The need to understand the impact of faith in life

The impact of religion, faith and spirituality in British life is the subject of much contestation.

In the 2021 England & Wales Census, for the very first time, under half of the population across the two home nations identified as Christian. The decline has been quite spectacular – only two decades ago, the figure was 71.7% and in 2011 it was still around three in five people (59.3%). In the latest census, it has dropped to just 46.2%. A European society with an established Church, we may be – but also one which has witnessed a breathtaking pace of secularisation.

But we are also more religiously diverse. There was an increase in the number of residents in England and Wales who described themselves as Muslim, from 2.7 million in 2011 (4.9%) to 3.9 million (6.5%) in 2021. One million people identified as Hindu (1.7%) – up from 818,000 (1.5%) in 2011.

The 2021 Census took place during the Covid-19 pandemic – an incredibly challenging time for many people across the globe. Loved ones departed; livelihoods were at stake; business disappeared from their local communities. For many, their faith was a critical source of resilience and optimism – lying at the heart of an unshakable belief that the pandemic would eventually pass and better times lay ahead.

For me, my faith encourages me to adopt a positive outlook on life – a strong sense of optimism underpins my personal endeavours. Islam also has a strong emphasis on routine and self-discipline – which certainly guides my approach to work (with generally positive results!). One of the most significant aspects of the religion is respecting one’s elders – especially parents. There is no doubting that my thirst for excelling in life is driven by an unrelenting desire to make my mother and father as proud as possible of their eldest child.

The role and impact of faith in public life deserves greater attention – this is precisely why the newly-established Institute for the Impact of Faith in Life (IIFL) is an invaluable addition to the UK’s research community. In my position as senior research associate, I will be investigating how faith and spirituality relates to feelings of belonging and rootedness. These potential organic sources of well-being and happiness can provide the psychological resilience and emotional security to help make progress in an admittedly competitive world.

Keep your eyes peeled – there is a new research organisation in town!

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