Social Compass 37(4), 1990, 455-469


Believing without Belonging: Is This the
Future of Religion in Britain?
Les statistiques concernant rappartenance aux institutions religieuses et
celles qui, d ’autre part, sont relatives aux modeles de croyance nous
o f f rent deux indicateurs distincts, mais lies, de la religiosite. Chacun
d ’eux pose des problem es au chercheur mais, consideres conjointem ent, Us peuvent nous orienter vers des questions centrales. On peut
m em e dire que c'est la combinaison exacte de ces deux variables qui
caracterise la religion britannique a la fin du 20eme siecle. II semble
que la croyance persiste alors m em e que rappartenance continue a
baisser ou, plus exactement, que la croyance dim inue (a diminue) moins
vite que rappartenance. II en resulte un desequilibre marque entre les
deux indicateurs. Les deux premieres parties de rarticle ont po u r but de
faire ressortir les implications de ce desequilibre p o u r une analyse de la
religion dans la societe britannique contemporaine. D eux perspectives
particulieres focalisent notre attention: la premiere pose la question des
changements profonds entre generations, la seconde examine quelques
aspects de la religion de la classe ouvriere. La troisieme par tie analyse les
memes donnees mais d ’un point de vue un peu different. On y considere certains types de croyance religieuse dans la societe britannique et
la fagon dont ils sont lies a des contextes particuliers.

Introduction and Outline
Membership figures for religious institutions and statistics relating to pat­
terns of religious belief provide us with two distinct, though related,
indicators of religiosity. Each poses some problems for the social investi­
gator, but taken together they can point us to some crucial questions.
Indeed, the precise com bination between these two variables is, surely, what
characterizes British1 religion in the late 20th century. Believing, it seems,
persists while belonging continues to decline — or, to be more accurate,
believing is declining (has declined) at a slower rate than belonging —
resulting in a marked imbalance between the two variables; this imbalance
pervades a very great deal of our religious life. It characterizes what might be
termed the “ implicit religion” of the British people in the last decades of the
20th century.
We need, however, to look at the relationship between these two vari­
ables — believing and belonging — from more than one perspective. Not
only does the relationship between the two change over time — it was
different in the past and may well differ in the future — it also reflects the
pressures of particular contexts within contem porary Britain. To start with,

an alternative religious focus for society? If so. for example. and the individual’s intricate and continually evolving relationship to such systems. is the role o f religious education or o f religious broad­ casting? (D avie. It considers certain “ types” of religious belief within contem porary Britain and the way that these types relate to particular contexts. in this connection.2 The follow­ ing questions are central to this kind of analysis: W hat. In adopting this necessarily limited approach. or do they becom e a rival set-up. the second looks at some aspects of working-class religion (not least the reli­ gious patterns prevalent in the inner city. is the relationship between the active religious minority in a society and the inactive religious majority? H ow far is one dependent on the other? Why is the former so often predom inantly middle class? Does a believing majority make the work o f a minority harder or easier? D o the former.456 Believing without Belonging the relationship between believing and belonging varies considerably between the different countries that make up the United Kingdom. to examine the ways in which these variables interact in one social class rather than another. we need. but looks at it from a slightly different angle. for example. however. the changing nature of social institutions. they concern. contrasting. two particular perspectives provide a focus: the first raises the question of profound generational changes. 1989: 85-6) The third part of the article uses the same material. and to different types of existence. But even within England. might determine this effectiveness? Through which institutional mechanisms can church members work outside o f the church itself? W ho has access to these institu­ tions? W hat. On the other hand traditional rural patterns of belief are rarely expressed. indeed for the sociologist in general. or — to use a more technical phrase — in our urban priority areas). Since the article is relatively short. We need. For example suburban. what is the nature o f this alternative belief? Is there a minimum size beyond which the active minority is no longer effective in a society? What factors. “ experiential” and do not necessarily connect with specifically religious . The first two sections of this article aim to draw out the implications of this kind of approach for an analysis of religion in contem porary Britain. “ articulate” . urban or rural ways of life. middle-class belief is. to bear in mind a whole series of underlying questions concerning the way in which religious institutions relate to the broader currents of religious belief in contemporary society. say. Secondly. The impli­ cations of this marked variation are considerable. it is expressed in a predictable range of consciously chosen activities and leads to a distinctive kind of church life. there are marked variations in religious behaviour (once again both in believing and belonging) between different social environments in Britain. The proportion of the population claiming religious membership is more than six times greater in Northern Ireland than in England (see Table 1). constitute a pool from which the latter can fish. for exam ple. primarily. the relationship alters in response both to regional (even local) factors. for the most part. they are. their role in the creation and dissemination of belief systems. These relationships raise some very fundamental issues for the sociologist of religion. precisely. in one racial group rather than another and bearing in mind the divergent behaviour of men and women with respect to religious life. apart from size.

