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Tuesday, 9 April, 2002, 09:44 GMT 10:44 UK
Is religious faith still relevant?
Church interior
Easter is fast approaching, but does anyone care? Is religion still relevant in the modern world? We discussed these issues in the Easter edition of Talking Point.

Click below to watch the programme.

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In the UK, 44% of those polled recently said they had no religious affiliation. Another 14% of Britons asked three years ago said they did not know who Christ was.

Research in other countries, particularly industrialised ones, paints a similar picture of declining church attendance and lack of interest in religion itself.

But are religious bodies themselves to blame for the decline? They are the oldest institutions in the world, but are they the slowest to respond to modern times in areas such as drugs, homosexuality and family relationships?

Is religious faith relevant? Are we a multi-faith society or one where many have no faith at all?

We discussed these issues in the Easter Sunday edition of Talking Point, the phone-in programme of the BBC World Service and BBC News Online presented by the BBC's Religious Affairs correspondent Robert Piggott.

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

Religion is a necessary counterpoint to the increasing moral vacuity of western secularity. It provides a sound moral code to follow and offsets narcissistic and hedonistic "individualism" and populist politics that are proving so damaging and ultimately ineffectual in contemporary western cultures.
Alexis, Cardiff

Religion is wishful thinking on a massively organised scale. Hopefully, it's something we'll grow out of as a species.
Jane, Cambridge, UK

Of course religion is relevant. However, those of us who are secure in ourselves, those of us who are not frightened of doubt, those of us who have not been heavily influenced by someone else's set of beliefs, choose not to have a religion. Can anyone explain why that is? Left to our own devices, humans often choose atheism. It cannot be explained by ignorance - to suggest that all non-religious people are ignorant is ridiculous and offensive. I don't worship anyone or anything. I don't need to. My family are religious; in fact my uncle is a priest. But I'm sorry to say that I don't have faith. What I do have is hope.
Aoife, UK

Oh dear. The comments made in this forum against religion are so drearily predictable. Religion is for the poor and ignorant. Intelligent people and secure people have no need for religion. Religion is obsolete. Religion is the cause of the world's problems. Religious people are "freaks." Religion has no place in politics (which is rather difficult in a democracy where people carry their moral convictions with them into the voting booth.) And so on, ad nauseam. None of these arguments are at all new or original. In fact, they have been around as long as religion itself. And yet, despite the scoffers and elitists, millions of people around the world are continuing to dedicate their lives to Jesus Christ. If a few sourpusses don't like that, that is really their own problem, isn't it?
John E, Princeton, USA

The apparent decline of religion is as a direct result of the various institutions misrepresenting things of a spiritual nature. Human beings have the need for a god head that is being thus denied. An ever more commercial and materialistic world is hardly conducive of stimulating religious sensibilities
Byron, London

Religion is essentially designed as a means of oppression

Tim Reynolds, Burton-on-Trent, UK
Religions are usually exclusive: Most claim to be the one true faith. Only one of them can be correct. Therefore, since there are thousands of different religions, past and present, the likelihood is that all religions are wrong. Religions that have been killed by newer beliefs / more savage opponents must still be considered to be possibly valid: who is to say the Vikings were not correct and that the Gods do live in Valhalla.
Religion is essentially designed as a means of oppression: The rich (king/chieftain etc.), collude with the priesthood to create an environment that is safe for them to continue to exist in the lap of luxury whilst the poor endure bad living conditions, poor land rights etc. By telling the poor that God has placed them in their place and that their reward will come in the afterlife, revolution is avoided. Fortunately the rising living standards and education of the poor now allows them time to think and to realise that religion is a lie that should be abandoned as soon as possible.
Conclusion: God, as represented by organised religion, was created by man in his own image and has the sole purpose of maintaining the rich in their castles and the poor in the gutter. This does not mean that God does not exist - merely that religion does not actually represent him/her/it [God may be a dolphin].
Tim Reynolds, Burton-on-Trent, UK

Very strange to hear that in Europe there are people who not know about Jesus...I worked in the middle of Africa for years and even there astonishingly I met people who know about Jesus!!!
Grixti Joe, Malta

To anyone who thinks religion is the cause of all the problems in this world, let me point out that our laws are based on the ten commandments. Also, it was Jesus who told us to 'love thy neighbour'. Don't try and criticize religion until you know a little bit about it.
Andy, UK

One of the reasons why the Christian religion is less relevant in Britain today is because it touches people less often. For instance, before the creation of the Welfare State, it was the Church that helped to provide education, healthcare and essential social services. Similarly, until the arrival of mass culture, the Christian religion was prominent in literature and the arts. Moreover, society is now more fractured than it once was, with people moving in and out of jobs, countries, partners and relationships with a frequency that is without historical precedence. All this, and much more besides, has helped to marginalize Christianity in Britain today. But almost everyone finds religion relevant at some point or other in their lives. And that's why it will endure, because Christianity deals with the big issues in life and provides the kind of answers that have stood the test of time. Finally, if religious sentiment is often strongest in countries that don't have a high regard for human rights, then perhaps we shouldn't mourn the decline of organised religion too much!
Laurence Hicks, Devon, England

