Spiritualism's Impact on Contemporary Religion & Belief

Taylorian, Brandon Reece orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-2632-5642 (2020) Spiritualism's Impact on Contemporary Religion & Belief. Astronist Institution.

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.13140/RG.2.2.31685.47840


With church attendance in the UK taking dramatic reductions over the last twenty years, the contemporary context for religiosity and spirituality would seem to be in a dire state. However, exploring beyond the surface level of church attendance, we come to discover a significant diversification of both religious practice and spiritual belief that is navigating a rapidly changing world and a world in which moral values have shifted in the opposite direction to Church dogma. Spiritualism, and its many facets, is a key player in this “spiritual shift” towards less organised forms of religion, the consequences of which will dramatically impact the British religious landscape of the 21st century. This “spiritual shift” is characterised by a wide set of alternative beliefs that hold long histories of persecution at the hands of the Church. Furthermore, demographers are challenged to try and quantify the deep complexities of people’s beliefs that are not accurately grasped through each decade’s general census. Despite how a person may identify themselves in the census, this tragically misses out the complexity of religious belief and attitudes regarding more specific questions and therefore tells demographers very little about the true religious landscape. Accepting these shortcomings of modern demographic data on religiosity, demonstrates that the data we have likely represents only a narrow understanding of the reality of religious and spiritual life. This understanding has not been helped by the diversification and individualisation of religious beliefs as well as the fast-changing nature of digital religion. In this essay, the historical background and present-day role of spiritualism in British society will be investigated with the central aim of taking an in-depth look at the social context of spiritualism’s presence in Britain, the commercialisation of spiritualism and how both technology and changes in social values are being navigated by spiritualists. This analysis will particularly focus on the role of women in spiritualism and the rise in acceptance of LGBTQ groups in society as important factors effecting not only the rise of spiritualism, but the British religious landscape as a whole. Firstly, it is important to consider where spiritualism originated in order to understand its contemporary presence.

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