Reflections on Whether Religion Is Needed in Modern Britain

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The main road leading down the high street of the village in which I live is dominated by a grand church which draws all eyes towards it. One would think that such a structure, the largest in the village by far, would draw large crowds each week however the dwindling number of cars with every passing Sunday suggests otherwise. It’s undeniable that the grip of the church on the people of Britain has loosened in recent times with the number of people identifying as non-religious as high as 53% in 2016, a 21% increase from 1983. Is this increase warranted or even beneficial for all involved? Many argue that religion is a pillar of our society and still of importance to this day. Others disagree by saying that religion has limited relevance in Britain where we have advanced past the previous need for the answers provided by religious texts.

Despite the decreasing number of religious Britons, many still argue its great importance in our daily lives. One such argument is that the very foundations of our country have been the morals taught to us from within the Bible. What is written in the holy books have defined right and wrong for centuries and it is the only barrier between civilization and savagery. Many believe that we simple humans were, and still are to an extent, unqualified to choose what is acceptable and unacceptable. An example of this could be seen through the mass genocide of over 20 million people in the atheist Soviet Union. Second only to, the also atheist, communist China with 65 million dead. The two largest men made losses of human life in history. This suggests that without the word of a god as a fundamental aspect of a country, questionable morals and ultimately the loss of life are inevitable and the loss of traditional Christian values may be a slippery slope into suffering and hardship.

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An issue however with religion, is the segregation of people through beliefs. An ‘us versus them’ mentality is a by-product of the belief that one’s God is the only true deity and the rest are false. It is not surprising that many wars are caused by, or instigated by, dissimilar belief systems, from the Catholic Austro-Hungarians and orthodox Serbians sparking the first world war to present day Islamic extremism resulting in the deaths of 36 British people in 2017. Throughout history, religion has resulted in the death and persecution of countless people while dividing even more. It is surprising perhaps that this catalyst for violence is widely accepted and even celebrated in today’s Britain. Public malice towards possible sources of hostility is prevalent in Britain, however religion, mostly Christianity, is exempt from persecution. Many argue that this should not be the case.

The benefits of religion go beyond surface level moral values. It provides an inner strength and joy unattainable elsewhere. Religion is a source of comfort and peace for many, especially in the hardest of times, as shown in an article in the New York Times where a professor tells a story of a student whose sibling had recently passed and the only shining light in such a dire situation was his mother's belief that she would see him again in heaven. When life is difficult, religion can often be motivation for someone to persevere. Not only that, the incentive of an afterlife can inspire goodness and lead to selfless acts. This can be shown as many charities are driven by religion such as Mary’s meals, YMCA, Blythswood and many more. These charities would most likely have never come to fruition had it not been for the religion. These loving and helping ideals have helped millions of people who need help most. It is likely that would not have received as much aid as they do with these charities today and so the continuation of religion in the UK allows these charities to benefit those in need. These charities are also benefited from the fact that religious people are more likely to donate to charity. Not only that, religious practice has profound health benefits. Weekly religious attendance has been shown to increase the life expectancy of a person by 7 years while also being directly linked to lower levels of depression as well as alcohol and drug abuse. Religious practice has been seen to, more often than not, benefit the lives of the person, and of the people around them.

Critics of religion argue that the acceptance of religious teachings effectively dulls one’s need to question what they are taught. Much of religion relies heavily on blind faith from the recipient as followers of whatever holy text accept what is told to them, whether or not it is backed up by evidence. It is not hard to believe therefore that a study conducted the University of British Columbia showed that making people think analytically decreased the person's tendency to believe in a god. This shows the counter intuitive nature of religion as it requires a certain suspension of disbelief to be followed. This is an especially deleterious message to be preaching to highly impressionable school children whether it be by a visiting minister or even a teacher. Indoctrinating children with blind faith could lead to worse impressionability and leave them with the inability to form their own opinions, creating a generation of hive-minded youth unable to differentiate between propaganda and facts when the lines between them are blurred. When so much is up for debate, for someone to form an educated and well thought out opinion, a certain level of skepticism is required while the very opposite is promoted by religion.

Despite our gargantuan scientific advances in recent times, much has yet been answered. Due to mankind’s historical hatred of the unknown, religions provide a one size fits all answer to all that is still unexplainable such as how nothing could become something in the case of the big bang theory, to the beyond miniscule chances of human beings actually coming to existence. A deity for many is the only logical explanation of such phenomena while, science itself at this stage, much like religion, often requires the acceptance of an idea where definite evidence may be lacking. A creator is an easy explanation of everything that has come to be due to the meticulous design of all living and nonliving things and so religion is still needed in modern Britain to provide answers to these questions.

A main reason as to why some people believe that we no longer need religion in Britain today is the outdated nature of most religious texts. The Old Testament was written between 1200 and 165 BC while the books of the New Testament were written between 50 and 100 AD while the Quran was supposedly shown to the prophet Muhammed around 600 AD. Hinduism predates all of them as it has been around for over 4000 years. Isn't it strange that many of our lives are guided by thousands of years old texts, while our lives now hardly correspond to the way of life then? This is shown in the outlived and often ignored verses of the Bible, the most infamous recently being that a man may not lie with a man as he would with a woman. Dubbing homosexuality a sin in the time that the Bible was written was in line with the conventional views of the era, however, we have progressed as people and are now more understanding and thoughtful in regards to a humans’ rights. As well as this, numerous verses in the Quran tell Muslims to fight and even kill those who do not believe in Allah including but not exclusively Quran 2:191-193 where it says: “Kill them [unbelievers] wherever you find them… And fight them until there is no more unbelief, and worship is for Allah alone”. In our modern and mostly progressive society such advocacy of violence should be seen as barbaric. This pollution of the Koran calls into question all the teachings that lay within when such a foundation of violence exists. The Bible itself is little better with 1 Peter 2:18 saying: “Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the cruel”. While some teachings in holy texts may be considered timeless, the absent connection between lifestyles 2000 years apart is a clear indication that something of that time should not control the life of a person today.

What is so brilliant in our modern British society is that people are free to believe whatever they see fit, religion being a part of that. The benefits of religion are numerous and can bring out the best in people. What I believe however is that people deserve, especially from a young age, a wide range of choice, allowing one to make up one’s own mind. A large number of those religious choose to brush over the negative aspects of their holy texts and choose to live positive and helpful life because of it. I do not think religion is needed in modern Britain, but it may be needed by the modern Brit.

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Reflections on Whether Religion Is Needed in Modern Britain. (2022, October 28). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 20, 2024, from
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