Our meeting yesterday evening attracted 14 people to listen to a thought-provoking talk from Dr Tom Rees on why religion persists in the modern world, despite wider knowledge of science and alternative religious beliefs. Much of the discussion centred on the difficulties of capturing trends in statistical terms, for instance relating degree of religious obeservance in the form of frequency of prayer to economic measures like income inequality.
In answer to a question at the end about how we can help to bring about a reduction in religious influence, Dr Rees made the paradoxical suggestion, possibly tongue in cheek, that we need more religious people like Bishops in the House of Lords! This is on the basis of findings that where a religion is supported by the state, as in the UK, it has less popular support and declines, whereas when religions have to compete in an open market, as in the US, they become more publicly active and strident.
The BHA has just sent out a circular on their policy on Bishops in the House of Lords, encouraging members to write to the Bishops urging them to support reform of the Lords.