Archive for the ‘young people’ category

SECULARISATION IN EUROPE: A GENERATIONAL SHIFT

December 2, 2011

At the recent meeting of the World Evangelical Alliance’s Mission Commission I presented a 25 minutes overview of several of the main features of Europe that we have been researching and which impact the mission of the Churches. One of those concerns work on the generational impact of the 20-29 year olds on trends relating to secularisation.

Six questions from the European Values Study (1980 and repeated in 1989, 1999 and 2008, the latter including 47 countries) form the basis for our ‘Nova Index of European Secularity’:

  1. Do you believe in God?
  2. How important is religion in your life?
  3. Are you religious, non-religious or atheist?
  4. How often do you attend religious services?
  5. How much confidence do you have in the church?
  6. 6. How often do you pray?

From these measures we believe that the 2008 data points to a ‘developing post-Christendom identity’, characteristic of people who have previously been, or who remain, ‘Christian’ but who presently have no institutional affiliation (or a very diluted form of it). The data represents a shift from ‘Christendom’ religiosity to ‘post-Christendom’ spirituality, rather than from ‘Christendom’ nonreligiosity towards ‘post-Christendom’ spirituality. The newly ‘spiritual’ are not on a journey towards faith but instead are on a journey away from church affiliation. Whether this data represents a deepening of secularity or a mutation of religiosity deserves closer and more rigorous attention and debate.

The EVS data indicates a markedly irreligious generation of 50-69 year olds, best characterised as ‘ideologically hostile’ to religiosity. This generation is now beginning to retire from influential roles in the media, politics, education, and the arts. The havoc that these ‘lost generations’ have wreaked – in constructing a narrative of hard secularism – may finally be waning.

Our initial analysis supports the findings of other social scientists who suggest that the current generation of 20-29 year olds is reportedly less hostile to religion and religiosity but that this may be little more than a generation best characterised as ‘benignly indifferent’ to religiosity. This more ‘open generation’ may prove to be more amenable to creating the space necessary for a discussion of religion and religiosity within the media, politics, education, and the arts.

Where post-ideological commitments like this are held relatively lightly there may yet be scope for a considered exploration of the public value of religious belief and practice.

Redcliffe students innovating new forms of mission

May 4, 2011

One of our placement students is currently working alongside ‘Serve the City’ in Leuven and is already managing to encourage innovation in the way that the Belgian teams engages on the streets. She shared her experience of weekly placement with the Gloucester ‘Street Pastors’ project and her transferrable skills and knowledge are proving a real asset to the Belgian team. She writes

‘After talking about my experience of Street Pastors in Gloucester, my supervisor really liked the idea and decided he would like to do that in Leuven! So they have asked that while I am here I will help them set up their own version of Street Pastors! Although it probably won’t be running by the time I leave, I am so excited about being involved and have a meeting with the leadership team next week to explain to them in more detail how it works and how we can get things going.’

Non-religious young people in Britain

April 15, 2011

Dr. Rebecca Catto (Lancaster University) has published her initial reflections on a small-sale survey of non-religious young people on the guardian online. ‘Beyond Grayling, Dawkins and Hitchens, a new kind of British atheism‘  reports on a one year project that explores the worldviews of young people who self-identify as atheists, free thinkers, humanists, secularists, and/or sceptics.

Catto reports that these ‘new atheists’ may be ‘more flexible and open to different perspectives than older non-religionists (some report attending events with actively Christian friends), and prefer to engage with online communitiesthan belong to official organisations. They are strongly influenced by family and education. Some have reacted against Christian upbringings; have been influenced by writers like Daniel Dennett and Sam Harris; one man is looking to challenge the influence of the Christian Union on his university campus; and another would like to break the association between Britishness and Christianity. For one woman, the important thing is being pro-human rather than anti-religious.’

This greater flexibility on the part of the new atheists compared to older non-religionists is supported by our own analysis of data from the European Values Survey in which we examined generational differences and secularisation.

The challenge to Christian witness is not necessarily that the new atheist perspective is a ‘faith-free’ zone. For some it would appear to be a search for truth and morality and for whom ‘the secular can be just as moral, emotional and sacred as the religious.’  Lesslie Newbigin serves as an important reminder that our task in Christian mission is to demonstrate the truth that Christian versions of morality, the sacred, and human nature are more adequate, beautiful, and compelling than its rivals.