exactly. On the other hand. We shall see that very real problems emerge when the two types of behaviour become focused on a single church. to know the significance of social class and gender. it is. This kind of generational difference has been reflected in church membership statistics for some time. Generational Shifts in Religious Behaviour Older people have always been more religious than the young.5 We need. and it is. however. W hat. Clearly there are a great many differences within the category “ young people” . demonstrates the strong correlation between age and religious commitment that emerged from the European Values survey. is the nature of British “ implicit religion” ? Alongside this mismatch. It seems that belief in God (and specifically belief in a personal God) declines with each step down the age scale. to m ark the turning points in life: birth. Despite a lack of regular attendance. Given that this group of people forms a m ajority within the population. we need. Religious membership becomes a question of being rather than doing. prayer and moral conservatism. marriage and — most of all — death. it is. of crucial significance for the study of contemporary British society. for example. does practice. . moreover. worth underlining one or two features that are central to the argument. This conti­ nues to be the church from which a m ajority of English4 people choose to stay away. that is. In short. im portant to note the relatively large latent membership of the Church of England (see Table 2). as. We should. In short. a religiously and morally conservative m ajority among the retired becomes a religiously conservative minority in the 18-24 age-group. Nonetheless. in addition.3 Much o f this material is self-evident. Table 4. they have always taken him more seriously than the young. indeed. a large m ajority of people in contemporary Britain continue to believe but have ceased to belong to their religious institutions in any meaningful sense (compare Tables 1 and 3). it is to the Church of England that most English people turn when the services of a reli­ gious institution are required. All three sections of the article depend upon a framework of statistics. it is ironic that sociologists appear to know very little indeed about their religious beliefs and the way that these impinge on daily life. Understanding the implications of such resi­ dual allegiance and its relationship both to the practising religious minority and to the wider culture seem to me. therefore. except.Davie 457 behaviour. 1985). These are summarized in Tables 1-4. Harding and Phillips. perhaps. for example. note that these correlations hold for many other E uro­ pean countries besides Britain (Stoetzel. increasingly. 1983. to know whether there are denom inational differences in belief and behaviour for the actively religious young. supported by studies of religious belief. W hether the elderly have regarded God as judgemental (the source of all their troubles) or as a father figure (the rock in the storm of life). The most obvious of these underpins the whole approach and concerns the profound imbalance between any statistics of church membership and those concerned with religious belief.

