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Religion in Britain: A Persistent Paradox, 2nd Edition

ISBN: 978-1-119-00966-5
280 pages
April 2015, Wiley-Blackwell
Religion in Britain: A Persistent Paradox, 2nd Edition (1119009669) cover image


Religion in Britain evaluates and sheds light on the religious situation in twenty-first century Britain; it explores the country’s increasing secularity alongside religion’s growing presence in public debate, and the impact of this paradox on Britain’s society.

  • Describes and explains the religious situation in twenty-first century Britain
  • Based on the highly successful Religion in Britain Since 1945 (Blackwell, 1994) but extensively revised with the majority of the text re-written to reflect the current situation
  • Investigates the paradox of why Britain has become increasingly secular and how religion is increasingly present in public debate compared with 20 years ago
  • Explores the impact this paradox has on churches, faith communities, the law, politics, education, and welfare
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Table of Contents

List of Figures and Tables ix

Preface xi

Part I Preliminaries 1

1 Introduction: A Framework for Discussion 3

2 Contexts and Generations 19

3 Facts and Figures 41

Part II Religious Legacies 69

4 Cultural Heritage, Believing without Belonging and Vicarious Religion 71

5 Territory, Politics and Institutions 91

6 Presence: Who Can Do What For Whom? 113

Part III Shifting Priorities: From Obligation to Consumption 133

7 An Emerging Market: Gainers and Losers 135

8 Proliferations of the Spiritual 155

Part IV Public Religion and Secular Reactions 175

9 Managing Diversity 177

10 Religion in Public Life 197

Part V Thinking Theoretically 219

11 Religion and Modernity Continued 221

References 237

Index 255

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Author Information

Grace Davie is Professor Emeritus in the Sociology of Religion at the University of Exeter UK and a senior adviser to the Impact of Religion Research Programme at Uppsala University. She is a past-president of the American Association for the Sociology of Religion (2003). Her publications include Religion in Britain since 1945 (Blackwell 1994), Religion in Modern Europe (2000), Europe: the Exceptional Case (2002) and The Sociology of Religion (Sage 2007 and 2013).
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“Davie is well worth reading to offer an analysis on the changes currently being experienced in British religion. The Irish contexts are different, but still close enough to need to take note of her arguments.”  (Irish Methodist Newsletter, 1 February 2015)

"Davie writes (and speaks) so clearly and with manifest knowledge and common sense. It is not surprising that she is popular at diocesan conferences. Buyers of this new edition will not be disappointed. Of course, she has critics, and would not be worth reading if she did not. None the less, many will still conclude that overall this is a well-researched and judicious sociological assessment of religion in modern Britain, and one that outstrips most of its rivals. I recommend it strongly."  (Church Times, 11 September 2015)

"But now, says Grace Davie, a sociology professor at Exeter University, the picture has completely changed, in ways that nobody could have foreseen in 1994 when she brought out the first edition of her book ... The position of Christianity (as measured by church-going, rites of passage and answers to opinion polls) has suffered steady though not yet catastrophic decline in its presumed strongholds: rural areas with a settled population, schools favoured by the middle class, and so on. But church-going in London, along with the practice of many other religions, has risen quite sharply. In a new and massively revised version of her work, Ms Davie says she has to take account of the 'huge religious market-place' which London has become." (Bruce Clark, The Economist's Erasmus blog)

This is a precise, clear, admirably fair and comprehensive account of religion in Britain, and especially of religious changes over recent decades, that should be necessary reading for anyone interested in the subject. It provides a subtle account of the changing political and cultural background, and also a comparative background in the peripheries of Britain, Europe and North America, and the ‘Global South’.
—David Martin, London School of Economics

Davie’s 1994 book was a landmark in the field of the sociology of religion internationally. British religion and society have since changed, and Davie’s thinking has also developed. This new edition is more than an update. It is a masterly review of the contemporary situation – its continuities with Britain’s Christian heritage, as well as the changes.
—Rebecca Catto, Coventry University

In this new edition of Religion in Britain, Grace Davie has thoroughly updated her watershed investigation from two decades ago.  Now emphasizing more the notion of “vicarious religion” than the much-discussed earlier concept of “believing without belonging”, she surveys the contemporary British religious scene with insight and illumination.  Anyone wishing to understand how the British are coming to terms with their religion — past, present, and future — will need to read this valuable book.
—John Torpey, City University of New York

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