Mutant strains of fundamentalist religious intolerance are very much alive, and spreading like a virus

Henry Case, UK
Mutant strains of fundamentalist religious intolerance are very much alive, and spreading like a virus. Ask Al-Qaeda. Unfortunately, those who have no religious faith to kill or die for, don't have enough faith in the liberal values of secular humanism to defend them - look at the reluctance to confront the challenge of Islamic extremism. Those who are guided by belief in their principles, no matter how perverted, will always successfully crush an opposition which has no such beliefs to sustain it.
Henry Case, UK

Religion=War? It gives people a reason to live and...die. An atheist is someone who has no invisible means of support :-)
An atheist, Bristol, UK

I find this talking point biased toward Christian views on "faith" - perhaps meaning belief in things that have no relevance to everyday life. Well I hope people's faith, if it is there, does have relevance to everyday life, otherwise it is useless and possibly even outdated ideology. Even your post-pagan Easter ceremony can have significance in the modern day if you see it as a celebration of someone who fought to make the world better for all humanity, and died trying. It also teaches about rebirth, about what can be seen as a failure(death is often seen that way), but didn't stop the person involved. There's spirituality there for everyone if you look hard enough. Another problem with the Christian bias is that many people follow New Religious Movements nowadays. These are mostly seen as movements offering answers to the usual "deep" questions in life, and which have risen in popularity after WWII. The problem with these movements is that counting members is hard, and many people operate on the fringes, sometimes moving freely from one "official" religious alignment to another. And maybe these people have very deep personal beliefs that are difficult to categorise, but that doesn't mean their faith isn't necessarily relevant.
Ale, Barcelona, Spain

I have seen more evidence of the Loch Ness monster than of some omnipresent being. However, no matter how irrelevant and non-sensical religion is to me I have recognised the importance of religion to other people and try to be tolerant. My patience is strained by 2 key issues which make religion relevant in my local society but unattractive to me. Firstly I resent the implication by some religious people that following a god makes them morally superior in some way while they rob, swear and sleep with more married women than any of my non-religious friends. (But hey .. they go to confession!) Secondly sectarian bigotry in our country, especially Glasgow, sickens me and makes me wonder how some people can claim to be following a god yet behave so badly to their fellow man who believes in the same god! Also as a non-religious person I feel it is strange that in some situations we have to swear to god when in court and cannot make a commitment of marriage to a person without making a promise to god. When I get married I will be making the promise to my wife and our families!
Brian, Edinburgh. Scotland

Without cosmetic surgery, Christianity would have had died years ago

Nor, Canada
Religion in itself cannot be damaging or helpful to human race in any way. Our interpretation of it, on the other hand, can. Without cosmetic surgery, Christianity would have had died years ago, because it doesn't go with modern western lifestyle. Wish other religions went under the same kind of treatment.
Nor, Canada

I think it would be great thing to have a belief in God, if only I could figure out which one to believe in! The list is endless.
Keith Falconer, Bolton Ontario Canada

In a brief instant 6 billion insects crawling on a tiny rock in an obscure province of the cosmos hurtling through endless time and space argue and kill each other over in which if their image god made them. Would they stop long enough to find out, they would see it was obviously in mine.
Mark, USA

My opinion will not please everyone, but then again, what will? I apologise now for what I'm going to say. I see religion as an emotional crutch used to support those who, for whatever reason, need to believe that there is a higher order of things and "life after death". I, myself, believe that there are higher beings existing within the cosmos and that mankind, with care and time, will be suitably advanced to walk and share with them. Until such time as we attain this advanced state, there will be a need for religion even though it's been responsible for at least 50% of all conflicts known to our species.
John M, London, England

Religious faith is still very relevant. Organized religion may not be.
Gregory Alan Gross, San Diego, USA

Religion: Man's attempt to appease God and get to heaven. Biblical Christianity - using the whole Bible in a sweeping meta-narrative

Vince, Kirkland, Washington
It is important to distinguish terms and define them. Religion: Man's attempt to appease God and get to heaven. Biblical Christianity - using the whole Bible in a sweeping meta-narrative shows God reaching out to man, to establish a "relationship" whereby heaven is a by-product not the end goal. Sadly, many have not seen a good representation of this in action. I too was among that group. I have since found faith in God in a personal relationship via prayer, reading and community centred in Jesus Christ. I found and find, among sincere believers - this community to be very open and humble. Unfortunately this is not a uniform event - but when dealing with people, when is the ideal uniform? We still consider dollars, pesos, pennies, and pounds to be good currency - even in a world where counterfeits are present. We do not give up on using it because some are false. So too I would encourage readers not to give up on God, the meaning of Easter and Jesus Christ. Nothing else (e.g the use of currency) in life would we dismiss something like we do Christianity because of what others have done with it. Don't give up.
Vince, Kirkland, Washington

Honestly, without religion you have no purpose or path in life. With religion you have something substantial to stand on. Without it you're just waiting to drown in ignorance.