655 285.923 115.55l a 2.142a 4.142 723 3.008 45.C/» oo Members N .611 17.019.471a 435.310 l.649 32 880.216a 901.666 79.371.675.521 415 785 1.673 216.824 240 34 175 1.099a 8.248 56.914 12.000 61.342.197 406. Ireland 157.731a 34.927 2.029 3.392 16. p. 150).762a 3.914 84.306.812.948a l.132 Believing without Belonging TABLE 1 Church membership: 1985 summary figures by individual country .112 75 32.034a 150a 324 6 478 6 420 2 2.737 26.513 418 2.312 1.764a 167.532 1.1 5 9 a 8. Ireland England W ales Scotland N .554 353.443 440 126 85 595 409 1.405a 2.380a 165a 200 5 1.347 22 Churches Ministers Scotland 1.948 1.941 5.407 3.561 7.8 7 9 a 6.493 1.480a 179a 4.078 526.896 37.000 274. Source : Brierley (1988.341a 27.940a 127.212 1.615 Roman Catholic Orthodox Total Christian Percentage o f adult population: 1.000 22.632 7.547 146.522 698 193 245 268 420 1.705 11 aRevised figure. 496.067 — 38.077 England W ales Anglican Methodist Baptist Presbyterian Other Churches Total Protestant l.380 364 244 70 532 182 1.027 347.019 1.077 315 73 190 2.235a 2.111 2 549 3. Ireland England W ales Scotland N.144 5.

as many comm entators do. l c 41.9 5. 6C 4.4 0.4 39. that the former is the case.2 0.4 0.2 0.5 0.6 1.4 1.8 4.1 0.5 0.3 Total Trinitarian Churches 40.2 0. It cannot.5 0.6 0.1 1. bBaptised membership. the implications for the future o f religious life in this country are very considerable indeed.2 0.4C 37.4 1.3 0. The point at issue can be summarized quite simply: just how far can familiar patterns of religious life (both structures and culture) m aintain themselves if more and more young people not only opt out of the system tem porarily but stay out of it perm a­ nently? This is one of the most crucial questions facing the contem porary churches.7 5.0 26. however.5 1.5 0.3 Church of Scientology Other non-Trinitarian Churches Jews Hindus Muslims Sikhs Other religions Total non-Trinitarian Churches and other religions Total all religions Percentage total Christian Churches of population Percentage total all religions of population 1.1 27.3 1.6 1.4 1.2 42.2 0.4 0.3 0.7 1.2 0.6 1.1 42.3 0.6 1.5 0.4 0.7° 3.7 5. the churches have been able to adapt to this change.Davie 459 the underlying question remains the same whatever the internal patterns within this group.3 1. .7 5.3 0.8 38.4 1. in the late 20th century.5 0. in the short term at least.7 2.2 0.7 2.8 37. but concerns the relationship that those institutions have with the wider society.3 0. And. Are we.1 0.6 1.8 0.1 0.5 0.3 41.5 1.6 41.4 0.5 1.7 0.2 42.4C 0. experiencing a massive generational shift with respect to religious behaviour.7 0.3 0.4 1.4C 37.3 0.6 1.3 0.3° 0.3 1.2 25.2 0.4 3.3 1. p.5 0.6 1.1 25. be answered within the religious institutions themselves. Source: Brierley (1988.6 0.5 0.8 72 71 68 67 66 65 75 75 75 74 73 73 aEstimate.2° 0. moreover.6 1.1 0.8 0.2 0.4 0.3 1.8 1.1 26. We need. cRevised figure. rather than a m ani­ festation of the normal life-cycle? If we conclude. to remember — in commenting upon the possibilities of a new situation — that there has already been an im portant (though rarely perceived) generational shift in British religion.6 1.7 5.5 0.1 5.1 0.7 0.3 1. 151).6 0. though they are TABLE 2 Total community figures (millions)3 Religion 1970 1975 1980 1983 1985 1987 Church of England*5 Other Anglicans Baptists Methodists Presbyterians Roman Catholics'5 Orthodox Other Trinitarian Churches 27.3 1.2 0.

