The religions of a country define, to a large extent, the culture thereof. They tell a story of its past and give a certain degree of information about its current society.
In England, Christianity remains the most practiced religion today, despite its ancient history of paganism. Paganism refers to religious traditions that are characterised by the belief in multiple gods rather than one main God and Creator. These religions include Celtic polytheism, Norse paganism, Roman polytheism, and so on. They were introduced by the Anglo-Saxons, who had their origins in ancient Germanic tribes. Wicca, however, was one of the pagan religions that had its roots in England and soon spread all over the world. Wicca refers to a religion of witchcraft and its adherents are called Wiccans or witches. This religion is put into the Neopaganism category.
The main religions that can be identified in England today are:
Within Christianity are various individual denominations, to which the vast majority of declared Christians in England align themselves. These include, but are not limited to:
• Roman Catholicism
• Eastern Orthodox Churches (such as Russian Orthodox and Greek Orthodox)
• Oriental Orthodoxy
Christianity was introduced to England when the Romans arrived and its history dates back to about the 200’s and 300’s of our Common Era (CE). When the Romans retreated from England, they left behind them a Christian culture, which was revived somewhat when missionaries arrived in the country from Scotland and Europe. In 664, the English Church aligned itself completely with Roman Catholicism. Over the next few centuries, exquisite churches and cathedrals were constructed, some of which still stand today as a reminder of the ancient roots of England.
The religion of the Muslims, Islam has a huge base of adherents all over the world. This is an ancient religion and has had some degree of presence in England for hundreds of years. In fact, it was back in 1386 that Muslim scholarship became known amongst the English educated. Today, Islam is second only to Christianity in the number of followers it has in England.
Judaism first made its appearance in England in about 1066 CE but was officially banned between 1290 and 1656. Today, it is well represented and actually boasts one of the largest proportions of followers in the world.
Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Hindu temple in the North west of London
Hindus originate from India, dubbed the Subcontinent. Since this country gained its independence in 1947, there have been waves of Hindu migrations into England. The main waves occurred in 1947, 1970 and from 1990 until our present day. Hinduism is characterised by a loving, accepting approach to life, which has attracted many non-Indian folk to convert to this faith.
In search of jobs, Sikhs migrated from India to England during the 1950’s. Most of them settled in London and have maintained this central base.
This religion originated in South East Asia, but became increasingly popular in England during the 1950’s.
7. The Bahá'í Faith
This religion started in 1845 and has grown considerably over the past years.
England is also home to a large proportion of agnostics and atheists, who either care little for the concept of religion or believe strongly in the absence of a God or gods.
Because religion has been such a major part of the English heritage, the structures it left behind remain important icons for the locals and tourists alike. Some famous churches or places of worship include:
• Baitul Futuh Mosque (Islamic)
• Bevis Marks Synagogue (Jewish)
• Brompton Oratory (Roman Catholic)
• Canterbury Cathedral (Church of England)
• Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha (Sikh)
• Metropolitan Tabernacle (Baptist)
• Neasden Temple (Hindu)
• St Paul's Cathedral (Church of England)
• Westminster Abbey (Church of England)
• Westminster Cathedral (Roman Catholic)
• Westminster Central Hall (Methodist)