Just remember the crusades, and how Christianity was spread in the first place, through violence and oppression. I don't think there is a religion on earth that has at sometime not used violence to make a point or spread its gospel. To me religion equals secularity, prejudice , and fear of those who follow different gods.
Simon, UK

I think it extremely naive to think that without religion, hatred, prejudice and killing would not continue; in fact without religion there would be more as it does not come naturally to human beings to be altruistic and to deny self. As for people quoting John Lennon and Karl Marx - please grow up!
Ed, UK

Other churches are experiencing tremendous growth

Ian Cox, Harlow, Essex
Your headline: "In the UK, 44% of those polled recently said they had no religious affiliation" means that the majority (56%) of people in the UK still DO have some kind of "religious affiliation" - so the majority believe it to be relevant. Whilst it is true that "traditional churches" in the UK are on the decline, other churches are experiencing tremendous growth. It is also still a true statistic that more people go to church than go to football matches in the UK.
Ian Cox, Harlow, Essex

The compassion trait, allegedly a Christian trademark, was nowhere to be seen until Western governments undertook a thorough secularization of their countries. It is false to pretend that the current Western values such as the respect for human rights, for example, are Christian values. The Renaissance first, then the scientific discoveries and new philosophies that spread through Europe while gradually rejecting religious dogmas are the source of our current Western values. Then Christianity underwent some cosmetic surgery. It was a matter of survival.

Science and cultural globalization have forced the various Christian sects to adopt a less fanatical approach and a more appealing attitude than in the dark times when religion could decide the fate of nations. Nowadays kids who learn Christian values from their parents are taught that Jesus is love, and that Christianity means peace and justice. I think the Christian record with this regard leaves much to be desired, and will require a few centuries of effective compassion before redeeming itself. Being Christian does not make people better or worse. A proper education regardless of the religion practiced at home does.
Locke, Ex-pat, Asia

Just look around the world today. Religion is the cause of all war and hate. The sooner people stop fearing death the better.
Simon, UK

Religion should only be taken for what it is: a comfort mechanism which provides a sense of order for people and helps them to not feel alone in the world. Children have imaginary friends and stuffed animals while some adults grow up to have religion and god. People have a need for an omnipresent being to relate to, whether real or invented, so people fulfil this need through a variety of means including religion. Religion is valid and relevant when used for this purpose, but should have no place in politics or social policy. When religion is carried beyond its role for aiding personal comfort, then it becomes a crutch and a hindrance to others.
D.R. Waggoner, University of Texas, Austin US

Religion requires an open-minded person who can exercise a certain amount of respect and discipline for others as well as themselves. Unfortunately that is more than what many people can be bothered with these days. In these modern times the people so against traditional religious beliefs fail to see they are only substituting an old form of belief for a new one, self-purpose. They are not as they like to think, completely detached from the concept itself.
Daniel, England

Faith in Christ is alive and well (and expanding) here in the US! Although a marked decline in the mainline, Protestant denominations, Non-denominational and Pentecostal/Charismatic organizations are growing steadily. The music industry and book industry are catching on as well with growing numbers of national chain stores selling the Christian labels. Even before 9/11, America has been reversing the trend of secularism from the inside out. One must admit that 50-some million votes for an Evangelical Christian president is nothing to discount.
Daniel C., Los Angeles, California, USA

Religious fanatics have always taken a prominent place in history of nations and the world

B.W.Moore, UK
Religious fanatics have always taken a prominent place in history of nations and the world. The general population of countries might not be strong in any particular religion, but look at the coverage 'Fanatics' have when they live out their convictions. Maybe John Lennon was right with 'Imagine'?
B.W.Moore, UK

I believe that we have mistaken relationship with religion. I believe that the Bible doesn't really talk about religion but about relations. Jesus said to love the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and also to love our neighbour as we love ourselves. That sums up the whole intentions of God to Human race and Human seeking for God, as religions main objectives. God was never lost, as we portray religion because we can have a god, without personal relationship with that god. But Christianity is God seeking or longing to build relationship with human race.
Jofre, USA

Religion is extremely important nowadays. And we can see what's happening in the Middle East. Another example is the culture of Latin America that holds its basis on a Catholic culture. It seems to me that there are things that won't ever change, and religion is what gives sense to many persons of good education level and economic position. It seems to me that there's a circle that can't be broke, and the simplest answer is to believe there's a God. I would even say that religious authority has become in another stakeholder for big enterprises, and we just have to consider this in odder to make business.
Martin Muniz, Mexico City

Surely all the people who write in saying that religion should be a personal matter are simply reflecting the growth of individualism in the West?

