Religion in the UK

uk flagReligion comes from the Latin term “religere”, meaning “to bring people together”. Religion is etymologically about uniting people, forming a community (a group in which people fundamentally depend on one another).  Religion as a source of unity shapes society and orientates the guiding ideology. This doesn’t make it necessarily religious (although it could, such as it did in 1980s Iran, a Shia Muslim theocracy). We can use Israel as a good example for this: a State administered by Jewish people born out of the Zionist movement, political and secular. Despite being a Jewish-governed state, it doesn’t abide by the laws of the Torah but by those of democracy. It may be hard to get your head round that, I know. But that’s how it is.

So let’s focus on the UK. Well, one might say the official religion is the Church of England, seeing as the UK is under the authority of the British Crown and our monarchs are Church of England Christians since Henry VIIIth founded this Holy institution himself (in order to dissociate the Royal Family from the Roman Vatican which, according to Catholic law, wouldn’t accept the mere notion of divorce). But saying the UK’s official religion is the Church of England is incorrect. Firstly because the UK spreads beyond England, but mainly because the UK is a culture-religious melting pot. A crucible of religions, if I may say so, as illustrates the following statistics dated from 2010:

  • Christians: 64%

  • Muslims: 5%

  • Hindus: 1.4%

  • Jews: 0.5%

  • Buddhists: 0.4%

  • Folk religions: 0.1%

  • No religion: 28%

One would expect the main clashes would oppose Jews to Muslims or Catholics to Church of England Protestants. But no. The main clashes oppose the highly religious to the devout atheists. You see, in the UK, most of us are normal, we are famous for having nuanced and mild views about everything, sometimes so much so that no one really understands what we are saying, or see right through our passiveness and realise we are bullshitting below the layer of eloquence we put on (thanks for training me well mum, dad and Miss Maguire). Only those holding extreme views at either end of the belief spectrum (the preachers VS astrophysics geeks) actually confront one another directly on topics such as abortion. My body my decision VS your body God’s creation. That’s the sort of religion-based riot you get in the UK.

That being said, religion has a strong voice in the UK. Its diversity is clear in a cosmopolitan city like London, where multiple religious groups have learnt to coexist. The fact that each ethical group has pretty much taken over one specific area (Edgware Road for the Arab Muslims, Golders Green for the Jews…) allows their members to maintain the sense of community which their religion seeks to create, whilst developing healthy relationships with others in other parts of town. Each religious community can demonstrate as it pleases, so long as it doesn’t affect another group or threaten the basic values of democracy so important to the UK. In fact, in 2014, the Jewish community backed up the Arabs protest against Israel’s intervention in the Gaza strip:

However, the same cannot be said for elsewhere in the UK: much like in the USA, the more desolate, secluded regions areas are prone to being the home of one main cultural group only, squashing all others with their majority (e.g.: the city of Leicester, famous for its Hindu majority).

by William H.