been drifting apart. Since the war the pattern has altered radically. not only is practice minimal. for baptism or for marriage — those who receive them can assume very little indeed in the way of credal awareness. to a greater extent than is often appreciated.460 Believing without Belonging TABLE 3 Indicators of religious commitment. (1985. not always conscious of so doing. They may not have practised their faith very regularly but they possessed. Orthodox Christianity and popular belief have. 60). so too does a relatively friendly attitude towards the churches. etc. Define self as a religious person Draw com fort/strength from religion God is im portant in my life Have had a spiritual experience Indicators o f orthodox belief Believe in personal God (Believe in a spirit or life force) Believe in: God Sin Soul Heaven Life after death The Devil Hell Personally fully accept Com mandm ents demanding: No other gods Reverence of G od’s name Holy Sabbath Great Britain European average 34 50 15 8 50 58 30 44 18 10 57 62 46 50 19 48 51 12 31 39 32 36 76 69 59 57 45 30 27 73 57 57 40 43 25 23 48 43 25 48 46 32 Source : Abrams et al. Nominal belief in God persists. so too is religious knowledge. Are we now (as we enter the last decade of the 20th century) experiencing a . inevitably. When and if the postwar generations of the population approach their churches — for example. or. nonetheless. under the influence of a wide network of para-church organizations. a degree of religious knowledge that had at least some sort of connection with orthodox Christianity. at least. p. grew up under the influence of the churches. Great Britain compared with the European average (percentages) Indicators o f religious disposition Often think about meaning and purposes of life Never think life meaningless Often think about death Often regret doing wrong Need moments of prayer. In contrast. Prewar generations in Britain.

15 Missing cases 32 Total (%) 22 Source: Abrams et al.Davie 461 TABLE 4 Socio-demographic profile of religious commitment Overall religious commitment: combined scale (%) Variable Low M edium Low Medium Medium High High (%) % % % w Age: 18-24 25-44 45-64 65 + Total sample (N = 100%) 27 31 21 11 15 16 19 18 11 16 20 28 9 14 27 28 193 446 335 202 Sex/em ploym ent status o f wom en: Male 27 25 W orking female 18 23 Non-working F 15 23 18 17 14 14 23 22 15 20 26 576 311 314 39 24 14 14 Significance = 0.21 Gamma 0. 70-71).21 Terminal education age: 14 yrs or under 15-17 yrs 18 yrs + 15 24 26 15 29 23 18 17 14 25 16 15 28 14 22 361 628 208 17 24 22 22 23 27 19 17 14 21 19 16 21 17 21 322 547 330 22 25 23 17 23 24 24 24 17 16 19 15 18 14 18 23 20 21 17 21 192 263 387 353 cases): 15 20 26 19 27 28 15 16 18 25 17 13 26 21 15 250 307 322 24 17 19 19 1201 (max) Significance 0. .000 Gamma 0.05 Incom e level (327 missing Under £3840 £3840-£7199 £7200 + Significance 0.29 Significance 0. (1985.000 Gamma 0.0001 Gamma 0.13 Gamma 0.000 Gamma 0.14 Locality: Village Small town Large town Significance 0. pp.05 Socio-economic group: AB Cl C2 DE Significance 0.

or between religion and ethical behaviour. increasingly. David Sheppard puts this as follows: It d oesn ’t take long to discover that the great majority o f urban working class people in Europe and Britain are alienated from the institution o f the church — whatever church — as they are from all institutions (Foreword to Ahern and Davie. In short. in this part of our society. it is clear that we need to know a great deal more about the elusive and changing links between religion and social morality. this situation of alienation is nothing new. Just how far is it possible to talk in any meaningful sense about one without the other? The issue becomes. a mistrust of any kind of institutional life.462 Believing without Belonging further generational shift in religious behaviour? The sociological evidence seems to indicate that this might be the case. and above all in those parts of our cities designated as urban priority areas. even if a full discussion of their implications is impossible in a short article. in that contem po­ rary society — almost by its very nature — throws up issue after issue which lie.7 Bearing this in mind. nonetheless. that is. Belief persists. not least the European Values study: significant numbers of their 18-24 age-group are rejecting even nominal belief. we may find a very different pattern of “ religious” behaviour among the young. 1987: 7 -8). moreover. disconnected belief is. If we widen the definition of religion to include questions about the meaning of life. shifted ground so completely that we are no longer talking about the same phenomenon? And even if we agree that the approach itself is legitimate. Indeed some sections of the urban working class in Britain have been . this line of argument begs many questions which cannot be ignored. A second point is equally significant. the purpose o f m ankind’s existence. This redirection is. The Urban W orking C lass The discrepancy between believing and belonging is at its sharpest in urban working-class areas. for many young people. compounded by a further factor. however. that is — surely — the relationship between believing and belonging. giving way to no belief at all. the future of the planet and m an’s respon­ sibilities to his fellow man and to the E arth itself. The evidence remains largely impressionistic but it seems likely that the 18-24 age-group may respond to these profound ecological. we might suggest the following rather tentative conclusion: religion and religious values are not so much disappearing among young people as being redirected. Have we.6 There is. precisely. moral. ethical (and surely religious) issues much more positively than they do to traditional religious instruction. another way of looking at things. O f course. more urgent rather than less. but the expected reluctance to practise religion is. altering (very profoundly) the relationship between popular belief and the institutional churches. for example. on this boundary.