David Gray, St. Petersburg Russia
Surely all the people who write in saying that religion should be a personal matter are simply reflecting the growth of individualism in the West? Instead of going to concerts, we plug into personal stereotypes. Instead of going to a place of worship we make up our own personal faith. People in the rest of the world see living like this as a very lonely way to exist. Actually it is very difficult to divorce my behaviour from community life, or religion from politics. Should we pay taxes to evil foreign oppressors or not? That was a big issue in Jesus' day. His answer: "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's."
David Gray, St. Petersburg Russia

I am sure God is still the same as when he created the world, but religion is becoming irrelevant when the so-called servants of God are found supporting the evil deeds. In Congo(Zaire), the church is largely to blame for this crisis. The Archbishop Laurent Monsengwo was given a huge task in 1992 to lead a national political forum as being seen neutral. I am sorry to say that it was a nightmare. I do not like to hear about church anymore.
Philippe Mandangi, United Kingdom

To me personally, my faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and my saviour is highly relevant to my existence in the 21st century. The fact that so many people in affluent industrialised countries of the west have largely dismissed Christianity and it's more traditional institutional representations is no grounds for ruling it out of a future resurgence. Some of the stated reasons why many educated people reject religious faith seem logical and sustainable. Religious belief twisted by political extremism is more evil than the evil it seeks to eliminate. Christians have in the past been as guilty of such extremism as is Osama Bin Laden and his fanatical followers. Atheistic Marxism, Communism and Nazism are secular ideologies that are also clearly guilty of extremism in the process of pursuing their agendas. The horrific events of September 11 and all that has emerged from that, including the heightened troubles in the Middle East, has put religion squarely back on the geopolitical map, and as a talking point in the media and among the chattering classes. And while many secular-minded people may not be responding to the changed spiritual climate with a renewed faith in God at this stage, without an acceptance of Biblical truth and firm faith in a benevolent power beyond themselves, they have little or nothing in their moral and spiritual armory to prepare them for what is coming next. America's engagement in a war with strong religious overtones does not augur well for the future of humanity.
Philip Smith, Brisbane, Australia

Unfortunately religion is relevant. More death and destruction world wide can and is attributed to sectarian intolerance then anything else. Believe in the sanctity of god if you must, but believe in the sanctity of life above all.
A.V. Palujanskas, Canada

When you have faith you put your trust in something other than your oh so important self

Steve, Bradford, UK
It basically depends on what sort of life you want to lead and what you hold to be true and important. If you are self-obsessed then of course you have no time for anyone or anything else. When you have faith you put your trust in something other than your oh so important self, and that is something this world seems to care less and less about, because to believe in a higher order reduces your own importance and a lot of people cannot cope with the fact that probably the world and everything in it does not revolve around them.
Steve, Bradford, UK

I don't think that religion should have anything to do with politics or the running of a country. This I feel is the reason why most eastern nations like Iran, Iraq and Pakistan are developing nations as religion dominates the lives of its people. I do however feel that if people choose to be religious they shouldn't be penalised for their beliefs though they shouldn't preach or use religion as a tactic for gaining something/
Oliver, Bristol, UK

Luckily I live in a country where religion is history. Religion is in decline in the modern world, but the new religion is on the rise in third world because as people are getting poor they turn to religion for miracles.
Clement Kikenya, Denmark

A body without soul is as good as dead. So is humanity without religion. The modern age can be characterised with the decline of religion but it doesn't mean that it has totally lost its influence. Perhaps in the West most people had gave up on religion but in the East religious fervour is somewhat stronger. Christianity may have failed in the Western industrialised countries but we witness more and more new churches being built over here. It is a sad thing when wars are fought in the name of certain religion(s), it is often the religious truth which ends up being the victim. Religion, like politics and others can be misinterpreted and employed for foul purpose but that doesn't mean that it should be irrelevant. Religion is the natural answer to mankind's spiritual yearnings. As long as humanity persists on this ageing planet, religion will continue to exercise its influence. It is only a matter of degree.
John Barnabas, Penang, Malaysia.

It appears from history and especially modern life that man is a worshiping being

David Sipp, USA
It appears from history and especially modern life that man is a worshiping being. Man will worship something. It may be utopian ideals cloaked in political rhetoric or scientific mechanistic evolution but man worships. It does appear that far too often the object of man's worship is man. Religion is both a negative and positive term. Man may attempt to control or influence the circumstances of his life through religion which often resembles magic. The religious leaders of various world faiths often pander to this very idea in order to cement followers to their brand of religion. True religion is the surrender of life to God for his purpose. The crux of knowing the will of this God is the question of revelation. I believe that Jesus Christ is the incarnation of God the Son and when his life is examined one can see the difference between good and bad religion.
David Sipp, USA

