St Paul’s Cathedral is one of those masterpieces of old architecture you come across in certain parts of England and the world, the sort of place you need know nothing about to be in awe of. I was one of two Christians on my school’s Philosophy trip to visit it; the two teachers were strong atheists and the rest of the students were either of the ‘Everyone knows God isn’t real’ hipster-atheist type or agnostics who had not given the idea much thought (until our God and the World module). Yet no matter our personal ideologies, everyone who entered that building went silent.
I’ve often wondered what it was that fell upon people in such places. Is it the idea that millions of others have walked where we walked, or that so much time had been devoted to religious art? Is it God? As a Christian, I don’t know. I do know that the Church is changing. I know that I, personally, have never been very fond of the Church anyway. Perhaps it is my history with African or ethnic churches, but I’ve always been inclined to seek God elsewhere. Today, many do. Apart from school students (my group and some primary school children), the vast majority of the worshippers I observed at the Cathedral’s Eucharist were at least over 50. The other Christian in our group, a girl, didn’t go up for Communion. In her own words, it was ‘embarrassing’ in front of the other students. Times are changing.
No matter your religion/irreligion, what do you think of the Church as a whole?
A few weeks ago, here in England, a same-sex marriage bill passed through the preliminary stages of Government approval. There was uproar from the Church, who felt their position would be weakened by it (I’m not entirely sure how, but that was one of their major complaints). A few days ago, yet another Catholic priest (Scotland, this time) stepped down from his position due to sexual misconduct. Around the same time, the Pope resigned from the Papacy (though obviously for different reasons).
I know some of you are religious, and I know that some of you are not. And that some of you are not sure. But we live in fast-changing times, and even if current change became minimal change would still happen. The world and its culture is constantly evolving, and like it or not the Church has continuously changed along with that evolution. Not that anyone would admit it, but it has. It’s members have changed too. Amongst other things, few people really believe the Bible word for word anymore and in the face of hypocrisies and controversies which have rattled the church, many have or have at least contemplated turning away.
Does this mean the death of God? Of course not. Perhaps it is the slow death of religion (well, decline, as I don’t believe religion will ever ‘die’) though, as people come to the realisation that faith in God or a god or gods is an entirely separate thing from religion. Because of this, religious institutions and believers are changing. Changing their attitudes and their behaviours and their lifestyles. They are not, though, really changing their faiths. Humans are naturally irrational creatures, and regardless of whether or not God exists we will always still believe in something ‘more’ out there. Maybe it’s God, maybe it’s nothing; maybe it’s aliens.