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Notes on religion in the UK today: a contrarian view. - Wemyss's Appalling Hobby:
From the Party Guilty of Committing 'Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn'
Notes on religion in the UK today: a contrarian view.

It occurred to me, whilst on a pub-crawl with the Bishop of Southwark – no, that’s unworthy of me.  Let’s try that anew. 


It’s become commonplace to say that modern Britain is an irreligious nation (a statement that itself smacks of ethnocentricity, I may add: if it is true at all, it is true of Britons nominally or ancestrally Christian, it is overwhelmingly obviously untrue of British Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims, and Jews).[1]  This commonplace is trotted out with fair regularity, usually – hereabouts – in a rather self-congratulatory way, and is generally, it would appear, meant as a slap at the Yanks (and, to an extent, at the Aussies) or as some Œdipal shibboleth. 


But is it true?


I think it undeniable that certain sections of the urban population live in a very ‘post-Christian’ and thoroughly secularised world.  But of course, the denizens of the political village at Westminster, the workers for quangos, tech companies, and the Beeb, the airy-fairy artistes determined to revolutionise the West End yet again: these are hardly a representative population, for all that they monopolise even broadsheet press coverage.


And, of course, as unrepresentative samples go, LJ itself were hard to better: unrepresentative, and self-selecting.  The bias inherent in the sampling makes all these commonplaces rather suspect.


Let us therefore look rather to what occurs than to what is said.


We shall start with the BBC.  It is after all a national institution.  Although its charter does include the aspiration of providing programming that might otherwise not be commercially viable, its vaunted independence must also be borne in mind; and its uses for that independence tend to centre upon denigrating everything that middle England once held dear.  Certainly it is representative in its corporate culture – and its programming decisions – of urban bien-pensant thinking of the modish sort.


What, then, do we find on the Beeb?


Radio 4, the home of ‘intelligent speech’, the epicentre of urban Leftishness?  Bells on Sunday.  The Daily Service – since 1928, and now the longest running daily programme on the wireless.  Prayer for the Day.  Sunday.  Thought for the Day.


Radio 3?  For eighty years, weekly, has broadcast Choral Evensong.


All right.  Radio 2.  Surely one can escape this incessant religiosity on the wireless home of Wogan and Woss, Mo Dutta and Russell Brand?  Er.  Well.  Aled Jones has Good Morning Sunday, and Canon Royle (chaplain, as it happens, at Eton in the late 1970s) presents the Sunday Half Hour.


Radio Solent on Sunday?  Tim Daykin’s programme.

Radio Gloucestershire?  Richard Atkins, an hour of hymns and light classics to start with, and then, along with light music and countryside features, bits of religion and ethics of a Sunday … Atkins being not only a very popular presenter, but a Methodist minister, I may add.

Radio Wiltshire (and Radio Swindon)?  Soul and Inspiration, followed by Sue Davies’s Breakfast Show, including the Sunday Service.

Radio Devon? The Sunday Service; followed by Pippa Quelch (and the Church Diary).


Or Sundays in Scotland, perhaps?  On Radio Scotland, New Every Morning and Sally on Sunday take care of the shorter catechism.  (Never mind Dèanamaid Adhradh – the Sunday worship programme – on Radio nan Gàidheal, if you understand Gaelic I don’t need to give you the programme details to start with, do I?) 


Radio Wales?  Celebration, and All Things Considered.  (For Radio Cymru’s Caniadaeth y Cysegr and the like, you’re on your own, boyo.)


What of Norn?  Ah.  Radio Ulster’s Sunday mornings tend towards Thought for the Day, Sunday Sequence, and Morning Service.  Radio Foyle?  Rejoice with your Sunday joint (er, that’s a culinary term, you Yanks).


Of course, there’s the telly.  Fancy!  Jonathan Edwards-Harry-Secombe-Thora-Hird-and-All-That, it’s Songs of Praise!  Forty-five years, with an average – average – viewership of 4 million viewers, or as many as 12 millions of ’em when there’s a national disaster or a national cause for rejoicing.


And this leaves out the ethics programmes altogether.


