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Spiritual Progression Conference – Linda Woodhead summary

17 March 11

Spiritual Progression in Economic Recession? Final reflections at this day conference held in Chester on 17th March 2011.

Linda Woodhead, Director of the Religion and Society Programme, concluded the conference with some reflections on the issues raised during the day. She spoke first of the contradictory visions held within religions: first, religion keeping to itself, separate from the state, and realising its own specific goals, and secondly a form of religion [declining numerically] which engaged with social issues.

She went on to speak of the values held by the founders of the welfare state, illustrated concretely by the centre of Cumbernauld New Town. It was a world in which experts knew best, and was strongly paternalistic. This had now largely been replaced by a world in which personal freedoms were paramount. We should not look back to a recreation of the welfare state, because it had itself damaged many valuable skills and resources within the community.

She illustrated the observations by reference to her own study of Kendal in Cumbria in 2002, which had revealed over a hundred practitioners of some kind of alternative healing, working holistically. Many were women, who had fled (see earlier comments) either the NHS or the churches, to offer services which met needs the churches and health service often failed to address. She cited too another survey of woman entrepreneurs, for whom work and spirituality were completely entwined. It indicated a growing area for study: religion and politics was giving way to religion and the market. Read more about the conference and access further podcasts from here. Duration: 15:05.

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