Religion (Unit 2)

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Religion (Unit 2)

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Unit II

History of Religion. New Ideas about Religion.


Text I


New Ideas About Religion

The people of Western Europe were all Roman Catholics, but by AD 1500, many were unhappy with the way the Church was being run. The Popes and many of the priests seemed interested only in wealth and power and set a bad example in the way they lived their lives. This led to a movement, which became known as the "Reformation", to change and reform the Christian Church. People who joined the movement were called "Protestants" because they were protesting about things that they thought were wrong.

In 1517 a German monk called Martin Luther nailed a list of 95 complaints about the Church and the way priests behaved, to the door of Wittenberg church in Germany.

Luther believed that everyone should able to study God's message for themselves. So he translated the Bible from Latin into German. Versions in other languages quickly followed.

Luther was condemned by a Church court, but several German princes supported him. He also won followers across Europe.

King Henry VIII of England wanted to divorce his wife and marry Anne Boleyn. The Pope would not let him, so Henry made himself head of the Church in England.

Soon there were other religious leaders and the Protestants split into different groups. This is John Calvin, who set up a new Church in Geneva.

Priests on both sides were tortured and even hanged. Both Protestants and Catholics believed they were saving their opponents from hell by doing this.


The Catholics Fight Back

The Pope called a meeting of churchmen at Trent in Italy. They laid down exactly what the beliefs and rules of the Catholic Church were and ordered complete obedience to them.

This is St Ignatius Loyola who founded the Society of Jesus. The members, who were known as Jesuits, tried to win Protestants back to the Catholic Church.

Many Protestants disapproved of decorated churches and destroyed the they took over. But the Catholics introduced an even more elaborate style shown here, called Baroque.

In Spain, the most fiercely Catholic country in Europe, there was an organization called the Inquisition, which hunted out anyone who was not a good Catholic. The officers of the Inquisition used torture to make people confess their beliefs. Protestants who refused to become Catholics were burnt to death at special ceremonies called "Auto-da-fe" (Spanish for "acts of faith"), which were watched by huge crowds.


Murders and Executions

Holland was ruled by the Kings of Spain at this time. William of Orange led a revolt of the Dutch Protestants against the Spanish. He was murdered by a Catholic.

So many people in France became Protestants that the Catholics laid a plot. On 24 August 1572, the eve of St Bartholomew's Day, they murdered all the Protestants they could find in Paris.

Mary, Queen of Scots, was a Catholic She plotted against Elizabeth I, Protestant Queen of England, and was taken prisoner by the English. She was executed at Fotheringay Castle


Key dates

AD 1483/1546            Life of Martin Luther.

AD 1517                     Luther nailed 95 theses to Wittenburg church door.

AD 1534                     Henry VIII became head of the Church of England.

Ignatius Loyola founded the Jesuits (Society of Jesus).

AD1536                      John Calvin began work in Geneva.

AD 1545/1563            The Council of Trent.

AD 1555                     Fighting between Catholics and Protestants in Germany ended by treaty called Peace of Augsburg

AD 1572                     The Massacre of St. Bartholomew's Eve

AD 1584                     William of Orange assassinated.

AD 1587                     Mary, Queen of Scots, was executed.


Ex. 1. Read the text and answer the questions:

a)      Why was Luther condemned by the church?

b)      What led to a movement which became known as the “Reformation”?

c)      What were the Protestants protesting about?

d)      What religious leaders do you know?

e)      What did Luther believed in?

f)        When did Luther nail a list of 95 complaints?

g)      Who made himself head of the Church in England to divorce his wife?

h)      What was the most fiercely Catholic country?

i)        Who founded the Society of Jesus?

j)        By 1500 AD the people of Western Europe were all Roman Catholics, weren’t they?


Text II

Church of England

The Church of England, and the monarch's relation to it, was established through a series of Parliamentary Acts in the 1530s, which brought about the English Reformation. Henry VIII broke from the Roman Catholic Church by denying papal claims to ecclesiastical or any other jurisdiction, and by declaring, himself rather than the Pope as Supreme Head of the Church in England. The Preface to the 39 Articles of the Church of England ascribes the monarch as “being by God’s Ordinance, according to Our just Title, Defender of the Faith and... Supreme Governor of the Church of England”. The monarch must be in communion with the Church of England (i.e. a full, confirmed member) and, in his or her coronation oath, the monarch promises to maintain the Church.

There are many examples of the relationship between the established Church and the State. Archbishops and bishops are appointed by The Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister, who considers the names selected by a Church Commission. They take an oath of allegiance to The Queen on appointment and may not resign without royal authority. The connection between Church and State is also symbolised by the fact that the "Lords Spiritual" (consisting of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and 24 diocesan bishops) sit in the House of Lords. Parish priests also take an oath of allegiance to The Queen.