What’s more, these are not mild bits of general uplift, either, in which Approved Vicars burble gently of New Labour talking points and the Social Gospel.  Take the Second Sunday in Advent, 2006.  I used my broadband to listen to as many of these as I could manage, in preparing this note.  On Sunday, 10 December, those listening to Radio Devon’s Sunday Service heard a seriously traditional service from the Methodist Central Hall.  Radio nan Gàidheal’s Dèanamaid Adhradh will have sounded familiar to my American readers, for all that it was in the Gaelic: the hymnody, a capella, myxolydian, is precisely the source for the Appalachian mournfulness of Sacred Harp singing.  Radio Scotland’s version, from a Piscie church, dwelt on John the Baptist, and repentance.  The Evangelical wing of the C of E was represented this week with a service from the Tin Chapel, Ironbridge, celebrating the hymns of Moody and Sankey, to a harmonium.  Radio Wiltshire’s Soul and Inspiration brought to the Cathedral close in Sarum the music of the Black church from America – soul-and-gospel music from the Winans and Jocelyn Brown and company.  Radio Wales’s Celebration this week came from an independent church of the Afro-Caribbean / Black British tradition in Newport, New Seasons Church.


This seems a trifle inconsistent with the broader claims of mass irreligion in the UK – I mean, when the Daily Service and Choral Evensong are the longest-running wireless programmes and Songs of Praise is the best-loved broadcast, well….


But all this, you may say, is anecdotal, and the mere presence of these programmes in the schedule is no proof that anyone, really, is listening.  Moreover, it may well be that there are pockets of religion left in the country, but that hardly means that the great and the good, the intelligent and the sensible, are afflicted with religious leanings….


Very well.  Let us turn to some very hard evidence. 


Experian’s MOSAIC classification system (some of the most depressing reading you will ever peruse: its detached observations on the poor and the permanent underclass make one wish to hang those responsible for the grim facts, if only so that they can find themselves, in the afterlife, attempting to explain themselves to, oh, Bright, Cobbett, Dr Johnson, GKC…) and its rival market-segmentation system at ACORN are Serious Business.  In the service of Mammon, these companies make available statistical observations about carefully delineated socio-economic strata.  They are detached, disinterested, non-partisan, descriptive rather than prescriptive.  If the poorest of the poor are so desperate that they will overspend on soapflakes in response to adverts that promise five minutes’s worth of social superiority, these commercial services will say so without passing judgement.  Some sixty or more population types are carefully depicted in clear, cool prose that has a certain simple dignity, and assessed as to their preferred newspapers, modes of transportation, preference for cricket over footer, tea, ale, holiday spots … and, in the most telling section of all, their ‘Culture and Consumer Psychology’.


The picture that emerges is rather more complex than the commonplace I keep seeing repeated hereabouts.


For example, the urban working class segments are not populations whom the Church lost; the Church never had them, at least after these folk deracinated themselves in transforming from rural peasants to urban proletarians.  The upper-middles in London and some provincial cities are often secularised or satisfy their religious impulses with ersatz.


And yet….


In the upper classes, amidst the gentry, in the countryside, religion is surprisingly robust. 


From Experian’s MOSAIC list: ‘Type A02, “Cultural Leadership”: Various religions are important in the lives of many, and this probably reflects a more general tendency towards orthodox values.’


And again, CEOs, senior regional figures (Experian: ‘They are more inclined to watch cricket than football. …In addition to personal expression and to simple enjoyment, they generally have a sense of social and ethical responsibility, and will become involved in good causes, as well as being fairly generous with donations to charities. Religion figures large in the lives of many’), and exurban gentry display higher than average Church affiliations and active participation.


Similarly, older people, retirees including the well-off and well-bred ones (Experian, again: ‘Discernment and classic tastes and style are the hallmarks of these people, who value personal taste and distinction over vulgar displays of wealth through goods and brands. Traditional values prosper and are upheld here, but these more outward-looking consumers also love to broaden their horizons and seek novelty and challenge through travel and interests in the Arts, history, classical music and other cultures. Careful planning and investment has laid down the foundation for a comfortable future.

The importance of faith and regular attendance at church feature highly, as does an interest in charitable concerns – even to the extent of giving up time for voluntary work – which may be another sign of careful planning and investment in the future!’), and the rural population from large farmers to those in small cottages (‘Church attendance is also fairly high which is another characteristic of rural community life’; ‘traditional, hardworking, churchgoing people … range of typical country pastimes’), tend to skew towards the churchly end of the scale.



