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This report is taken from PN Review 211, Volume 39 Number 5, May - June 2013.

Letter from Wales Sam Adams
The decline in churchgoing and Christian belief is gathering pace here, perhaps more hectically than elsewhere. The falling off began from a high point about the middle of the nineteenth century, when Wales could boast a higher proportion of adherents than any other European country. Only 72 per cent of the population still described themselves as Christian in 2001; a decade later it is 58 per cent. During the same period, the proportion of those who have no religion has increased from 19 to 32 per cent. In my previous letter (PNR 210) I referred to pockets of economic and cultural deprivation corresponding to post-1995 unitary authorities in the former industrial valleys of south Wales. These include communities that experienced the full force of the great Nonconformist revival inspired by Evan Roberts in 1904-5, when chapel membership attained unprecedented heights. Now Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly and Rhondda Cynon Taf are, according to the census, among the five least religious parts of England and Wales.

The Anglicanism of my experience in the province of Wales seemed so unexacting that lapsing from it carried no burden of guilt. But I cannot deny regret has increased with the passage of years. At the very least, I subscribe to the view expressed by the unnamed narrator in John Updike's story 'Packed Dirt, Churchgoing, a Dying Cat, a Traded Car', first published in the New Yorker in 1961: 'Taken purely as recreation, what could be more delightful, more unexpected than to enter a venerable and ...


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