Despite the falling popularity of organised religion, most people in the UK still believe in the power of spiritual forces, research suggests … “The study appears to confirm that, despite a steady decline in congregations and in formal religious belief, a sense of the spiritual remains strong in Britain,” said the BBC’s religious affairs correspondent Robert Pigott.
Essentially, the picture is not as simple as ‘religion down, atheism up’: it is more complicated.
But what is happening? The original document, on which the BBC’s report was based, asked whether people who believed in spiritual beings or angels or God did anything about their beliefs. They discovered that they did, but not in any ‘conventional’ or ‘traditional’ way:
According to our research, 23% of people said they had had their tarot cards read, 17% had had their star sign read, 12% had had a reflexology session. Smaller numbers had experienced more esoteric spiritual experiences, such as having a reiki session (8%), having their aura read (6%), healing with crystals (5%), and having an ayurveda session (1%).
Women are considerably more likely than men to undergo these things (51% vs. 26%) but what is perhaps most interesting about these figures is that, while 39% of the overall population admit to having undergone at least one of these experiences, so do 38% of the non-religious (compared to 40% of the religious). In other words, when it comes to these more obviously non-religious spiritual activities, there is no difference according to whether someone is religious or not. (Page 22)
Clearly, such people do not see ‘going to church’ as the natural expression of their spiritual longings. Perhaps the Christian Church, rather than just defaulting to its usual ‘come to church’ response, should first of all ask, what needs are being expressed in these practices? How can we respond to those?
What answers would you give to those questions?