I am, in a sense, religious myself. But I also believe that our public institutions should be entirely secular. As it stands, human rights in this country (and most others), are limited to appease the religious elements in society. For example, as a lesbian, I wish to marry my partner. If the Church of England refuses to marry us in the eyes of their god, fine. But marriage as a secular institution should not discriminate on religious grounds.
Anna, London UK

Religion is divisive, it has cost more wars, suffering, some teaches prejudice and bigotry. I believe this world would be better off without religion. Just obey the laws and constitution of your country
Alexander, Manila, Philippines

I am a Muslim, born and breed as a Briton. I believe that religion is an excuse to segregate people. I truly believe that the only religion in this world should be education and understanding of others. I adore the Queen Mother, she is my grandma, I would die for her, I am deeply saddened by her death. The monarchy has been more like your neighbours, they are normal people, but the Queen Mother has been nothing but the Queen that reserves the true respect of leadership and monarchy...God bless you....Allah release you from the burdens of power and respect to that of love and peace.
Sana Rahman, Isle Of Wight

44% in the UK have no religious affiliation: I am jealous!

Paula, Norfolk, US
44% in the UK have no religious affiliation: I am jealous! Here I am in the state of Virginia, surrounded by religious freaks! It still boggles the mind that so many people of more or less average intelligence can believe in the unbelievable!
Paula, Norfolk, US

Religion will finally cease to be relevant when it's great friend - poverty - is eradicated, and its great enemy - knowledge - is widespread. Until then, there will exist the circumstances in which such quaint but dangerous beliefs will flourish in the minds of the gullible.
Robert Sibelius, Edmonton, Canada

Religion is completely irrelevant in the modern age. Religion was created to abstractly explain what man could not understand, yet it has inadvertently caused much pain and suffering. Early scholars were murdered by the Church because they believed that the Earth was orbiting around the Sun, and the same Church is today dogged by accusations of child abuse. Religious differences are the root cause of many human conflicts - just look at the Middle East, India and Kashmir, to name a few. Human beings should rely on themselves for love, support and knowledge, rather than some imaginary supernatural entity. It is time to wake up!
Henry, Melbourne, Australia

Religion is doing fine in the US. How does your guest fit this into the view that the world is becoming secular? Is this trend temporary?
Richard B, Los Angeles, CA USA

Everyday our TVs, billboards, etc. preach to us a need to acquire, amass more and more

John Uhl, Denver, USA
Well, in my opinion, I believe that the issue is not so much a lack of religion in the world. Rather, it is where we put our faith, whether it be money, television, material goods, sex, sports, etc. The great question then becomes, why is it people feel this urge, particularly in industrialised nations, to satisfy some thirst. A spiritual thirst, that can only be truly quenched through prayer and fasting. Yet, everyday our TVs, billboards, etc. preach to us a need to acquire, amass more and more. We are an unhappy society, we need to go out, and try to teach people that there is more to life than "stuff." God, some say is irrelevant, I say that he is more important now then ever. Today exists an ability to transmit evil into our very homes. No more can we bar the doors against it, all we can do is crusade to change peoples minds... to teach them, to awaken them to God's great love and joy.
John Uhl, Denver, USA

"Faith", I think, is still alive in modern society. It is "Religion", however, from which people are turning away. Religions are now being run much as commercial enterprises complete with executive scandals (current Catholic Churches, for example). The appearance is that religions are saying keep giving us money; and do as we say, not as we do.
Michael Morgan, Las Cruces, New Mexico, USA

In many pockets of the world, religion still is a primary organizer and ruler of life

Paul Youk, Manhattan, KS, USA
I think this varies greatly from area to area. In many pockets of the world, religion still is a primary organizer and ruler of life. But, especially in the more technologically and scientifically advanced nations, religion is waning. Even here, in the heart of the USA, where religious ideology runs rampant in the hearts and minds of many citizens, religion is largely irrelevant to the lives of those same people. Though they might sincerely believe in God, pray every day, and go to church weekly, on the whole, the vast majority of their time and livelihood is spent doing secular things (shopping, watching TV, going to school or work) and the things that have real authority in their lives and in life in general (political-economic structure, government) are no longer religious in nature, and are generally very secular. To me this is a great first step, as religions have been holding human beings back for centuries. Let us all hope that as we walk out of the bondage of our religious history we take our new, bold steps in the right direction.
Paul Youk, Manhattan, KS, USA

I bought into all the humanism/new age stuff until September 11 2001. When I saw firsthand how believing in Jesus Christ can change your life. For me this is my public statement that I choose Christianity!!
John Wood, Dallas, Texas USA