The General Synod (including the bishops, elected representatives from the clergy and the laity) is the supreme authority of the Church of England. The Queen opens the Synod after the elections in the dioceses every five years. Since 1919, the Synod (formerly called the Church) has had the power, delegated by Parliament, to pass Measures on any matter concerning the Church of England. Following acceptance of the Measures by both Houses of Parliament (which cannot amend them, nor - by convention -initiate or discuss ecclesiastical Measures, as members of both Houses do not belong to the Church of England) the Measures are submitted for Royal Assent and become law. In addition to legislating for the Church by Measure, the General Synod has the power to legislate by Canon in its own domestic affairs such as worship and doctrine, but The Queen's assent is required for the promulgation of such Canons. Such assent is given on the Home Secretary's advice.


Ex. 1. Read the text and translate it.


Ex. 2. Answer the questions:

a)      When was the Church of England established?

b)      Who broke from the Roman Catholic Church?

c)      What does the English monarch promise in his coronation?

d)      How are Archbishops and bishops appointed?

e)      How is the connection between Church and State symbolized?

f)      What is the supreme authority of the Church of England?

g)      How does the Synod work?

h)      What power does the Synod have?


Ex. 3. Use the information below to name the main religions and denominations of Great Britain. Use Russian and English encyclopedias if you'd like to know about the major differences in world religions.


population:                   46,229,955 (1981)

religion:                        Christian (with the Anglican Communion as the established church, its membership is about 31,500,000 (including 1,2 million people who attend Anglican services)

Protestant sects            the largest is the Methodist with membership of 1,500,000

Roman Catholic           about 6,000,000

Judaism                       about 410,000

Muslim                        about 1,500,000

Sikh                             175,000

Hindu                          140,000

language:                      English +100 minority languages



population:                   2,807,000

religion:                        Nonconformist Protestant denominations, Roman Catholic minorities

language:                      English, Welsh (19% of Wales population)



population:                   5,121,000

religion:                        Presbyterian (the Church of Scotland), Roman Catholic

language:                      English, Gaelic (1.3% of Scotland population)


Ex. 4. Using the information given in Ex. 3 try to complete the chart.



Ex. 5. Do you think that the British can still be called a Christian nation or not? Answer this question while completing the passage below:

... Christianity has played a vital part in Britain's history. For centuries it helped to decide who were the nation's enemies and allies and determined who could sit in Parliament. English literature speaks with a Christian voice and Christian churches and cathedrals are one of the great glories of the landscape. "I liked our chapel, which was tall and full of light, and yet still and colour-washed pale green and blue, with a bit of lotus pattern. And over the organ-loft, 'O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness' in big letters. That was a favourite hymn too:

O worship the Lord, in the beauty of holiness,

Bow down before Him. His glory proclaim;

With gold of obedience and incense of lowliness

Kneel and adore Him, the Lord is His name."

(D. H. Lawrence)

But can the British still truly be called a Christian nation?


Ex. 6. You've already read about the major religions which dominate in British life, but there are some other of minor importance, still they also find their way in multicultural Britain. Read the following advertisement and try to answer the questions.

a)      Who usually attends the Russian Orthodox Cathedral services?

b)      Where is the Cathedral situated?

c)      What language is used during the service?

d)      What kind of music is performed?

e)      Are there any differences in services which take place in London and in Moscow?


The Russian Orthodox Cathedral of the Dormition of the Mother of God and All the Saints, 67 Ennismore Gardens, London SW7 INH (971-584-0096).

Metropolitan: The Most Rev Anthony of Sourozh. Sermon: Lengthy journey through each Sunday in Lent in heavily accented English, which demanded close attention but was impressively good considering the preacher has been in this country for little more than a year.

Architecture: Early Christian basilica-style, built 1849 by Lewis Vulliamy.

Music: Early medieval chants, such as the Kiev chant, harmonised by 19th and 20th-century composers and performed by the cathedral's small, mixed choir standing in. a gallery. The most beautiful chant, the Beatitudes from Christ's Sermon on the Mount, was sung to a harmonization of an ancient chant used by blind pilgrims.

Liturgy: That of St. John Chrysostum, a teaching saint in Orthodoxy. The wording and ritual are unchanged since the 7th century, though translated from Greek.

After-Service Care: The Russians are apologetic that, because of building work, no tea or coffee could be offered. As a sigh of fellowship, non-Orthodox visitors receive leavened bread blessed during communion.


Ex. 7. Once there was a social survey in Britain which asked people which words made them think of God. Study the chart with the results of the survey and answer the questions.