The picture that emerges, almost incidentally, from the purely commercial investigation of demographic classes, is one of a Britain not at all as post-religious as some would apparently wish to believe.  Rather, what appears is a Britain in which the chattering classes, the middle-classes and the aspiring sons and daughters of the urban mill-worker classes, are in the main either not religious or are affirmatively irreligious or even anti-religious, but in which the leading lights of provincial towns and villages, senior gentry and the County, and not a few urban leaders of the professions or industry, are quietly and unobtrusively churchgoing.  It is therefore, I now suspect, assuming these statistical observations to bear up, misleading both to suggest that irreligion is uniformly widespread even in the modern UK, or that it is most prevalent in the more intelligent and better-bred classes (when, it appears, it is most prevalent in the superficially educated middle classes, the same people who flocked to New Labour when it was new).


I’m not at all suggesting that Britain is a hotbed of hot-gospelling faith.  I am suggesting that it is a gross exaggeration to make the claims that are commonly made for its loss of faith.


Your counter-arguments?


[1] It may also be racialist, as it almost certainly applies with much less force to the Black British population.

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55 comments or Leave a comment
magic_at_mungos From: magic_at_mungos Date: December 11th, 2006 06:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
I don;t know how to articulate this but I always felt that relgion here was always a lot quitere than the that onthe other side of the pond. You can be as religious as you like but as long as it doesn't intefere with public life then go ahead.

Which is why I'm slightly peeved with the recent reports that carol singers would not be alowwed in the wards of a hosiptal in case it caused offence. Bitch, please It's tge PC brigade gone mad.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: December 13th, 2006 04:25 pm (UTC) (Link)

I think that is perfectly true.

To what extent 'quietude' means 'formalism', 'polite indifference', or whta have you is what makes this difficult to assess, I rather think.
angevin2 From: angevin2 Date: December 11th, 2006 06:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
I always kinda thought that the recent(ish) spate of "What's To Be Done About the God-Botherers" articles in the Guardian was indicative that somebody was practicing something, but as I am American, I have few sources of counterevidence. ;)

(here through the link at britpickery)
wemyss From: wemyss Date: December 13th, 2006 04:28 pm (UTC) (Link)

One should think, yes.

Any counterevidence is welcome.
chickenfeet2003 From: chickenfeet2003 Date: December 11th, 2006 06:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
As an ex pat Brit, the ability of the British to maintain a self-image at virtually total variance with the facts continues to astonish me. Not only does Britain have two established churches virtually every public and state occasion is celebrated in, at least partially, religious terms. To describe Britain as post religious is as inaccurate as describing it as a democracy. May i respectfully suggest that the next myth to be debunked should be the so-called "Special Relationship" with the United States.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: December 13th, 2006 04:26 pm (UTC) (Link)


Would you care to be the debunker? I seem to be in quite enough trouble as it is.
serriadh From: serriadh Date: December 11th, 2006 07:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
Interestingly, the myth is perpetuated from the 'other side' as well. Several of my friends are evangelicals of the most fervent type, and they are convinced this is a 'post-Christian' precisely because in their view the quiet unobtrusive Anglican churchgoers (let's not even go into what they think about the Catholics) are often not 'really Christian'. They go out of habit, for the social aspects of churchgoing, because they like the hymns, etc.

Of course, these are often the type of Christians to whom those such as Dawkins, or the Guardianistas who wish to show how awful religion is, talk. So you have an unholy alliance in which both sides are keen to show how far 'religion' (by which, as you note they always mean '(Protestant)Christianity') has declined in order to further their own agenda.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: December 13th, 2006 04:30 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you, that's very interesting.

Just the sort of thing I was looking for.
From: greenwoodside Date: December 11th, 2006 08:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think Middle England is pretty irreligious, or else self-identifying as Christian but really meaning "you know...sort of nice and well-meaning in a general way" rather than Christian from any deep conviction or actual familiarity with the Bible. I know that at my (small, rural)private school, despite the Christianity of the Headmaster (who seemed to regard it as a sort of necessary adjunct to cricket and Proper British History Like The Battle Of Waterloo And Why Isn't It Taught These Days?), the prevailing ethos in the actual classrooms was secular.

Obviously, outside of the white middle classes there's a vast amount of variation.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: December 13th, 2006 04:35 pm (UTC) (Link)

Oh, I don't think one can measure conviction.

