Today and tomorrow, 27 & 28 October, are key dates in Christian history. Constantine's 'vision of the Cross' in 312, and his attribution of military victory at the Battle of Milvian Bridge the next day to God, was the beginning of Christendom in Europe - an era which mixed civilisation with bloodshed, saints with militarism, and faith with often brutal sacralised-secular power.
The long-awaited new book on American religion and its impact from Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell introduces us to complexities and contradictions which often get overlooked public debate, says Martin Marty. Does religion unite or divide? Experience says 'both'. But exactly where, how and why remains important for a rounded view.
So sudden have been the marked trends showing disaffection from organised religion that leaders have not internalised the evidence, says Martin Marty. They need to wake up. “Being spiritual” alone is not going to help keep the stories, the language of ethics, and the pool of volunteers embedded in religious bodies thriving.
Revivals, awakenings, ethnic shifts, mobility, and religious marketplaces have always invited drifting, says Martin Marty. But recent Pew research on the US situation suggests that there is such a big quantitative shift that it amounts to a change in the quality of commitments.
While psychological researchers sometimes ask volunteers about their dreams, a unit at the University of Wales in Lampeter, in mid Wales, collects religious experiences that can used as a resource for theology students.