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6,000 reasons why religion still has a prayer in 2010

Jan 2 2010

by Robin Turner, Western Mail

FOR the best part of two centuries, scientists and philosophers have predicted the decline of religion in the modern world.

Indeed, falling church attendance figures in most of Europe seem to bear that prediction out.

But a Welsh university is now challenging the “secularisation theory” of social theorists such as Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, Max Weber and Émile Durkheim – by collecting 6,000 reasons why religion exists.

Researchers at the University of Wales in Lampeter have collected thousands of “religious experiences” that can used as a resource for students taking theology-related degrees.

And the research, particularly in places like China, is mounting a challenge to the theory that the modernisation of society would include a decline in levels of religiosity.

“Religious experience still happens and can still change lives,” said Paul Badham, the director of the university’s religious experience research centre, which marked its 40th anniversary in November. .

Prof Badham said: “Indeed, in some ways, with the decline in institutional religion, people seem more likely to have these experiences.”

Since 1969, more than 6,000 accounts have been added to the centre’s database.

The religious experience has been defined as coming from those who report “a presence or power different from everyday life, regardless of whether or not they attribute the phenomena to God”.

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