Below is an excerpt from “On Faith,” a daily online religion section sponsored by The Washington Post. Each week, Sally Quinn engages figures from the world of faith in a conversation about an aspect of religion.
Prince William and Kate Middleton will marry this week in Westminster Abbey. Studies show that the United Kingdom is among the most secular nations in the world. Why is it that even in the most secular societies, people turn to places of worship for their rituals?
Royal family needs religion: Even though the United Kingdom maybe a largely secular nation, the royal family still needs ritual and religion to buttress its legitimacy.
Mathew N. Schmalz professor of religious studies, College of the Holy Cross
professor of religious studies, College of the Holy Cross
Reach for the divine?: Just as some are in a marriage they take for granted, but at moments of deep feeling recognize the deep connection, in emotional moments people realize their religious impulse is not gone. They wish to transcend a purely earthly instant and touch a sense of the Divine.
David Wolpe rabbi, Sinai Temple, Los Angeles
rabbi, Sinai Temple, Los Angeles
We all seek sacred spaces: At some profound level, each of us is homo religiosis -- humans with a sense of a greater meaning in life than mere mundane existence. At such significant events in life as birth, marriage and death, we want to connect with that profounder meaning.
Max Carter director, Friends Center, Guilford College
director, Friends Center, Guilford College
Separate church, state and royal weddings:The more interesting question may be how a country like England with deep Christian roots can become so secular in the first place. One reason is that established religion – here the privileging of the Church of England – sows the seeds of its own attenuation. State support for religion tends to rob religion of its vitality and, for some, turns it into a mere ceremonial exercise.
J. Brent Walker executive director, Baptist Joint Committee
executive director, Baptist Joint Committee
Church and state in England a bad marriage: One of the reasons that England has so many secularists is that it has an official “established” church, that is, the Church of England.
Barry Lynn minister, lawyer, activist
minister, lawyer, activist
Living vicariously through royal wedding: There is some indication that while Brits do not attend church, they still evince a high level of religiousness.
Amarnath Amarasingam academic, author