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I'm trying to understand religion in the UK.

(70 Posts)
Smeaton Sun 20-May-18 23:06:10

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

steppemum Sun 20-May-18 23:19:33

Christian is a broad umbrella term. Then there are lots of different ways of being a Christian. People go to different churches either because they grew up in them, or because they like they way they worship (eg lively or more reflective)
so all of these are christians in one shape or another: catholic protestant, methodist, quaker, Church of England etc.

Most Christians would not include Mormons or JWs as Christians. (and most see JWs as a cult too)

But some branches of Christianity don't agree with other branches,s most notably Catholics don't agree with protestants. All the other groups I mentioned are protestants.

A church in an old building is probably catholic or church of england. Catholic churches usually have a Roman Catholic in their sign.

If you are seeking to get to know about Christianity, the best way is through an Alpha course. This is a course that was originally written by a lively modern Church of Enlgand church in London, but which is now used right across all Christian groups. On an alpha course you meet for a meal, and listen to a short talk about one part of faith, eg Who is Jesus and then have a discussion. It is designed for people form outside the church who want to learn more. To find an alpha course, try googling 'alpha courses near me'

annandale Sun 20-May-18 23:21:07

Good luck in your search smile

A church has two meanings - it's both a building used by Christians for services, and a group of Christians. There are some churches as in groups, who deliberately meet in ordinary buildings.

However, most groups of Christians meet in churches that are buildings, and they pretty much always have a sign up saying who they are.

There are lots of different types of Christians, and each type has a name. There isn't always clear agreement on what each type believes and what they have in common. Typically a Christian believes in God and that Jesus Christ was the son of God, both human and God himself, who died and came back to life so that nobody else has to be punished for sin by God.

Different types of Christian with slightly different beliefs beyond the 'core' are Catholics, Protestants, Anglicans or Church of England, Greek or Russian Orthodox, Methodists, Baptists. Other labels are used like traditional, liberal, evangelical - these are a bit less precise and can cut across the different groups.

A sign outside a church will usually give the church's name as in the building name 'welcome to St Michael and all Angels' and often the group that meets there 'A member church if the Church of England'. They may also say what diocese they are in. This is about the management of the church and is a geographical area usually led by a bishop.

There are also groups such as the Society of Friends (Quakers) who meet in meeting houses not churches and who usually but not absolutely always see themselves as Christians.

Does anyone of this help?? I work start by finding someone who is religious and whose attitude to religion you like, and ask if you can go to their place of worship?

scottishdiem Sun 20-May-18 23:38:44

Mmmm. Well you have a wide scope of things to be looking at there.

The first is deciding where you sit in terms of things like equality for women. Equality for LGBT people. Equality for black people (looking at you Southern Baptists). Look up complementarianism.

Then decide where and how a religion should get involved in those things. And then do some research on which denominations are not going to work for you because they treat people differently and want to dictate the lives of non-believers.

If you think blood transfusions to save the lives of children are a good thing then JWs arent going to be your thing. If you think that it is not possible that a lost tribe of Israel made it to the US and became native americans then I doubt Mormons are going to be useful either.

If you think women can be Ministers and lead congregations then Catholicism will be an issue. As will a number of protestant denominations who get really tetchy at the idea of female leadership.

If you think same sex marriage was a good thing for equality then you could join an Anglican congregation and see which side that congregation is on (however if its a congregation that dont accept women ministers then they arent going to be hot on the LGBT equality stuff). A number of other denominations like Pentecostals are of a similar disposition.

To be honest I would skip the Alpha course as it has a purpose beyond your education. However, Quakers as mentioned above could be a start. I personally like the Unitarians as well (I am a Humanist so dont believe in any afterlife, intelligent design etc.) and reading your non-specific thoughts above thing that they could work for you.

Also, are you sure is a Christian thing you are after? There are other beliefs (e.g. Paganism) that look to answer questions about life in a spiritual way.

And look up humanism if you are looking for an ethical and moral framework that is grounded in the reality around us.