This is not necessarily the case. In contrast. The institutional churches are able. not articulated at all. no perceived need to put belief into institutional or liturgical practice. but they are just as valid as middle-class ones. but getting “ worse” . changing. might determine this effectiveness? Through . they exist almost unconsciously and remain in a latent form until “ needed” . wanting to believe but without putting this belief into practice. not only changing. but it is very often the crises. The overall pattern of religious life is. to bring the urban working class into contact with its churches. How. it is. the norm al patterns of our society. there is. More and more people within British society are. apart from size. in a working-class environment (where levels of education are lower). In a middle-class environment people are more likely to make conscious choices about both belief and practice. Working-class religious views frequently take the form o f unexamined assumptions. it appears. Not only is working-class belief largely unrelated to religious practice. despite everything. in fact. to acknowledge the shifts that are taking place and to ask questions about them. therefore. though sometimes with great difficulty. Indeed it could be argued that the reverse is true.Davie 463 without any real contact with their churches for several generations. some aspects of working-class religious behaviour (notably the lack of regular church attendance) — traditionally thought of as exceptions to the rule — are becoming. In other words the nature of the relationship between belief and practice varies depending upon the social class in question. working-class modes of behaviour may be different. in many urban areas church-going is seen as at best unneces­ sary and at worst hypocritical. It is easy to slip into value judgements about different types of religious behaviour and to conclude that things are. however. It is at one and the same time true that higher social groupings are on average more inclined to belief and practice than lower ones. if they do one they do the other. This section raises one question in particular: just how far can our present structures of religious life m aintain themselves if increasing numbers o f people in our society prefer a passive rather than active relationship to these structures?9 We have. In other words. to m aintain a structure even in those parts of society where the going is hardest. and that increased educational levels (normally associated with higher social class) have a negative effect on religious belief. nonetheless. We need. has working-class belief been able to maintain itself despite a prolonged divorce from institutional Christianity? And what effect has this divorce had on the nature o f working-class belief? Part of the explanation lies in what might appear a self-contradictory statement. that bring religious ideas to the fore. increasingly. It is this kind of situation (abnorm al almost by definition) that continues.8 A further point is also im portant. then. W hat triggers the need varies. just. So far these needs can be met. very often. returned to the sociological issues outlined in the introductory section. apparently. or the turning-points in life. and most o f all with the Church of England. in particular to considering: Is there a minimum size beyond which the active minority is no longer effective in society? What factors.