Let's face it: humans are divisive by nature, and if we weren't fighting over religion we'd just find something else to base our bigotry on. Perhaps we'd be arguing over which end of an egg is the correct one, like Swift's Liliputians. However, while admitting that faith - or even it's dogmatic offspring, religion - is not the cause of all the world's ills, I do take exception to the monopoly on morality that the major religions assume. I am an atheist, but I am also a moral man (or at least I try to be), and my morality is based on something other than fear of eternal damnation. And yes I celebrate Christmas. An annual reminder to spread goodwill to all mankind is very necessary. To all those religious types who will mock the hypocrisy in an atheist celebrating Christmas, may I ask do you usually have a Christmas tree? The desire to celebrate life is older than Christianity and long may it continue.
Rich, Melbourne, Australia

Some of the virtues expressed in religion today are very much relevant

Nick Bradley, UK/NZ
Some of the virtues expressed in religion today are very much relevant. It is the way they are expressed that is of no relevance what so ever. I am reminded of a song that sings "religion and politics, when it comes together its a lethal mix". Religion is responsible for so much factionalism in the world. George Bush sounds just as much of a religious fanatic to me as those he is supposedly combating when he talks of God blessing America, reigns of evil and crusades. Religion should be totally removed from politics. The good virtues should be maintained, their delivery system should not.
Nick Bradley, UK/NZ

The question should not be if religion is relevant but if Churches are. As modern life strips the organization of religion of its power and exposes the fallacy of dogma only religions that can serve spirituality will thrive.
Paul, USA

Mo matter if religious faith still relevant or not. All I have to say or quote is: Religion is Opium for the Masses! (Karl Marx)
Simona, Canada

If the death, resurrection and eternal life that Christ claims to be true then we had better take heed to God!!
Gareth Rose, Kitchener, Canada

Most people who criticise religion do so from a point of ignorance

Alister, London
Don't forget that 56% still claim religious affiliation and a high proportion of those who don't substitute religion in some form or another - be that with philosophy or mammon. Most people who criticise religion do so from a point of ignorance - and their assumptions about people's belief systems are usually wrong.
Alister, London GB

And to Simeon Bennett one might ask "and God came from where?" Maybe he just sprang into being from a cosmic fluke. The knife cuts both ways with this argument.
Anon, Ohio, USA

It grieves me to listen to such rubbish from people who know nothing of God, and so conclude that all 'religions' are the same, vying for recruits to justify their stance. Look, people: there is one almighty God; he created the universe; and he won't disappear because people refuse believe in him. To all you dreamers who willingly believe the lie that the universe made itself, injecting itself with more complex information along the way, I say this: WAKE UP. Call upon Christ, the Creator and Saviour, while he is near.
Paul Forrest, Liverpool, Great Britain

I have been totally 'turned off' by the church as an established body

Lynda Finn, New Zealand
I am a committed Christian and have been for 30 years. I have what I consider to be a deep personal relationship with God and walk with him on a daily basis. However, I have been totally 'turned off' by the church as an established body, its narrowmindedness, it's lack of love and it's total inability to accept sinners in the way Jesus did. I did the Alpha course hoping for something better, something different which would show people they were welcome, who and whatever they were. I didn't find it. Just the same bigotries, the insistence that if you don't read the Bible you're not a Christian (and yet for 100 years there was no Bible and for many millions of vibrant Christians nowadays, no access to it) The church is one of the biggest barriers between people and God, holding up, as it does, the petty rules and judgements.... the very things Jesus, with his message of acceptance and love, came to remove.
Lynda Finn, New Zealand

Of course, religion is never going to go away. Human beings will never "outgrow" it. There have always been a minority of individual non-believers. But I think it will always be that true hardcore atheists will never be the majority of humans. Simply not being a nominal member of some group, doesn't necessarily mean that somebody is an atheist. It is true that changes in science and society, have changed people's conception of the divine, but that doesn't mean that religion will just go away. Read Joseph Campbell. Or look at how some scholars have found parallels between new discoveries about the universe, and ancient Hindu texts. There is something to this. I don't claim to know what. But I doubt that religion was ever purely a social mechanism.
Scanlon, Seattle USA

Religion is still relevant, as it can be wielded by fanatics such as Bin Laden to achieve objectives so morally repugnant that otherwise they would have no support.
Mike, NY, USA

Not having religion in our lives is the main cause of the chaos and suffering

Faisal, Toronto, Canada
Not having religion in our lives is the main cause of the chaos and suffering in all parts of the World. Lets be honest with ourselves are we (Western people) at peace with ourselves and happy with our lives. Only religion (divine guidance from the creator) gives a sense of direction & purpose and its upon you to find which religion preaches the right way to live ones life and really benefits one in his/her daily life. The truth is out there it's for you to identify the right path for achieving peace here & after.
Faisal, Toronto, Canada

How strange that when things go well we don't need God but when things go badly she is the only one we can turn to? Anyway something strange must have happened for Christianity to survive the death of its leader that Passover weekend almost 2000 years ago. How can non-Christians explain its presence now unless what the Bible says happened is true?
Jim, Essex, England