So you are quite likely right. What I found interesting enough to comment on, and take a debating position on, was the claims from commercialised observation wallahs that there was more attendance than is usual understood.
eagles_rock From: eagles_rock Date: December 11th, 2006 10:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
I fear you're correct.

If you ask a random selection of people:

a) Are you Christian?
b) Do you believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God, born of a virgin, crucified for our sins, rose again on the third day?

there will be a greater 'yes' vote for a) than b).

Unfortunately, I think the proportion of 'yes' for a) will only decrease with time, and 'yes' for 'b) will increase, as Britian becomes polarised between the non-religious, who are increasingly willing to admit to it, and the evangelical, who are increasingly proud of their condition.

At that point the insipid banalities of 'Prayer for the Day' would be welcome relief; right now I think the BBC doesn't stand a chance of removing it from the schedules - witness the success of the Catholic Church against faith-school quotas.

I wonder if the urban middle-class are a combination of the descendents of the urban working-class who left religion a long time ago, and (the descendents of) the rural working/middle-class with a university education who found employment in larger towns. Not that a degree involves a loss of religion, but it does mean removal from family and community influence, into larger towns with more varied populations and opinions. And the ensuing middle-class life may be fraught with mortgages and general covetousness, or 'getting on', which sees nothing to be gained from religion, and unwelcome messages from it.

I've attended one session of the 'Alpha' progamme (as a guest, not on my own behalf) - it was solidly middle-class and unthinking; provided a 'nice' social life for the attendees.

I don't know if the rural working class 'believe' as opposed to 'attend', or if the captains of industry are moved by anything more than the Carnegie effect, time and space to consider Eternity now that a financial cushion is in place, or a preference for distance leading to giving money to strangers rather than their own office cleaners.

But if I sound sceptical, and seem to be distinguishing needlessly between self-declared Christianity and actual belief in the tenets thereof, no, I prefer this vague, lukewarm, Christianity to a firming of the nation's beliefs.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: December 13th, 2006 04:38 pm (UTC) (Link)

Oddly enough ...

... or perhaps not oddly, you've said what I thought I was saying, and said it better, of course. Particularly as regards the loss of ecclesiastical ties in the middle classes. I trust you'll not be barracked for those musings.
From: legionseagle Date: December 11th, 2006 11:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, as a daughter of the urban mill-worker classes - and I don't think we've had rural mills since said mills ground corn rather than spinning cotton, incidentally, so if I'd had the good fortune to be better bred or better educated I might have ventured to accuse you of a pleonasm there - you could hardly expect me to agree with you.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: December 12th, 2006 03:24 pm (UTC) (Link)

Oh. lor'.

I'm in a devil of a hurry (I pray indulgence of you others), but I don't want this going unanswered.

I'm attempting precision, not striving to annoy class sensitivities, which are rubbish these days anyway.

Urban AND mill-working because Britain-wide stats; miners not so deracinated because not so urbanised, plus the Welsh skew that set to chapel; Nonconformist presence remained in Potteries, and in W / SW industrialisations (leather, lace, gloves, beer, light industry factories) - mostly Baptist, Methodist, Friends; thus, MILL industrialisation-cum-urbanisation primary locus of falling away from regular attendance; see also Paisley, Lanark mills as regards C of S losing grip (contrast lino mfr in Burntisland, say);

Superficially educated: whether at Wadham or Wigan Pier Poly, an education ill serves anyone whom it leaves w the belief that a sublimation of the religious instinct can be had through a party political programme;

New Labour: as such, by severing specific links to trades unions (Cl 4), became attractive to those not wishing too great an identification w trades unions / actual labouring, but who cd then find in NL a secular and universalist vehicle for exercising the Nonconformist conscience, politically.

I'm very sorry that you were offended, as you evidently were, but your reading of my remarks, on wh yr being offended is based, was not one I intended or indeed foresaw.

wren_chan From: wren_chan Date: December 12th, 2006 01:34 pm (UTC) (Link)

I have no room to say anything, as I'm not only a Yankee from Texas, I'm a pagan one.

*hugs* But wish me luck on exams, please, today's the Day.

*tiptoes out*
wemyss From: wemyss Date: December 12th, 2006 03:03 pm (UTC) (Link)

Luck, then.