464 Believing without Belonging which institutional m echanism s can church members work outside o f the church itself? W ho has access to these institutions? W hat. be seen very clearly within the Church of England. found in distinct geo­ graphical locations. rather tentative. for example. If we look first at the inner city. The typology could. Rather. 1987). This view seems to me mistaken (Ahern and Davie. the labels are intended to evoke a distinctive characteristic. A Suggested Typology of Belief The Typology The The The The inner city suburb city centre countryside Belief depressed Belief articulated Civic belief Belief assumed The Roman Catholic churches The black churches Belief expressed Communal belief Religious broadcasting Believing without belonging. and the way that this particular type of belief relates (or fails to relate) to religious practice. We can. We need. is the role o f religious education or o f religious broadcasting? Clear-cut answers are. of course. typology of belief. Indeed there are some commentators who might suggest that belief has. par excellence Religious education Belief: injected or rejected The examples of belief proposed in the typology given here are by no means exhaustive. Nor is it possible. to underline a further contrast: these divergent patterns of belief result in very different types of churches. Nonetheless the nature of working-class religious behav­ iour undoubtedly contrasts very sharply with the articulate belief of the middle-class suburbs. for example. the types are almost always mixed. that differentiates belief in one part of our society from another. nevertheless. in this connection. however. include many more denomi­ national illustrations. moreover. The first four examples are. We have already looked in some detail at the depressed nature of much inner-city (working-class) belief. less easy to supply than the questions. it is clear that in this part of society most churches rely for their very existence on the parochial system . in any meaningful sense. a particular flavour even. the contrasting types can. This is not a question of denom inational differences. for the most part. disappeared alto­ gether from large parts of our cities. begin to explore some of these connections within the following. let alone desirable. inner city and suburb are — inevitably — associated with identi­ fiable social classes and any further analysis must take account of these connections. to discuss each one of these types in turn as if it were a closely defined phenomenon peculiar to a discrete social situation. In practice.10 If the . On the other hand it is undeniable that within the urban context.

On the other hand any proposed closure of a church will be met by a chorus of disapproval from non-members as well as members. Indeed it is im portant to remember that religious minorities always behave differently from majorities with respect to both believing and belonging. endless committees and a much clearer distinction between members and non-members than is found elsewhere in society. indeed unquestioning. however. This kind of difference has to be explained sociologically. The services of that church are more widely appreciated than is often realized. If we turn now to the black churches. Profound (and seemingly irreversible) economic changes have resulted in an ever-increasing stream of newcomers who arrive. If we turn now to the rural church. arrangement has. they see no need to indicate this membership through specifically religious activity. in our small towns and villages. Village people assume that they are members of this church unless proved otherwise. it is a church that is struggling (hard) to come to terms with a rapidly changing situation. more precisely. the type of church to which they wish to belong.Davie 465 Church of England were not obliged to meet its parochial obligations. The second group within the typology illustrates patterns of believing and belonging for two religious minorities in this country (this part of the analy­ sis could be extended much further). daily. Roman Catholic practice in this country is markedly higher than in Latin countries. very consciously. Traditionally the rural church has been the focus of largely unspoken cor­ porate belief. For example. here as in every other part of English society. for inner-city churches enjoy little success by conventional standards. Roman Catholic obligation requires a degree of practice absent from the Protestant churches. These are. illus­ trate a broader category — the immigrant churches. In other words middle-class organizational patterns reflect middle-class ways of believing. we find that it is different again. attracting worshippers from a wide geographical area. been overtaken by events. the rela­ tionship between believing and belonging is bound to be different for Catholics whether they are a minority or not. very often. In contrast the suburban church flourishes. or. a rapidly changing church. even in workingclass areas. It is. We should.11 These churches not only draw people together for a particular type of worship. provide a focus for a whole range of support mechanisms for the immigrant . articulate individuals who choose. A large proportion of these new arrivals come from the suburbs. very frequently. moreover. Their belief is essentially experiential. but. In consequence. note its tendency to operate on a market (as opposed to a parish) principle. it would have disappeared long ago. in addition. But quite apart from the context. they struggle for financial survival. This long-standing. in addition. to some extent at least. Their churches are characterized by high levels of activity. The resulting clash between the two styles of belief (rural and suburban) — very frequently centred on one Anglican church (the traditional village church) — can be very painful indeed. congregations are small and. bringing with them suburban ways of believing and suburban habits of church life. unquestioned. they. The typology needs to reflect such differences.

