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COMMENT

29 OCTOBER 2012 |

www.exepose.ex.ac.uk

Exeposé

Land of little faith?

Freddie Doust examines the state of religious faith in the United Kingdom and wonders whether we are becoming far too apathetic...

Freddie Doust THE past 30 years has seen an unprecedented sociocultural shift in the UK. Religion, and in particular, Christianity, had for centuries been the centre of British life. After a fraction of this time - around a quarter of a century this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Clearly, for an atheist such as myself, on first inspection this can only be a good thing. When the actual situation is analysed, however, I’m not so sure. Today, just 44 per cent now describe themselves as Christian. I’d be willing to bet that the majority of that 44 per cent are not actually ‘Christian’ at all. They, for the purposes of a survey, will have felt pressured to put it down for various reasons - tradition, perhaps, but more importantly because they wouldn’t describe themseves

“Today, just 44 per cent now describe themselves as Christian. I’d be willing to bet that the majority of that 44 per cent are not actually ‘Christian’ at all” as theologically ‘atheist’. They are, instead, apathetic. To progress further into the world of scientific objectivism (and, implicit in that, away from antediluvian ritual and belief in dubious

metaphysical entities, for which there is no proof) will require further, and better education. Are we on this path? I don’t think we are. Ed Miliband has, since snatching the leadership of the Labour party from his (probably more deserving) brother, made plain his religious views. He is not, he claims, overtly atheist; neither is he (rather vaguely) a man of religion. He is however a man of “faith” (by this he means belief in an - abstractly - “better” United Kingdom). The important thing to take from this is not the prevaricating nature of the sentiment. The fact is, one of our most public men - the leader of the Opposition - is not Christian. And not religious either. David Cameron doesn’t wear religion on his sleeve. Surely then, it’s a thing of the past. An archaism. Thatcher was dogmatic about her faith. She even recited the words of St Francis of Assisi to justify her political moves. But then again, Thatcher was an ideological, principled prime minister. Our politicians today - not least Miliband and Cameron, by virtue of today’s society - must be pragmatists. The natural implication that arises from this is that, as modern pragmatic politicians, they must reflect the national mood. The fact that they make no reference to religion (and in particular, Christianity) whilst

Thatcher, as recently as 1990, was nostalgically aiming for a society based on “Victorian values”, underpinned by Christian faith, must be showing a mirror up to society itself: a society disinterested in Christian dogma.

“Thatcher was an ideological, principled Prime Minister. Our politicians today - not least Miliband and Cameron, by virtue of today’s society must be pragmatists.” What are the implications of this? Are we now living in a totally objectivist, scientifically-rationalist society thanks to better education? I would say no. Has mass immigration, resulting in an increasingly (conservatives would say) fractured society resulted in this move away from traditional faith? Possibly. Is it simply a natural progression in what is a progressive, Western society? If it’s natural, does it even matter? Evidently such a statement throws open a whole world of questions and implications. Clearly this move away from traditional Christianity is multifactorial. But we can surely hem down some factors. Certainly education, albeit not the main one, is one. More

people than ever are now going onto tertiary education in the UK. University: a place where, shamelessly, students can gather and quasi-academically (and certainly pretentiously) discuss the big metaphysical questions, religion, the nature of things, without having to worry about getting up for work in the morning. But that’s a small elite. It doesn’t explain the all-encompassing move away from religion that we’ve witnessed over the last 30 years. There must be more important factors. How about our celebrity academics - Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins? How much of an impact have they had on the cultural shift? Certainly, the dates they have been in operation, arguing against religious practice, is loosely the same timespan in which this shift has occurred. But

“Has mass immigration, resulting in an increasingly (conservatives would say) fractured society resulted in this move away from traditional faith? Possibly” saying that this is the reason, like saying that better education is the reason, presupposes something that - I’d argue - is not the case; that is, that the

shift is actually an ideological one - a shift away from one doctrine to another (Christianity to atheism). This is not the case. It is, instead, a shift away from religion towards something loose and undefinable. Nothing in particular. Unbelief as opposed to belief in anything. Even Hitchens and Dawkins believe in something - a scientific, rationalist approach to metaphysical thought.

“Instead it seems that the general makeup of society is apathetic. We are apathetic in what we believe religiously, and politically” Instead it seems that the general makeup of society is apathetic. We are apathetic in what we believe religiously, and politically (as illustrated by plummeting voter turnout). So perhaps this shift is best described as a shift towards apathy, a shift to laziness. This may be quite a nihilistic, dystopian standpoint. It would be lovely to say that the shift is thanks to a kind of Neo-Enlightenment, but it is simply not true. Our politicians - Miliband, Cameron - reflect this. At least Thatcher had conviction in her views and was not frightened to share them.

“21 century partying” in Exeter st

Following last issue’s controversy, Naomi Pacific discusses student drinking, whilst Ellie Taylor-Roberts argues Original Sin’s case

Naomi Pacific LET’S face it, alcohol is fun. The night starts out very young. You’re at the breakfast table, “we are getting smashed tonight!” your friend says, and it sounds like a superb idea. It probably is a really good idea at that. Ring of Fire, ‘Never Have I Ever’, Paranoia; there are plenty of games to choose from if you want to go with that version of getting hammered. And I guess the most appealing thing about drinking, at least for me, is that you’re more confident, you can walk into a party and talk to anyone!

You’re the superman of social life… you don’t even have to think about saying things you would never say in real life. But there’s a catch to it. Alcohol is fun, but I think the biggest misconception is that we find ourselves thinking that the only way to have fun is to drink alcohol. Being a heavy weight, I’ve been obliged to experience club nights out while I was completely sober, and it’s different, but I would never go to say that it can’t be fun. Some nights can be amazing without alcohol, and that’s something to remember, I think. You can still let loose, go wild, and make fun of all the drunken people while being sober. I have this friend who went to a music festival this summer; no alcohol allowed. The videos he showed me were insane; people dancing away like party beasts, someone randomly deciding to

saw up a tree and attempt bringing it to the dance floor… we’ve become so convinced that alcohol is the only way to go, we’ve forgotten it’s not. I’m going to repeat this, I don’t have anything against alcohol, since coming to university I’ve by far had more nights with it than not. As an experience, it’s fun, it’s something everyone can enjoy, but perhaps it should be just like playing basketball, painting, or cooking, an occasional hobby you do rather than a remedy. So if you don’t feel like drinking, don’t feel the urge to, and go out anyways. If you’re grabbing that bottle of wine because you’ve had a cranky day and want a mood booster, put it down. Drink alcohol because you want to be foolishly funny tonight and like the idea of silliness. Drink alcohol because it’s nice, not because you have no other option.

Ellie Taylor-Roberts ORIGINAL SIN is portraying the fun and ‘free-spirited’ atmosphere which clubbing creates. It’s using avant-garde yet entertaining images to promote the nights out they organise. Some may argue that these photographs are “sexist because it always shows the boy in the power role and the woman being objectified”, portraying the theme of female degradation, however Original Sin is simply representing the extremes of today’s clubbing. They shouldn’t be penalised for demonstrating the way so-

ciety acts in present day. If anything, we should be questioning why this shocking behaviour is ‘the norm’ for the youth of today. The majority of people accept these images and regard them as being “light-hearted”, however, years ago the advertising of these images would have elevated the shock factor to extreme levels. There’s no use putting the blame on Original Sin, who in their own right are publicising the entertaining events they work so hard to create. Instead, one should focus their attention on the question: How have these scandalous images become popular as opposed to unendurable? One should reassess today’s youth’s approach to the clubbing world as opposed to inculpating Original Sin who simply conform to the 21st century partying style.

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