I am not a religious person but I can see that religious faith is no more nor less relevant today than in the past. People will always want to believe in something. Advancement in science or technology will not change this. What changes are the ethical and moral challenges that go with it. Christians don't necessarily believe that the world was made in a few days and nights as described in the bible, which was probably taken literally in centuries past, but they do still believe the Bible was inspired by God. As scientists uncover the structure and laws of the material world religious faith may have to adjust some of its literal interpretations of biblical stories, but that doesn't mean they have to abandon moral principles or the spirit of their faith.
Phil Hall, Northampton UK

Is God still relevant in the modern world? Simply, yes and if we all remember this little thing then we won't try to kill humans because God just want us to respect humanity and then there will be no more wars in the world.
Sarah, Pakistan

Religion has never been relevant

Kev, Manchester, England
The question asked here is 'Is Religion still relevant in the modern world?' The answer is that religion has never been relevant. All religion is simply a tool used by powerful people to wield their power over, dictate and persecute people. Religion is evil and should have been abolished ions ago.
Kev, Manchester, England

Religious faith is relevant today in exactly the same way that AIDS is relevant: as a disease eating away at our society, in desperate need of a cure.
Jeff Dee, USA

Well you question, "is religious faith still relevant?". I believe that this question rates on par with, is science and all of its goodness still relevant? The answer is, of course it is. Mankind is like a bird with two wings, and those two wings are religion and science. Can a bird fly efficiently with just one wing? I do not think so. In order for mankind to develop, where science is also helpful, both these two must work together and be tolerant of each other. As we well know that is not the case at the moment. We shall never know all of the answers but we must be thankful with the knowledge given to us so far by an unexplainable power, which some people call God. When I think of God I absolutely do not picture an old man sitting on a throne on a cloud in the heavens, I picture nothing, but I feel 'Gods' power, and that comes through faith.
Anthony G. Somers, St.Helena Island, South Atlantic Ocean

It is pleasing to see that several contributors have realised that religion and faith are two different things. There are many who labour under a burden of religion and often as a result perpetrate the evil deeds that their mentors have encouraged them to do. The Bible, however, says that if any man being Christ he is a new creature and as a result the true Christian is transformed by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. That is what Jesus meant when he said You must be born again. The change that this has made to many who have lived lives of enmity against Him and have been converted is something no scientist or atheist can explain away!
Andrew Hall, Staines England

The real question is, 'is God still relevant in the modern world?' I would say now more than ever. Dissatisfaction with religion may be a sign that many people are re-evaluating their God concepts in light of challenges posed by the modern world.
Joe Z., Seattle, USA

Religion simply goes against the ability and readiness to critique ourselves.

Tibor Saringer, Hungary
I have the sinking feeling that religion fills a gaping spiritual, emotional and definitely intellectual hole in believers' life. I genuinely feel sorry for them as they so desperately try to satiate their craving for answers that they otherwise don't seem to find. These answers come ready-made, packaged in the guise of the truth and oppression so you don't have to bother about choice, trial and possible failure at all. Cf. the Bahaii Faith, their texts cannot even be interpreted, although they go on about the individual's freedom to believe. Religion simply goes against one of the most fundamental and admirable features of western secular thought: the ability and readiness to critique ourselves, to hold discourse. I am deeply disturbed how governments like the US government, or my own, the Hungarian government embraces lugubrious institutions like the church.
Tibor Saringer, Budapest, Hungary

As a person who gave up his religion twenty some years ago, I can say with certainty that it is irrelevant in my life. Standing outside it, I see each person with a belief that they claim to be the correct one and others who don't follow it are damned, inferior, or excluded from some revelation. Since I need no gods or creeds to outline a moral outlook (and most atheists are good people) religion is a waste of time and a fear propagator. I prefer to be lord of my own life, the only one there is. Thank you.
Randal, Atlanta, Georgia

Faith is one of the things that makes life worth living. Without faith, without a cause, there would be nothing to look to, nothing to fight for. Faith does not have to be religion, but religion is the most efficient way to spread faith to the greatest number of people. Religion is the greatest, most devoted faith. With a religion, life becomes meaningful. We live to have faith in god. Without faith, we would simply live on every day, without purpose and without reason to keep on going. Faith is necessary if only to provide comfort, because anyone who truly thinks about the world knows that without religion, it is too frightening for humanity to face. We are not capable of living with the knowledge that we are just products of events that happen around us and that we are insignificant. It is impossible for anybody to think about that and not feel lost, feel unneeded. We must be needed, though, and therefore we must need faith. We must persist. We must believe.
Dan Reedy, Arlington, MA

In many Asian countries there is a growing hunger to know more about God and Christianity.

