'Britain is becoming a more religious place, not less,' says historian

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Simon Schama

British historian Simon Schama discussed the role of spirituality during a recent interview, and said that the UK is becoming more religious.

Schama sat down with the Radio Times to discuss religion's role in historical events, and how society has changed its attitudes to religion over the years.

The 69-year-old described that Brits were less religious when he was growing up.

"My generation grew up thinking that religion was completely marginal to British life, which, as for the rest of the world, has been proved more and more wrong," he stated.

"We were arrogantly isolated from that, thinking religion was just an ornamental part of Britishness."

He identified growth in several UK religious areas as evidence of a faith-based movement.

"Now look at the success of the Alpha Evangelicals, how important Christianity has been to the community of West Indians, the huge place of Islam. Britain is becoming a more religious place, not less," Schama insisted.

He also reminded his interviewers of the historic role of religion on world politics – for better and for worse – saying that without religion, "there would have been no wars in Scotland and massacres in Ireland."

The Emmy Award-winner is a University Professor of Art History and History at Columbia University. He is also a prolific author, penning dozens of books and documentaries including "Two Rothschilds and the Land of Israel," and "Hang Ups: Essays on Art."

Schama also wrote and hosted the popular, 15-part BBC series, "A History of Britain," and wrote and hosted the five-part PBS series "The Story of the Jews."

Schama's conclusions directly contradict the 31st Annual British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey, published June 16. That survey found that 50.6 percent of the British population has no religion, compared to 47.7 percent last year. The number of self-reported Christians was the lowest figure the BSA survey ever published, at just 41.7 percent.

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