moreover. In many ways they do the churches’ job better than they can. From the perspective of the churches and their future. and the Church o f England is the most obvious example. in this country. it seems pertinent to ask whether the little knowledge that is passed on by this route may not. religious broadcasting is both friend and foe to the institutional churches. led to rejection. however. of . forms a religious focus within a given community for those who choose to take up its services. are as diverse and elusive as those between believing and belonging. they may be counterproductive. surely. as we have seen. (There are. at least not in any direct sense. an English church. rightly. fearful of the competition. but also — for very different reasons — that of the government. They do not concern churches as such at all. On the other hand. On the other hand. we should not lose sight of the fact that schools remain one o f the most im portant sources of religious knowledge. or churches. an almost pure case of believing without belonging. the community grows out of the church which is its principal reason for existence. it seems — though there is a very great deal of debate about the precise connections in this area — that compulsion has. Moreover. It is worth pointing out that in so doing. Either way. Given this popularity. Indeed. the black churches appear to reverse the traditional or English connections between church and community. it is unlikely that religious education in schools — however imaginative — will produce a nation of church-goers (always assuming. To some extent religious education is similar. we need to remember that the latter comes with an element of compulsion (an element considerably strengthened by the 1988 Education Act). the relationships between a community and its church. To a considerable extent. once again it both helps and hinders the churches. demonstrating considerable professional expertise and ensuring performances of a consist­ ently high quality — so much so that the local churches are. For many black congregations. in fact. and not least among the young. Religious broadcasting is. the only source. In view of this. it is an activity which disturbs the conventional relationship between believing and belonging. to some extent at least. significant that it is one of the few religious activities in our society which is increasing in popularity (Winter. and in a way that is helpful to both parties.) Indeed. if not of religious belief. Injections of religious instruction through the school system do not always have the desired effect. very often. It is. it is hardly surprising that the religious broadcasters have an uneasy relationship with the churches. be a dangerous thing. They are. many different ways in which this take-up may be effected. 1988). moreover. they are. In short. Indeed this possibility affects not only the life of the churches. religious broadcasters bolster the religious values within society on which both they and the churches depend for their survival.466 Believing without Belonging community. though not necessarily in the same way as religious broadcasting. The final examples in the typology introduce a different dimension altogether. In contrast. remarkably successful in this undertaking. the local churches know perfectly well that religious broadcasting makes good a number of their own deficien­ cies. In order to understand some of the ambivalence between the churches and religious education.

unacceptable to certain sections of the population. however. our most significant doctrinal resource — may become more rather than less influential. contem porary society? We can finish with a topical example. if this is the case. However. but it will connect these two variables in a way quite distinct from the links that have associated them in the past. even in our supposedly secular society. in turn. Nominal attachm ent to the State Churches persists.12 Working out the implications of these changes. religiosite diffuse. W hat is abundantly clear is that the issues raised will concern both belief and practice (the manner in which belief is given practical expression) within modern society. And.13 NOTES *• Com parisons can. An article such as this is not concerned with the moral rightness of any particular party in this ongoing debate. Contem porary medical science (very often associated with secularization) is increasingly able to offer treatment which is beneficial both to childless couples and to those whose children are likely to be at risk from hereditary disease. Campiche. for example. plainly. Indeed in this respect the churches — which remain.and short-term is central to the study o f implicit religion. result in an upturn in public morality. who has examined similar connections in Switzerland as part o f a research project entitled “ Pluralite confessionnelle. identite culturelle en Suisse” . both long. is going to create an acceptable framework in which the necessary decisions can be made? W hether this discussion is primarily moral or religious is a moot point. I am to a large extent indebted to R. Just how do religious beliefs and practice relate not only to each other but to the moral and ethical issues that confront. be made with other countries in this respect.Davie 467 course. neces­ sarily. but such attachm ent implies neither particular beliefs nor regular practice. and will continue to confront. The final point returns us to a crucial area of debate that we have already mentioned and one that is central to the work of sociologists of religion. . from the perspective of the govern­ ment. despite everything. that this is what we are after). associated with a national research initiative: “ Pluralisme culturel et identite nationale” . of course. need to underline the fact that this kind of controversy is likely to become more rather than less common in modern society (Hervieu-Leger. not least to some (though by no means all) of its church-goers. 2 For these ideas. On the other hand. In the Scandinavian countries. it is far from clear that compulsory religious education will. the medical techniques in question depend heavily upon research on human embryos: research which is. 1986). This project is. It does. it seems to me unlikely that any committee assembled to work out some guidelines in this difficult — and rapidly changing — area will. there is — almost — a situation of belonging without believing. exactly. who. It may well be that a large part of West Europe displays a similar imbalance between these variables though the precise way in which this is formulated may vary considerably. be complete without considerable representation from the institutional churches.