Peter Anderson, Hong Kong
Some sort of religious awareness is common to humankind, but in many western nations, now increasingly secular in outlook, the age-old, life-changing truths of Christianity are hardly known by the average man or woman in the street. In many Asian countries, including China, there is, on the other hand, a growing hunger to know more about God and Christianity. People are increasingly disillusioned with man-made philosophies and solutions to life's questions. There is in fact an explosion of growth in the church in China and some other Asian nations. The same is true in my suffering homeland of Zimbabwe. Yes, millions in Africa as well as Asia would not say religion is irrelevant. Far from it - for many Christ is their only hope.
Peter Anderson, Hong Kong

Although religion has been used by many people to prey on the poor and innocent, it is still very relevant in our lives today. We live in a society where there is much more stress than we have ever known. From high school shootings to the recent terrorist attacks in the US, lack of compassion has led to many crimes that have been committed in the world. True religion, one that emphasizes treating our fellow human beings as we want to be treated, helping the needy, minding our words and actions, would help make our world much better than we have ever thought. Anyone who kills, maims or destroy another human life in the name of religion is doing that on their own, not by the order of God.
Jacob Sax Conteh, Alexandria, Virginia, US

It seems to me that religion has outlived it's use. While providing an element of safety and ensuring the control of authority in times past, it is no longer needed for these things. For now it seems to foster little but hate for things different. Morality does not depend upon the issue, as we can evolve our own moralities, which are based in the present, ourselves. Neither does science play a part, for science is a framework in which to test hypothesis, not a belief structure of any sort (although some mistakenly treat it so). God again has nothing to do with it - religion and god are two separate things.

What we need now is belief and respect for ourselves, and for others. Those who do not question, or who hate, or who do not look outside their world view are effectively the deadweight of society.
James Shiell, Wellington, New Zealand

"Easter is fast approaching, but does anyone care?" What a wonderful subtitle to your picture. As C.S.Lewis said, Jesus is either a liar, a lunatic, or Lord and saviour of the world. He has had too great a positive influence on our world to say he was either of the first two, so we must admit he is Lord, and bow before him. Easter is fast approaching, and we had better care, for our own benefit and for the future of our world.
Ray , USA

Life is better now, so less people need to convince themselves that this is just a run-up to something better.

Dan, Northampton
Faith, Religion, is about belief in something that makes one feel better, happier, or safer. In earlier centuries, the standard of living was low, and people needed to believe that there was a heaven and that what they were doing was worth something. The trend of no longer following the church in industrialised nations is easy to correspond to that. Life is better now, so less people need to convince themselves that this is just a run-up to something better.
Dan, Northampton, UK

It is no longer so easy for Churches to 'put the fear of god' into people. No longer are children growing up, having parents beliefs forced upon them as if they were fact. Finally, humans are beginning to see, that wanting something to be true is not sufficient reason to teach others that it IS true.
Dan, United Kingdom

Are you joking?! What kind of a question is this to ask?! Of course religious faith is relevant today. Much of our morality finds its root in religion and it is the increase in secularisation that has seen a decline in good moral values. You'll find that a lot of those without religion in their lives are conceited and selfish people who have time only for themselves. Secularisation has a lot to do with self-interest and one's "rights". Why can't they think about other people for a change?
John R., Derry, N. Ireland

Christianity, Islam and the other major religions in their purest forms are not bad models by which to live ones life. However a religious person is not expected to close his mind to the world and is called upon to study, reflect and above all to interpret the scriptures. Too many religious people abandon this obligation and adopt a policy of blind faith. This is why we get creationism being taught in some schools as if it were science and actions of extremism based upon submission through ignorance. Nothing is more glaringly obvious than the first chapter of the Bible which read literally tells us that on the first day God said let there be light and thus he created night and day. Yet in the same chapter he did not create the sun until the fourth day. Essential reflection results in humility and overcomes human extremism, in favour of compassion.

We need to remember that religion has nothing to teach about the physical world and science has nothing to say on morality or how human beings and their spiritual qualities fit into the natural world. We should not limit ourselves to the study of one to the exclusion of all others. It is only where religion, science and philosophy overlap that we can really find meaning.
Thomas, London, UK.

Most organised religions prey on the weak and look down on outsiders.

ZoŽ, Wales
To my mind, organised religion and the cultures of exclusionism and adversarial relations that it develops are the root of much of the evil that I can see in the world today. People holding their own beliefs and quietly using it as the definition of their own moral values seems to work for a lot of people. Organising themselves into groups of likeminded folks seems to foster a belief in that group that they are better than those who do not belong, or those who belong to another group, because they are somehow in possession of some inalienable truth. This leads to human beings setting themselves against each other, and we all know that there is no war like a holy war.

I have no beef with religion or spirituality - just with organising it within a church, chapel, mosque or temple. Most organised religions, and Christianity more than any other, prey on the weak and look down on outsiders. That is something that our world could do without.
ZoŽ, Wales

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Rev Nicky Gumbel answered your questions
See also:

16 Dec 99 | UK
Jesus, son of who?
06 Feb 02 | Interviews
Britons 'spiritually hungry' says Hurd
28 Nov 00 | UK
UK is 'losing' its religion

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