- February 2015 : Visit my Mosque Day - a new national initiative
On Sunday 1 February, The Muslim Council of Britain organised a national day where more than 20 mosques across the country opened their doors to the general public. They served tea and cakes, gave tours of the buildings and answered questions about Islam and Muslim worship to anyone who wanted to drop by. The Muslim Council described Visit My Mosque day “part of a national initiative by Muslims to reach out to fellow Britons following tensions around terrorism”. On their website the umbrella organisation say they hope to repeat the event later in the year.
More information can be found in The Guardian.
- January 2015 : Cohort study shows gender gap in British religiosity
A new study of more than 9,000 British people born in 1970 has received much media attention for showing very substantial gender differences in religiosity in Britain (see for example the Independent). More than half (54%) of the men surveyed said they were atheists or agnostics, compared to only a third (34%) of the women. The survey, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, involved members of the 1970 British Cohort Study, conducted by the Institute of Eductation’s Centre for Longitudinal Studies.
In a working paper released on 21 January 2015 by the UCL Institute of Education (IOE), David Voas (University of Essex) examines the changes in religiosity over the life course. He found that there could be a great deal of fluctuation in the responses of the same individual over time. About a quarter even changed their response on whether they were brought up religious. On the whole, there is more movement from religious to nonreligious responses, than the other way around, consistent with the general religious decline in Britain in the past 30 years.
Many of the respondents in the panel could be classified as either religious or nonreligious, depending on which survey questions you ask them. For example “only two thirds of those who say ‘I know that God really exists and I have no doubts about it’ think that there is definitely life after death” (Voas 2015:16). These apparent inconsistencies, both over time and within the same survey, underscore that the boundaries between religious and nonreligious can be fluid. Large proportions of those who identify as religious believers also express doubt about their beliefs. Men are more likely to express such doubts than women, while women are more likely to express uncertainty about atheistic or nonreligious beliefs.
- January 2015 : Libby Lane is the first female bishop in the Church of England
The first female bishop in the Church of England has been consecrated in York Minster. The Reverend Libby Lane was made Bishop of Stockport (Greater Manchester) on 26 January 2015 by the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu. The ceremony was interrupted by Rev. Paul Williamson, who has previously been an avid protester against the ordinationt of female priests. Women have been priests in the Church of England since 1994, but it is only since last year that the law was changed to allow female bishops. This is despite Anglican female bishops having been consecrated in several other countries. The long debate that preceded the change reflects a division within the Church of England, and within the Anglican church worldwide, between Anglo-Catholic and evangelical movements on the one hand, and more liberal elements on the other.
To read more and watch parts of the ceremony, see the BBC.