You'll do well.
themolesmother From: themolesmother Date: December 12th, 2006 04:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hmm, I don't think I'm really qualified to comment much on this as my religious upbringing was pretty much at 90 degrees to that of my contemporaries.

As the daughter of a Catholic Republican from Belfast my childhood was very much affected by the unholy mixture of religion and politics that poisons life in Northern Ireland, even though I've only ever set foot there once, at that at the tender age of three years.

Which is why I'm a non-denominational pagan these days.

What I will say, though, is though most of my friends and acquaintances tend to lead rather secular lives there are three big exceptions - Hatching, Matching and Dispatching. I have, for example, one self-declared atheist friend who used to sing in a Church choir and got married in that self-same church.

wemyss From: wemyss Date: December 13th, 2006 04:40 pm (UTC) (Link)

Your evidence is as welcome and useful as anyone's.

Thank you.
sollersuk From: sollersuk Date: December 12th, 2006 05:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
and the aspiring sons and daughters of the urban mill-worker classes, are in the main either not religious or are affirmatively irreligious or even anti-religious,

I know you like coat-trailing verging on winding up, but this is winding up verging on offensive.

May I introduce to you my oldest friend/next-door neighbour? She belongs to exactly this class; her mother was actually a pattern-cutter, not a mill-worker, but her grandmother was a mill-worker and her father was a coal miner. They all "aspired" to what she did - a better education; she, and many acquaintances with similar backgrounds (though not necessarily with Ph.Ds; usually something lower academically and something higher economically) are as religious as their parents. To specify mill-workers as a particular group from which it appears from context their descendants have cut themselves off is particularly patronising; the North and particularly the North West has a higher regard for education than the urban South (particularly London, and here I am not generalising from anything but my own teaching experience) and is nearly as interested as South Wales in my mother's day was in social advancement by education.

You seem to be contrasting people of my friend's background with the more intelligent and better bred. That is unpleasant. You also seem not to be aware of the historical situation in Wales, which was that religion without education was mere superstition and in consequence achieved an astonishing literacy rate of over 90% by the end of the 18th century, largely among farm labourers and dairy maids and the like. Intelligence does not necessarily go with education, but it helps one to value it, and often (when one has a lively mind that one keeps as well informed as possible) can substitute for it and I do not have a clue what you mean by "better-bred" which is a snobbish expression that I had thought had not survived into the 21st century.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: December 12th, 2006 06:01 pm (UTC) (Link)

I now know how Roger Casement felt.

First it's the lack of a comma between urban and mill. Now it's the lack of inverted commas. I have this problem in fic, too, with indirect dialogue. Perhaps I should simply give up.

I agree that 'better-bred' is offensive. Damn it, I'm saying that the claims I see, which are claims that 'irreligion is uniformly widespread ... in the modern UK, [or] is most prevalent in the more intelligent and better-bred classes', are offensive: I am challenging the urban snobbery that says, 'Where religion persists, it's amongst the less intelligent or the less spiffingly well-bred Like Ourselves'.

As to aspirants, what I am trying with some precision to say is that the evidence I find suggests that, particularly as to former mill communites (see my response to legionseagle, please), it is where there have been multiple waves of deracination (a series: rural to urban, to mill work or piece work or something equally unsatisfying to the mind (repetitive work versus craft), away from workingman's improvement societies, away, via education or other avenues of mobility, from prior class identifications) that there is most commonly a move away from church or chapel as well. I said not a word against self-improvement through education, it's not even my topic here.

Either I cannot write, or I am being rather massively misread. I have too much regard for and for legionseagle to suggest the latter. I am not yet willing to accept the former. I am therefore stumped.
From: tree_and_leaf Date: December 12th, 2006 08:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hm, I know they used to call the C of E the Tory party of prayer, but I'm not convinced it's true, these days (if it ever was).

For my part, I do wonder how Christian Britain ever was - its institutions were, and still are to a lesser extent, Christian. but I suspect that there was always a large mass, in every class, that didn;t care that deeply, apart from the vague feeling that the proprieties ought to be observed - and when the accepted definition of the proprieties changed, people moved from going to church once a month to going to church at Christmas and Easter - or not at all.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: December 13th, 2006 04:43 pm (UTC) (Link)

These days, it's more an arm of New Labour.

