Century Marks

Century Marks

End of the church?

A statistical projection is not a prediction, but if the number of Christians in Britain continues to decline at the current rate, there will be no more British Christians by 2067. Between 2001 and 2011 the church lost 5.3 million members—about 10,000 each week. The rate of decline in the Church of England is higher than that of other denominations. In one survey the numbers dropped from 40 percent of the population in 1983 to 29 percent in 2004 and just 17 percent last year. The decline in the Catholic Church is not as precipitous because of the influx of Catholic immigrants. Sometime in this century Muslims will outnumber Christians in Britain (Spectator, June 13).

Reading Rx

The entrance to the library at Thebes bore the inscription, “Healing place for the soul.” Freud suggested books to his patients, and the contemporary philosopher Alain de Botton was encouraged to start a bibliotherapy clinic that would suggest readings to people to make them better persons or help them cope with crises. While there is ongoing debate on whether fiction makes readers more empathetic, there is evidence that “regular readers sleep better, have lower stress levels, higher self-esteem, and lower rates of depression than non-readers” (New Yorker, June 9).

Curious child

As a child Richard Feynman once asked his father why a ball went to the back of a wagon when he pulled the wagon forward. His father said it was inertia. When Feynman asked what inertia was, his father said it is the name scientists give to the movement of a ball to the back of a wagon, but in truth no one really knows what it is. Feynman went on to get degrees at MIT and Princeton, and he won a Nobel Prize in physics. He attributed his success in science to the curiosity engendered by that conversation with his father. The simplest questions can carry us to the edge of knowledge, and that’s where he wanted to play (TED Radio Hour, June 12).

Child preachers

No one knows how many child preachers there are in Brazil, but estimates run to the thousands. Most of them are Pentecostal. Alani is an 11-year-old who, according to her father, performed her first healing miracle when she was only 51 days old. Convinced that Alani had healing powers, her father placed her infant hand on a woman’s distended stomach—and it immediately deflated. Even within Pentecostal circles, some observers believe that child preachers like Alani are exploited by their parents and other adults (New York Times, June 11).


The Churches Conserva­tion Trust of the Church of England looks after 347 churches that are no longer being used for worship. Several of them are being repurposed for camping. The buildings are still consecrated, but campers who rent the facilities have no restrictions on what can be done in the sanctuaries. St. Mary the Virgin in the town of Fordwich, Kent, dates from Norman times, with 14th-century stained glass windows, 17th-century paintings, and 18th-century wooden pews (Guardian, May 29).