These differences are closely related to their national identity. a system that networks the entire country. 5. we should also note W adsworth and Freeman (1983). 1985. 13 One of the fora for such a debate is provided by the Network for the Study of Implicit Religion. Hervieu-Leger argues that modern society is. Francis (1982. . the discussion concentrates — with one or two exceptions — on the indigenous popu­ lation of England. members of other faiths. UK. but there is no reason why the approach could not be extended to other religions. whether they choose to acknowledge this or not. this point was brought to my attention by Campiche. alongside other agencies. Indeed within different faith communities. 9 In many ways. The statistical material. 6 This evidence can be found in a variety of sources. In view of space. however. 11 Immigrant churches include.. m odern­ ity creates — and will continue to create — a moral space within society that reli­ gion. for example L. Scottish (or Welsh. or Northern Irish) people have very different patterns of religious loyalty. 1985. this parallels the question asked in the previous section about the religious behaviour of young people. 227). It also reflects the findings of the Leeds Study on Conventional and Common Religion (Leeds. Bristol BS17 1JQ. It does imply that everyone “ belongs” somewhere. Close reference to the source of this material is essential in order to understand exactly how the terminology has been applied in these particular cases. Religious Research Paper. 7. covers a wider perspective in order to place the English pattern within its proper context. cannot but be called upon to fill. 8. More indirectly. In addition to the European Values study. in many ways.0* That is. see Note 2. see his “ Religion and Modernity in the French Context: For a New A pproach to Secularization” .Indeed the category “ young people” is.468 Believing without Belonging 3 The tables on religious practice are taken from Brierley (1988). Harding and Phillips. there are extensive references to work on children and young people in Barley (1987) and Field (1987). at the same time. The precise use of terms in both these areas is problematic. of course. Further inform ation about this particular network can be obtained from: Canon Dr Edward Bailey. in itself. Secularization is not a question of religion confronted by rationality: “ c’est le processus de reorganisa­ tion permanente du travail de la religion dans une societe structurellement impuissante a combler les attentes q u ’il faut susciter pour exister comme telle” (p. For an English summary of Hervieu-Leger’s work. Stoetzel. 1983). 1957). destructive of religion. Sociological Analysis (forthcoming). 1984 and 1985). This does not mean that particular parish boundaries are immutable. and R. This has fol­ lowed the age groupings of the European Values study. . These literature reviews underline Leslie Francis’ very detailed work on young people. I2. 12). however.Once again. W interbourne Rectory. no. H oggart’s classic study o f the uses of literacy (Hoggart. The comparative per­ spective is important. In both cases — and the two should be taken together — the central issue at stake is the future o f our religious institutions and their capacity to be effective in contem porary Britain. problematic. Hervieu-Leger (1986: 224-7). The argu­ ment of this paper has been restricted to Western Christianity.This point is discussed in some detail in Ahern and Davie (1987).The argument here and in subsequent sections o f the article is close to that advanced by D. religious education and the churches. 4 English people choose to stay away from the Church o f England. a variety of patterns may emerge with respect to the relationship between institutionalized practice and more diffused beliefs. those on belief from the European Values Project (see Abrams et al.

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