FAITHS AND CIVIL SOCIETY UNIT, GOLDSMITHS, UNIVERSITY OF LONDON
The Faiths and Civil Society Unit (Goldsmiths, University of London) explores:
Politics and Policy. How decision-makers engage and shape faith-based social action in the public realm, and what this says about deliberation, participation, inclusion and social justice.
Sociology and Society. Is society secular, post-secular or complexly both? How should we think and talk about religion in society, and what are the pressing issues?
Professional Practice. What do faith-based social actors do, how do they do it, what are the impacts, and what are the challenges?
These issues come together in interdisciplinary research and knowledge exchange to help religion, belief and non-belief groups, policy-makers and practitioners work together effectively.
The most secular century - the 20th century - has given way to a recognition that it was really no such thing! Religion and belief have certainly changed but they didn't go away after all. The welfare project after 1948 certainly professionalied and secularised health and social care. It also effectively 'invisibilised' faith based welfare in the process. But faith groups continued to contribute at the margins and with the poorest. When the welfare settlement started to give way after 1979, the mixed economy of welfare made faith groups 're-visibilised' as they have increasingly taken their place alongside a whole range of non-state providers of services of all shapes and sizes. During the 2000's, Britain's New Labour governments introduced all sorts of policies and funding streams to engage the faith-based contribution. Now in a post-crisis climate, policy has shifted once again from community, collaboration and empowerment, to enterprise, philanthropy and self-start. Alongside is a rejection of the multifaith paradigm and the revalorisation of the Church of England as a Christian lead for the contributions of all the religious traditions.
Whilst today's politicians insist that Labour 'didn't do God' - and the incumbents do - the reality is that politicians the world over 'do God' in different ways. Neo-liberal states everywhere are engaging faith-based groups to plug the gaps as states withdraw. Governments of all colours want to work with faiths. It's how they do it that differs.
A pressing theme throughout is religious literacy - what is the quality of conversation and debate about religion and belief in societies which had thought themselves secular but are re-discovering themselves as complexly Christian, post-traditional, secular and plural?
The Unit is directed by Adam Dinham, Professor of Faith and Public Policy.
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