Tag Archives: joseph rowntree

Would Joseph Rowntree have praised or damned religion?

Reporting a recent piece of research published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the Times adopts this approach:

A CHARITY set up by an ardent Christian to fight slavery and the opium trade has identified a new social evil of the 21st century – religion.

A poll by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation uncovered a widespread belief that faith – not just in its extreme form – was intolerant, irrational and used to justify persecution.

Pollsters asked 3,500 people what they considered to be the worst blights on modern society, updating a list drawn up by Rowntree, a Quaker, 104 years ago.

The responses may well have dismayed him. The researchers found that the “dominant opinion” was that religion was a “social evil”.

Would it have dismayed him or confirmed his beliefs? After all, as a Quaker, Rowntree was a non-conformist. No other faith group has done more to promote secularism worldwide than the Quakers and as a group which has been at the sharp end of organised religion in the past, they have some considerable experience of religion as a social evil.

Besides, the full report paints a more nuanced picture. Religion is only listed as the ninth “evil”, while a decline in values is listed third. If people are decoupling religion from values that can only be a good thing and I suspect Rowntree would have approved as well.