As divisions grow, now is the time to hold a public inquiry into religious literacy in the media

Reasoned, open discussion around religion isn’t just helpful, it is necessary to cultivate the understanding needed to bridge cultural gaps and appreciate different belief systems,

Elizabeth Butler-Sloss and Yasmin Qureshi

For many people in this country, religion may feel increasingly like a thing of the past. Yet while religious practice in the UK may be falling, a worldwide study found that almost 84 per cent of the global population identifies with some religious group. Understanding faith is essential if we are to understand the modern world.

Nor should the UK be seen as entirely secular. Our last prime minister regularly attended church and the current mayor of London fasts for Ramadan. Through the difficulty of the last few weeks, it has been deeply encouraging to see how many people of faith have led the way in working to help and support their neighbours. The apparatus of the state places faith on the periphery, but for many citizens belief and prayer are woven into the patterns of their everyday private lives.

The 2015 report on “Living with Difference” by the Commission on Religion and Belief in British Public Life emphasised the changing religious landscape of the country. A rise in non-belief has been matched by both a fall in Christian affiliation and an increasing diversity of belief among people of faith. Even among those who ascribe to “non-belief”, some identify as humanists, others express an interest in spirituality outside of traditional religious systems.

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