Published in June 2021, Faith & Belief 2040 offers a cross-sector insight into the UK's rapidly changing faith and belief landscape and what it might look like by 2040, based on current trajectories.
This short report, by Hannah Timson, outlines key themes of discussion from our November 2020 virtual conference on this topic, and outlines ideas and areas of focus for addressing the challenges and opportunities that these changes may bring.
Read on screen
A digital copy of the report can be downloaded in PDF format from this webpage.
Other content relating to the Faith & Belief 2040 project, including webinars, podcasts and blog posts, can be found on the 'Read, Watch, Listen' section of this website, here.
Priority areas of focus
This report identifies areas of priority and focus for supporting social cohesion over the next 20 years and beyond, in response to significant societal transformation.
As the concluding session remarks: 'The decline of Christianity in society is not only an internal matter for Churches to address – it affects society as a whole and needs to be addressed accordingly. Similarly, the increasingly plurality of the UK in terms of faith and belief has implications for everyone, as we adapt to an ever-widening range of expressions of religion and culture in society.
'And, of course, as we deal with this now, we do so, too, with an eye to the future: the education and nurturing of young people as active and engaged citizens of the UK and the wider world is therefore of particular importance.'
The priority areas outlined are:
Responding to the declining influence of Christianity in the UK:
- We should prepare for the possible disestablishment of the Church of England and the Church of Scotland, including how to amplify the voices of other religious groups within public life.
- Encourage and develop initiatives to make use of under-utilised or redundant religious buildings (particularly churches), for a wide variety of community purposes
- Identify and articulate inspiring narratives that resonate across religion, belief systems and cultures, and engender a sense of unity.
Addressing the increasing plurality of society:
- Encourage the development of religious leaders from a wider range of ethnic backgrounds, in denominations where they are under-represented
- Cultivate new leaders in different (including non-religious) walks of life who are dedicated to fostering social cohesion in increasingly diverse communities
- Develop neutral shared spaces where citizens can engage in ‘face-to-face’ as well as more informal ‘side-by-side’ interfaith and cross-cultural encounters, on an equal footing, and proactively seek out opportunities to bring people together for such encounters
- Encourage inter-faith and cross-cultural encounters that foster the ability to exchange views openly and ‘disagree well’ on contentious issues
- Address the issue of the rejection of apostates within faith communities and families by developing appropriate support mechanisms and through education
- Promote the positive use of digital technology, more generally, as a tool for building social cohesion
- Develop ways of bringing people together around shared concerns − such as adapting to and mitigating climate change and safeguarding biodiversity − to connect people across faiths and beliefs, despite differences in values and cultural practices.
Evolving education and working with young people:
- Ensure that the curricula, ethos and selection criteria of faith-based schools embrace diversity positively and promote social cohesion
- Place a higher priority on character development and the exploration of ethics and morality in school education
- Nurture and promote positive role-models, from all faith and belief backgrounds, who stand for social cohesion and can help to inspire young people
- Educate young people about how to use the internet safely and effectively, to bring them closer to others, rather than fostering feelings of division, and inspire them to develop it in a direction that will support increasingly diverse communities in the decades to come.