With a sharp decrease in the number of people believing in hell1, whether inside or outside the church, there is growing concern among sociologists that this, along with the general secularisation of the country2, is leading to a less integrated society and one which is no longer conforming to rules. Religion used to be society’s source of moral guidelines, norms and values, with the belief in Hell instilling in people fear of eternal damnation for their wrongdoings.
However, people today no longer have this sense of fear that once used to cause them to follow moral guidelines, according to people such as new right sociologist John Redwood and functionalist Talcott Parsons, this is directly linked to a reduction in social integration and thus the increase in juvenile delinquency observed today. The study will use a questionnaire and will include questions on peoples’ general beliefs, their beliefs in hell and their views how this belief affects their life.
This will allow the collection of quantitative data on the number of people who are religious, who believes in Hell, and how this belief affects their life and the collection of qualitative data as to why people no longer believe in hell and their views how this belief affects their life, which is essential to this study. Using a questionnaire is also less-time consuming than methods such as interviews, thus allowing extra time for the processing of data, equally, as the questionnaires will be anonymous, more valid answers should be gained.
The questionnaire will be handed out to 10 males and 10 females in sixth form at Sandown High School as this is an age where a number of young adults question their beliefs in the metaphysical. 3 And the participants will be selected using opportunity sampling in the library at Sandown High School. Hell and people’s beliefs about Hell have always played a substantial part in the foundations of society.
There are many views on what Hell is and how it relates to our lives; some, such as evangelicals, believe that Hell is separation from God, some, such as religious fundamentalists, that it is a literal place of fire and brimstone and some that it is simply a state of the soul4. However, research into the number of people believing Hell shows that, in the past 50 years, belief in Hell has dropped dramatically5.
As mentioned in the rationale, the reason for a decline in the belief in Hell is most likely to be the general secularisation of the country. This decline in religion is evident through a number of means. Firstly disengagement; the decline in the power of the church, this is evident as in the past, the church was a major employer, much like it is in a number of third world countries such as Uganda today.
It used to be a major employer; teaching people to read through bible stories and songs, providing information about local events and news, teaching crafts and back in medieval times, even discovering the facts of science, however, in the present day, these roles have been taken over by other, secular, organisations, for example, schools educate young children and a number of these have little, even no involvement in the church, the media provides information about news from the whole world and a number of secular organisations and charities provide craft activities in the evenings and at weekends, this shows the churches decline in power and the process of secularisation. Secondly, there is the process of desacrilisation whereby peoples’ thoughts, attitudes and beliefs are no longer focussed on the church and on religion due to the mass publication and understanding of scientific facts. For example, people no longer believe in creation due to the wide publication of the theory of evolution; to the logical and rational minds of humans, something which can be fully explained seems more likely than that of the metaphysical. This therefore shows the process of desacrilisation and thus secularisation in this country.