And, again, I don't know how one would measure belief; the contrarian evidence had to do only with outward observance.
ink_monkey From: ink_monkey Date: December 13th, 2006 03:11 am (UTC) (Link)
Could you link me to the MOSAIC classification system you mentioned? It sounds intriguing, and a quick google isn't turning up anything with any kind of detail.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: December 13th, 2006 02:49 pm (UTC) (Link)


lexin From: lexin Date: December 13th, 2006 10:35 am (UTC) (Link)
rural population from large farmers to those in small cottages (‘Church attendance is also fairly high which is another characteristic of rural community life’; ‘traditional, hardworking, churchgoing people … range of typical country pastimes’), tend to skew towards the churchly end of the scale.

I wonder where this data comes from. I grew up in the countryside (the rural Midlands, north of Birmingham) and church attendance for evensong during my teenage years (when I was an active chruchgoer) was, on average, six. Myself, my father, my mother, my brother, the vicar, and the vicar's wife. In the next village it was eight (a different family). Attendance for morning service topped at 12. The Sunday School had 8 students - I taught five, which should fill churchy people with doubt and fear.

Out of a village of just over 1000 people, active churchgoers numbered about 16, or 1.6% of the population, my family being four of the 16. Some of the 16 went out of the village, we had a family of Catholics who went to the Catholic church in the next village and a family of Baptists who went to a Baptist chapel in a different village.

I did not get the impression from talking it over with our vicar that our village was more than averagely irreligious.

I understand from my mother, who is still an active churchgoer, (I joined the ranks of the atheists long ago, as did my brother) that the position has improved slightly with the arrival of Alpha, but not much. Her prayer group is 7 dotty old ladies and one man, and average congregation for the local CofE church is up to 25 on a good day. Again, the curate (with whom mother is on very friendly terms) has indicated that in her experience this is about average for a rural area.

Cottages in my old village are these days more often lived in by recently-retired comparatively wealthy people who've done them up than the rural poor. The rural poor live in council houses (when they can get them), or ex-council houses when they cannot.

Basically, your claims here are so much at variance with my experience that I'm inclined to treat them with the deepest scepticism.

[Here via an entry on legionseagle's journal.

wemyss From: wemyss Date: December 13th, 2006 03:24 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you, and welcome.

I am in fact delighted to have you here, and very gratified to have your input. This is precisely the sort of thing I intended.

The data, such as they are, come from here: http://www.business-strategies.co.uk/upload/downloads/mosaic/mosaic%20uk%20groups%20and%20types.pdf.

Like you, I find these propositions counter-intuitive. Like you, I have in the past assumed, and written accordingly, that the usual commonplaces about the lack of observance are universally true.

Yet when one runs across assertions to the contrary by organisations having no very evident bias, and whose reputation for accurately observing Consumer Man down to his choice of marmalade is their stock in trade, it is worth raising the point: could the common assumption be wrong and these unlikely propositiosn be right?

And that of course is what I said: 'Hold on, what if we're all wrong? These chaps seem to be saying something unorthodox about orthodoxy. IF - IF, mind you - they are at all correct, then it follows that the conventional wisdom is wrong, and it further appears to follow that one can determine where and amongst whom observance persists and where and amongst whom it is most lacking'.

Your response, for which I am most grateful, is exemplary of precisely the sort of response I was soliciting. I hope that as many others as possible will similarly contribute what they of their own knowledge know. Anecdotal evidence by itself is not dispositive, but cumulative instances of it become compellingly indicative.
ellie_nor From: ellie_nor Date: December 13th, 2006 10:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
One thing you may not have considered (and forgive me if you did - I have yet to give this the thorough reading that it deserves) is the effect of gender. In all the studies of church attendance I have ever read (religious studies through sociology and social anthropology) where attendance has a social rather than a belief-affirming function, it is very definitely women, for the most part, who attend. This (again according to my reading, none of which i can currently remember) applies especially in the urban working classes, where gender roles have tended to be more strictly defined e.g. church = female, pub = male. )I am talking about Protestant English working classes here, btw, although I understand a similar phenomenon occurs in Catholic churches, especially in Eastern Europe.)
wemyss From: wemyss Date: December 14th, 2006 12:52 am (UTC) (Link)

I've not done.

Largely because such evidence as there is to challenge the conventional view is not broken down that way - or at least not in any place where I can access it. I quite expect you're right, though.
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