% saying that the word made them think of God



Serious illness




Storms at sea




Train disaster














Making love





Comprehension questions

1. What percentage of people said that the word death made them think of God?

2. What percentage of people said that the word punishment made them think of God?

3. Do you think that these answers are peculiar to Britain only or to people in other countries as well?

4. Making reference to the chart, what arguments could be used for and against the view that religion is still an important factor in society?

5. Do the laws and social norms reflect a Christian morality in Britain? Do they reflect a Christian morality in Russia?


Ex. 8. Read the text and say if you agree or disagree with the following point: the importance of religion and its influence on people's life is in decline in Britain.


There is a debate on the extent to which the importance of religion has been declining in Britain. One view is that religion is in decline and people are less religious in their attitude and behaviour. The other view is that although church attendance has declined, people are still as religious as they used to be.

The statistics in 1986 say that 18 per cent of the adult population claimed to be belonging to a Christian church, but only 10 per cent actually attended church services. Is it a decline or not? Firstly what should be taken in consideration is that some people are not great churchgoers, for example even in 1851 the English Census of Religion showed that only 40 per cent of the population were churchgoers. The same is said by the answers of the British people to two questions: What is your religion? When did you last attend church? (See the tables below.)

So evidence for the declining importance shouldn't be taken as proven only from the statistics of church attendance and membership, for the latter do not show the amount of private prayer, or visiting of churches. People no longer attend church because church attendance is not necessary in order to be respectable as it was in Victorian Britain. Instead those who do attend it, attend it through a much stronger sense of commitment. What the church has really lost is any significant power to influence political decisions. Indeed most religious appointments of the Church of England are decided by politicians.

The growth of science and rational thought, the weakening of traditional religious values, the loss of family traditions to attend together church services, the appearance of political and social philosophies which criticize the importance and the role* of the Church, the growth of material values — all these things to some extent have destroyed the traditionally accepted norms of religious behaviour in society. For example, older traditional churches have failed to appeal to the poor, although middle class attendance is much higher.

Nowadays there has been also a massive increase in non-Christian religions such as Islam, Hinduism, the Sikh religion. In Britain Islam is the fastest-growing religion: its numbers have doubled since 1970. It is the religion of most of the Pakistani and Bangladeshi immigrants and reflects the growth of their descendants. It imposes strict rules on its members, and women in particular are expected to be extremely modest. It has become a unifying factor among immigrants in Britain from these countries and it doesn't reflect only religious beliefs, but it provides a sense of identity.

Hindus in Britain are mainly immigrants or descendants of immigrants from India and the ex-colonies of Britain in Africa. They tend to be educated and belong mainly to middle class. This religion stresses the importance of modesty among women, the dominance of men and the importance of the family. It has also become the unifying factor among Indian immigrants from a wide variety of backgrounds.

The Sikhs who are originally from India are often hostile to the larger Hindu community. That is due to their demands in India for a separate homeland. They are found in relatively small numbers.

Although all schools teach and must teach religious knowledge, the church contribution to British education has become lesser, before 1870 elementary education was usually provided by the churches. Today, the majority of schools are provided by the state through the local authorities. People no longer necessarily take their moral lead from the churches: examples of this are the increase in divorce, the passing of the abortion bill in 1969, the loss of family tradition of attending church together when parents with their children regularly attend church services, speak on religious topics. The clergy have stopped being the central figures in the communities that they once were. They have lost both status and an adequate income to maintain themselves at a comparative level to other professions. Their role has been weakened also by the growth of material values. Religion stresses the importance of good behaviour and thus, a person ought to be measured by how good he or she is. Yet today people in many countries are measured far more by what they possess and Britain is here no exception.

Still the majority of the British believe in some form of God. Over 70 per cent of the population believe in God. More than that, in recent years there has been an increase in the growth of religious sects such as Rastafarian, Pentecostal and Holiness which are very attractive to the deprived groups in British society.


Explanatory notes

census — перепись населения

Atheist — атеист, тот, кто отрицает или не верит в существование бога

Agnostic — агностик, сторонник философского учения, отрицающего познаваемость объективного мира

Victorian Britain — Британия времен правления королевы Виктории (1837—1901 гг.)

Rastafarian — последователь растафарианизма, религиозного культа, считающего Африку землей обетованной

Holiness — святейшество (титулование папы); священность, благочестие


Table 1

What is your religion? (1981)

Church type


Church of England




Roman Catholic


Presbyterian (Church of Scotland)






No religion


Other religions



Table 2

When did you last attend church? (1981)

Church type

within 7 days

within 3 months

Church of England






Roman Catholic











Other religions




Ex. 9.

