Tuesday, July 24, 2012

More Churches, Less Religion?

There are an abundance of churches in Oxford, or maybe grand cathedrals would be a better way to put it.  It seems like every road I walk down I discover another one, and this trend seems to hold true for the entirety of England.  They are all architecturally grand and beautiful, but I wonder to what extent they are actually used.  Are these churches used for regular church services? Do many people attend them?  Or have they mostly just evolved into tourist destinations?

I would think that the reason for having all of these churches would be to hold all of the people going to church services, and maybe when they were first built centuries ago, that was true.  However, after talking to various young locals, I get the idea that this is not necessarily the current case.  A lot of the people that I have talked to are not religious, they do not attend church, and some are Atheists. Being from Georgia, a part of the Bible Belt, I guess I would be hard pressed to find any place that is not as attentive to organized religion, even in the United States. It is still interesting though.  Is this lack of presence of organized religion a generational trend here, or did I possibly just happen to stumble upon the minority?  Are people here less involved in organized religion in general?


  1. I have noticed a strong church presence in the physical sense, but not in necessarily in the religious sense. When I was in Dublin the other weekend, I was talking to a local who had recently driven through the southern states. Despite this strong church presence in Europe, he specifically commented on the number of churches we have in the south. He also couldn't believe that our universities offer religious courses, nevertheless that some students major in religion.
    I may be jumping to conclusions, but I think when Europeans think of church, they focus/study more about the role and influence of the church as well as its architectural trends throughout time. This differs from the US because we tend to focus on the religion itself and the messages it sends.

  2. I've been wondering about this as well! I couldn't believe the number of churches I’ve toured in Europe that came with an admissions price. There’s no way you’re paying to worship. As Mary Anne pointed out, you’re paying to appreciate history and architecture. But the notion of paying to go to church was certainly strange and disconcerting for me.

    I also wonder about how religious involvement correlates with age throughout Europe. In America, campus ministries and events like Passion provide huge outlets for the younger generation to be extremely active in their faith. At a service in Dublin, my friend and I were the only members of the congregation under the age of 40. There were no large families which makes me wonder if churchgoing is not as socially required as it is in the South. Perhaps in Europe, the idea is that children acquire as much academic knowledge as they can and then make their religious decisions in adulthood.

  3. It is also interesting to note that most of these churches have been around before our country was even founded. Religion was far more prominent in this country in the past as history illustrates. They are still present today because of how beautiful the architecture is and because they are historical landmarks for the country. This does not point to why religion is not as prevalent here as in America, yet it does explain why there are so many churches even though there is a lack of religion.

    One reasons churches might charge for admission, especially for the very large or grandiose, is to pay for the upkeep. It is not cheap to make sure buildings stay clean and in good condition. Therefore, admission into churches might not be based on a wish to make a profit but rather a desire to maintain the standard of this historical building.