Why we hang on longer than Anglicans

SIR – The news item “Anglicanism in steep decline …” (September 8) draws attention to the alarmingly increasing numbers turning away from religion reported by the National Centre for Social Research. The figures are worrying, but it would be a tragic error if the causes were not identified and rectified. Stephen Bullivant’s report, “Contemporary Catholicism in England and Wales”, contains a significant clue in the observation that those raised Catholic are more likely to “stick” than those raised Anglican. He believes that doctrine is not the major factor, and that family and community environment, rather than doctrinal matters, play a more important role.

There may well be another related and significant factor. Catholics in their early childhood are more likely to have been taught the fundamentals of their faith, and a basic feature of Catholicism is a more uniform interpretation of doctrine and beliefs. The Protestant denominations, on the other hand, have a more flexible approach to the interpretation of the fundamental beliefs, even open to individual interpretation of the Bible and Christ’s teaching, resulting in the lack of accepted core beliefs; what the writer Steve Bruce has called a “declining stock of knowledge”.

The unifying role of religious beliefs is also evident among Hindu and Muslim communities and must serve as role model in this context. Religious decline has been attributed to progressive secularisation where there is loss of contact between the practising population and those not participating in Church activities, leading to a lack of social cohesion. Social influences and social relationships are vital in the spread of any new ideas and growth.

More recently, Catholics too have fallen into the trap of succumbing to political correctness, dropping Nativity plays and other valuable means of communicating religious knowledge, while also adopting a more lax attitude in their interpretations of the tenets of Christian beliefs. The consequences are patently obvious.

Anton Joseph

Wallington, Surrey

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