Thursday, April 16, 2009

"Secularism" or credulity?

There are those who are happy about the ten per cent decline in those who identify with orthodox Christian faith and celebrate what they interpret as an increase in "secularism." If, as seems often the case, what has happened in Europe prefigures what will happen here, it may not be "secularism" that is on the rise. For instance, the decline in orthodox belief in Great Britain seems to more closely resemble the behavior suggested in a quotation attributed to G.K. Chesterton: "When men stop believing in God they don’t believe in nothing: they believe in anything”.
Four out of ten people in Britain believe in ghosts and more than half believe in life after death, according to research to be published today.

Research by Theos, the theology think-tank, shows that seven out of ten people believe in the human soul and more than five out of ten believe in heaven. One in five believes in astrology or horoscopes, one in ten in Tarot or fortune telling and nearly three in ten people believe in reincarnation.

ComRes, the company that carried out the research, surveyed more than 2,000 people for Theos. The results suggest that we are more superstitious than 60 years ago, at a time when orthodox religious belief is declining and secularism is on the rise. ....

Research by Gallup in 1950 found that just one in ten people believed in ghosts, and a mere 2 per cent thought they had seen one. In 1951, fewer than one in ten said they believed in predicting the future by cards or stars. ....

Paul Woolley, the director of Theos, said: "The enlightenment optimism in the ability of science and reason to explain everything ended decades ago. The extent of belief will probably surprise people, but the finding is consistent with other research we have undertaken. [more]
E.E. Evans at GetReligion comments:
...I wonder why we aren’t getting more coverage of the “unorthodox” forms of belief over here from the mainstream media? Isn’t it possible that the fight isn’t between faith and “secularism” but between traditional beliefs and various ancient forms of supernaturalism? ....

Belief in reincarnation, astrology, Tarot and other forms of faith in the supernatural has been around almost as long as many of the world's great religions. Ignoring the possibility that such practices shape and affect the behavior ordinary Americans seems like walking over the elephant in contemporary religious life. Is it because both traditional and progressive elites find this idea rather unpalatable? It also poses a challenge to those who claim that ‘secularism’ is on the rise — without defining what ‘secularism’ is. [more]
Update 4/17: I removed the selection from the interview with Ed Stetzer [well worth reading] because its relationship to the rest of the post seemed a bit of a stretch and also renamed the post.

Four out of ten Britons believe in ghosts -Times Online, Spectres and secularism » GetReligion

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