Review of Grace Davie, Religion in Britain: A Persistent Paradox

  • Posted on: 15 February 2016
  • By: superadmin

by Tom Wilson on February 12, 2016, published in Fulcrum

I would not normally do a full review of a second edition, but this particular second edition is well worth investing in. This is a sociological, big picture view of the religious context of the UK that is an informative and stimulating read. For some readers it will be more a case of articulating and clarifying what you already know, but for those who are thinking through these issues for the first time, this is an excellent introduction to the religious landscape of the UK.

Much has changed in Britain since the first edition of Religion in Britian was published in 1994, when Davie first introduced the notion of “believing without belonging” to describe the religious habits of many in the UK, in particular the place of religion within public life. The secularization hypothesis of the increasing marginalization and personalization of religious belief and practice has come in for serious scrutiny, but to simply declare it wrong is perhaps an oversimplification of a complex picture. Davie herself has developed her own thinking on the topic, introducing the notion of “vicarious religion” to complement that of “believing without belonging,” by which she means a small minority believe on behalf of the masses, and are subject to critique if they “do not do this properly” (p.6).

Davie identifies six key factors shaping religious life in the UK:

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