Smeaton Sun 20-May-18 23:42:32

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Smeaton Sun 20-May-18 23:46:34

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

scottishdiem Sun 20-May-18 23:53:28

But arent most of those things yoi mentioned 'Worldly' problems us humans have invented?

From my perspective religion is 100% a problem that humans have created. Every religion has a huge layer of human thought and interpretation on top of it (theology basically) so whatever the original intent it is so flexible that different denominations can read the same thing and see a different thing. Thus rendering it a futile exercise in finding the correct religion. Which is why I was suggesting you think about who you are, what you think is right, where you stand in things like equality and then look for a denomination that matches that.

BackforGood Mon 21-May-18 00:06:26

steppemum and Annadale's answers are really thorough.

What it might be helpful for you to know is you don't, in any way have to "qualify" to attend a Church. Everyone is welcome. I would go along to one that is near you, and see if you enjoy going there.
We've had people turn up at our church, openly happy to say they are trying out a few local places to see what suits them most - we've made suggestions and tried to 'sketch' what is different about different local Churches and where they are and what time they meet.
Lots of people attend their Church for all sorts of different reasons - often nothing to do with theology. Might be because they wanted a Sunday school for their children, or might be because the Church has a good sounds system and they are hard of hearing. Might be because they lve organ music and that Church has a good organ or it might be that they like the sound of the guitar and drums used at their Church. Might be it just happens to be walkable from their house, or on a good bus route, or that it has an accessible toilet. It won't usually be beacuse people have made a study of big world issues and compared the Church's 'stance' on them all.

steppemum Mon 21-May-18 00:09:35

Op is that Hull Minster Kingston upon Hull? in Yorkshire?

I've just googled it and it is an Anglican church. Anglican is another name for the Church of England.
That would be a safe place to start. Church of England is pretty standard Christianity. It can be a bit dull though!

The reasons there are so many different versions is that over the years different groups have found different things to be important, and decided they couldn't stay in a church which thought differently. Eg one group thought baptism was extremely important, and should only happen when you are an adult, and so split off form the rest of the church which was baptising babies.

What has happened in recent years is that churches are coming together and looking at the things they have in common and working together for the good of the city/town they are in. Fundamentally the statement of faith in all these churches is the same. The core beliefs. It is how they work out that they have disagreed on in the past, eg as I said baptism.

annandale Mon 21-May-18 00:13:09

'Hull Minster is a good example.of my.confusion I think. Nowhere can i see reference to 'CofE' or 'Catholic' etc. But they refer to themselves as a Christian church?'

Blimey, I can see what you mean. The Statement of Belief does refer to them being Christian. Eventually after digging around on the website I found the phrase 'using liturgy from Common Worship' which means they are a Church of England church. You wouldn't easily spot it otherwise though.

I'm another who is a bit wary of Alpha courses for explorers as they come from the basis of explaining Christianity as a truth, rather than looking at it as one religion or experience of God among many.

I don't know anything much about Islam but they are also a faith that seeks converts. Judaism is potentially open to converts but it is quite a challenge to convert because of the intensity and detail of the practice required. I believe Sikhism is open to converts but doesn't seek them. I know people who practice Buddhism and have started doing so as adults. Otherwise I have no idea...

The best starting place may be your own experiences of God or of knowledge of God. Some form of prayer or meditation seems to be common to all religions. Perhaps just keeping the awareness in your mind and a question about what comes next? See what comes to mind.

Lilymossflower Mon 21-May-18 00:15:46

You can believe in god and not have to follow or believe in a religion.

I certainly am not an atheist, I believe that everything is supreme divine intelligent design. I don't follow any religion though and don't think god is a white man in the sky.

