognizable political pressure group in the country which is based on a particular religious ideology. The religious conflicts of the past and their close relationship with politics have left only a few traces in modern times, and the most important of these are institutional rather than political; the fact that the monarch cannot, by law, be a Catholic; the fact that the twenty-six senior bishops in one particular church ( the Church of England) are members of the House of Lords; the fact that the government has the right of veto on the choice of these bishops; the fact that the ultimate authority for this same church is the British Parliament. It is in Britain that we find the last two cases in Europe of `established' churches, that is churches which are, by law, the official religion of a country. These cases are the Church of Scotland and the Church of England. In any case, the Anglican Church has shown itself to be effectively independent of government and there is general approval of this independence. In fact, there is a modern politics and religion debate. That is, while it is accepted that politics should stay out of religion, it is a point of debate as to whether religion should stay out of politics. The Anglican Church used to be described as `the Conservative party at prayer'. This reputation was partly the result of history and partly the result of the fact that most of its clergy and regular followers were from the higher ranks of society. However, during the 1980s and early 1990s it was common for the Church to publicly condemn the widening gap between rich and poor in British society. I 1994 the Catholic Church in Britain published a report which criticized the Conservative government. The Christian churches in Britain. The organization of the Anglican and Catholic churches is broadly similar. At the highest level is an archbishop, who presides over a province. There are only two of these in the Church of England, Canterbury and York. The senior Catholic archbishop is Westminster and its archbishop is the only cardinal from Britain. At the next level is the diocese, presided over by a bishop. In the Anglican...
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