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Professor Woodhead on the magical future of religion in Britain

Sarah Butler

22nd May 2023

Year 13 Sociology students will find themselves no stranger to Professor Linda Woodhead’s research on religion and religiosity. Described in this article as a leading academic, Woodhead predicts “the continuing decline of Christianity, the resurgence of fundamentalism, the rise of non-religion, the emergence of British Islam and a flourishing interest in ‘magic’.”

Woodhead has devised an analysis model, to predict which religious movements will survive. This involves judging each religion against five signs of vitality.

The five signs are:

-intellectual understanding of the metaphysical

-continuing institutional practices

-community and belonging

-ethics and values

-and spirituality connecting with the sacred.

Woodhead cites one reason for secularisation in the UK as being caused by Christian ideas against divorce, remarriage, women’s equality and LGBTQ+ rights. Woodhead believes that this inability to keep up with a rising focus on equality, has turned Christianity into a “toxic brand” and which the next generation do not want to be associated with.

The following quote shows how firmly Woodhead believes this to be true!

“For a majority religion to offend deeply against people’s moral sensibility — that’s a very, very serious failure. The churches have failed so dramatically as moral authorities, with the abuse scandals being just the latest nail in that coffin.”

– Professor Linda Woodhead

Linking with our ethnicity topic Woodhead comments that “British Muslim cultural output is cool around the world and is getting a global profile.” On her list of vital signs, she said British Islam ticked all the boxes for community, institutions and spirituality.

Read the full article, which also covers the rise of magic, spirituality and paganism, here

The article also includes a lecture by Linda Woodhead, which can also be found here. Skip to 6mins 15secs to see Professor Woodhead. Skip to 8mins for an excellent overview of census trends, including the rise of those identifying as having ‘no religion’ (the rise of the nones!)

Sarah Butler

Sarah is an experienced Head of Social Sciences, EPQ Coordinator and Sociology examiner.

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