If I worship anything then that is nature. And that is the nature found in the trees etc but also in you and me. Everyone. Everything is an energy that breathes and is all from the one great source of energy but is just in different temporary shapes. Sometimes I meet other people who know it too, what I mean, and you don't even need to describe it to them. You just sit under a tree with them and you just both know it,

I can't get with the whole religions thing. Too many rules and 'I'm right your wrong' twaddle.
'This is the way that's not the way'
Blah blah blah
I think there's a saying along the lines of 'the church was invented by man not by god' or something. Basically means that although god may be real, the church was not invented by god, so if you follow a church you aren't following god, your following just men who want to use it to control etc etc

robindeer Mon 21-May-18 00:21:16

Hiya, Hull Minster is CofE. That means it is a member church of the Church of England. The Church of England is the form of Christianity most people in this country will be familiar with, even if they're not particularly religious. If you attend a service there you'll likely recognise some of the phrasing or the prayers or hymns.

A very quick potted history for you: like most of Europe, Britain was for centuries a Christian country, and that meant following the Catholic faith and being ruled by the Pope and Rome. Henry VIII (King from 1509-1547) was frustrated by his lack of living male heirs and his wife was getting too old to have any more children. The Pope refused to allow him to divorce her so he did it anyway, and in so doing he created a new church that he could be the leader of. This church was essentially Protestantism (same basic beliefs as Catholicism- God sent his only son to the earth to live as a man amongst us sinners, then he sacrificed himself for us all, in so doing allowing all of us forgiveness and eternal life as long as we accept that he is the son of God and live by his teachings). Catholicism is quite mystical, they use a lot of incense and symbolism in their services and Protestants don't agree with much of that. Henry's son (Edward VI 1547-1553) reformed the new church further and Elizabeth I (1558-1603) softened it, essentially creating the more relaxed approach to religion that you see in England today.

Basically the type of Christianity that is recognised as our national religion is a tolerant, welcoming and loving one. You should find a warm welcome at any church you attend. If you don't, you're definitely at the wrong church.

scottishdiem Mon 21-May-18 00:32:13

Basically the type of Christianity that is recognised as our national religion is a tolerant, welcoming and loving one.

Apart from minor things like covering up child abuse, blaming floods on gay people and generally working itself into a complete gordian knot over women bishops. And opposed same sex marriage. Tolerant, welcoming and loving?

You should find a warm welcome at any church you attend. If you don't, you're definitely at the wrong church.

Agree on this but so many churches are only warm and welcoming to those who are like them in their beliefs and outlook.

robindeer Mon 21-May-18 00:47:06

@scottishdiem I think I meant in comparison to other religions. Compared to many religions CofE is a watered down, tolerant and forgiving faith.

sashh Mon 21-May-18 00:55:16

how can it not be a designed system?

Because it would be better if it was designed. The 2004 Asian earthquake killed over 200 000 people. Great designing.

Anyway I see you are not looking for an argument.

Some good replies, scottishdiem is spot on with working out your beliefs / view of life before deciding on a church.

Also you mention Christianity a lot but not Jesus, you can't really have Christianity without Jesus.

You tube has some good stuff, and some of it is from atheists who were Christians, Matt Dilahunty and Seth Andrews do some good stuff, mainly about why they stopped believing but they know the bible inside out.

One of my favorites from Seth Andrews

The atheist experience is on every Sunday and has been on for 10+ years, it's now an internet based broadcast that takes calls from anyone but gives priority to believers.

It might be interesting to have a look at it along side the alpha course.

speakout Mon 21-May-18 05:59:26

how can it not be a designed system?

Well if it was designed then why the need for Syphilis or Ebola or Herpes -tapeworms - earthquakes?
The all powerful creator must have a pretty mean streak.

Madhairday Mon 21-May-18 07:55:28

Interesting video, sashh. Agree with much of what he says about that kind of fundamentalist, blind-faith Christianity which uses Bible verses out of contexts like memes and fridge magnets to try and cheer people up. Rather mocking tone to the video, but I can understand his rant to some extent.

I don't recognise in what he was saying the faith I follow which allows for loving and questioning suffering and doesn't try to cover it with platitudes for it all being 'Gods plan' (and much agree with his statement that hell is Christian TV 😂) but it also saddens me that soany experience faith packaged as he describes rather than as something which goes so much deeper and faces reality without trying to give pat answers all the time.

Op - I wish you all the best with your journey. My experience is that God sometimes draws people near, not through a sudden realisation or through hardship, but simply impressions of something, a comprehension that there is something underlying.

I have good experience with the alpha course as a place where people are free to question and listened to, but I know some churches are rather more dogmatic, so it's tricky to choose sometimes. C of E are generally fairly reliable. There are other introduction to faith courses too, or you might find it's a case of sitting quietly in a service and listening.

Madhairday Mon 21-May-18 07:57:18

That should say living and questioning suffering, not loving 😂

thegreenheartofmanyroundabouts Mon 21-May-18 08:45:00

In most UK towns you will find a Roman Catholic Church which has lots of masses and one very hard working male priest who is probably not English. Ours is Polish. The building will,be 19th century or later and will advertise mass times and times for confession.

There will also be non conformist churches such as the Methodists (good singing) Salvation Army (good bands) and baptists (usually good preaching but some can be quite conservative.) Other flavours include the URC and newer versions of non conformism such as the Assemblies of God. They might call themselves Community Churches and meet in schools. All of these are Protestant, their ministers are more likely but not always men and their churches will be plain and they will emphasise Biblical teaching.

There may be spiritualist churches which have nothing to do with Christianity and are all about proving there is an afterlife.

There are quakers who meet in silence and have a variety of beliefs but are broadly Christian.

There might be unitarians who believe in God aren't so sure about Jesus and sing about nature.

You might have a Unitarian church where they believe in God but are not so sure about Jesus (I have Unitarian friends

thegreenheartofmanyroundabouts Mon 21-May-18 08:53:08

Whoops posted too soon.

Then there is the C of E which is both reformed and catholic. We have cathedrals and bishops and quite a broad range of practices so you might get a church that looks and feels very RC with incense and lots of robes. The music will,probably be organ and choir. Another C of E church might look more non conformist with a husband and wife leadership team, a praise band and lots of lively worship. Another C of E church might be very Protestant and be mistaken for conservative Baptist with long sermons and plain decor. Lots of C of E churches are middle of the road with a small family feel and reasonable music.

There are very few fundamentalist churches in the UK. They tend to be small independent churches.

As Christianity is about relationship with Jesus you could look at which tries to give simple explanations to people who are outside of Christianity.

UrbaneSprawl Mon 21-May-18 09:11:15

GreenHeart is right, the Unitarians might be a very good place to start exploring, OP. The point with Unitarianism is that they (put very basically) don’t swallow the idea of the Trinity. Jesus was a great guy with some cracking ideas, but it’s not essential to believe he was the son of God to be inspired by those ideas, IYSWIM. Also, their worship isn’t always led by a minister (priest), so it can feel a bit less hierarchical. But more ‘structured’ than the Quakers.

I would also suggest you don’t make the Alpha course your first foray into organised religion, for the same reasons others have outlined.

Smeaton Mon 21-May-18 09:24:47

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

sashh Mon 21-May-18 09:49:27


It wasn't meant as a dig, he is much more understanding on his pod casts, the particular one I posted the audience is mainly atheists, many who have come from US southern baptist tradition.

its often those with faith putting themselves on the ground and working for the betterment and the support of those who are suffering. Its the church opening its doors to the homeless, its the Salvation Army handing out blankets to the cold and setting up food parcels for the hungry

I think the people who do that sort of thing would do it with or without a religion, Medicines Sans frontier have no religious affiliation. In Haiti some aid was withheld from people who were the 'wrong' religion.

Although sometimes religious organisations have the facilities to help. Eg the church my father attends, an RC church used to be one parish, the lack of clergy means that one priest now covers three parishes. He doesn't need three homes however, I'm not sure what is happening with the third house, the priest lives in one and the second one is being furnished for a refugee family to move in.

speakout Mon 21-May-18 09:56:59

"Missionary" work is thinly veiled evangelism.
Even the Salvation army peddle faith.

My mother makes shoe box - with items for kids in deprived countries- the programme includes a 6 week christian conversion course which children have to attend before they are eligible for their shoe box.

Fucking disgusting.

Smeaton Mon 21-May-18 10:04:37

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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