Study the table containing information on major British holidays in 1992 and answer the questions. If you lack the information, look through the passages that follow the table.

    Which of the holidays are traditionally British and which of them are celebrated in other countries as well?

    Which of the holidays were not celebrated in the 19th century, but are celebrated now?


New Year



Sunday after Ascension



Shrove Tuesday






Ash Wednesday



Trinity Sunday



Ramadan begins



Corpus Christi



1st Sunday in Lent



Father's Day (UK)



Commonwealth Day



Muslim New Year



Mother's Day (UK)



Bank Holiday (UK)



Palm Sunday



Jewish New Year (5753)



Maundy Thursday



Day of Atonement.



Good Friday



Remembrance Sunday (UK)



Easter Day



1st Sunday in Advent



Bank Holiday (UK)



Christmas Day



Bank Holiday (UK)



New Year's Eve



Ascension Day







Ascension Day is a festival for Christians celebrating the ascent of Christ to Heaven. It is held on the 40th day after resurrection, on the sixth Thursday after Easter.

Good Friday is the Friday before Easter, commemorating Crucifixion and observed as a holiday.

Whit Sunday is a major festival in the Christian church which is celebrated on the seventh Sunday after Easter commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples on the day of Pentecost. The day is named after the white robes worn by converted to the church which were admitted at that time.

Trinity Sunday is the Sunday after Whit Sunday and is one of the major festivals of the Christian year. Trinity symbolizes the threefold union of three persons in one godhead, namely Father, Son and Holy Ghost Spirit.

Remembrance Sunday is the Sunday which is the nearest to 11 November, Armistice Day. On this day the dead of both world wars are remembered in special church services and civic ceremonies. Wreaths are laid by the members of the royal family in the presence of leading statesmen and politicians (including Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition). A popular name for this day is Poppy Day because people wear artificial poppies in memory of those who fell in two world wars.

Easter Day is a Christian festival commemorating the Resurrection of Christ. It is observed on the first Sunday after a full moon falling on or after 21 March.

Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent in the Christian religion. Its name comes from the tradition of sprinkling ashes on the heads of penitents.

Shrove Tuesday is the day before Ash Wednesday. On Shrove Tuesday many people traditionally eat pancakes as this day was once thought of as the last day of enjoyment before the Lent in the Christian year. Thus, it is sometimes called Pancake Day.

Mother's Day is the day for honouring one's mother. Children usually visit their parents and give presents to their mothers. This day is a relatively modern import from the USA.

Father's Day is the third Sunday in June when children usually give presents to their fathers. This day is also a relatively modern import from the USA.

Palm Sunday is the Sunday before Easter. On Palm Sunday in some churches small crosses, which are made of palm leaves, are given to members of the congregation. It is associated with the Bible story which says that palm branches were thrown on the ground in front of Christ as he entered Jerusalem.

Maundy Thursday is the Thursday before Easter. In a selected cathedral the sovereign traditionally presents small purses of money to people who are specially chosen and whose number is the same as the sovereign's age in years.

Bank Holiday is an official public holiday when all banks, post offices, most factories, offices and shops are closed.


Explanatory notes

Shrove Tuesday вторник на масленой неделе

Ash Wednesday — среда, с которой начинается Великий пост (у англичан.)

Ramadan — рамадан; пост (у мусульман)

Palm Sunday — Вербное воскресенье

Maundy Thursday — Великий Четверг (на страстной неделе)

Good Friday — Страстная Пятница

Ascension Day — праздник Вознесения

Pentecost — Пятидесятница (седьмое воскресенье после Пасхи)

Trinity Sunday — Троицын день

Corpus Christi — праздник тела Христова

Day of Atonement — день искупления

1st Sunday in Advent —первое воскресенье Рождественского поста

the Resurrection — воскресение Христа

Lent — Великий пост

the Crucifixion — распятие Христа


Ex. 10. Read the text and discuss it with your deskmate


During the X-th century, Grand-Prince Vladimir adopted Orthodox Christianity replacing the Russian pagan tradition. Since that time Russian Orthodoxy has remained the predominant religion. Similar to the Greek Orthodox Church, the Russian Orthodox Church's principle focus is on the Resurrection, Consequently, Easter is the most celebrated of Orthodox Christian religious holidays.

Images of the Resurrection are often depicted in the famous Russian icons.

Icons are painted images of holy personages or events that can be made out of any material, although most are painted on wooden panels. Orthodox church architecture stems from Byzantine models, traditionally built with one large central dome surrounded by four chapels (apses). The central dome represents heaven and Christ, while the four smaller chapels represent the four evangelists. These structures are capped by brilliant onion domes that are often painted gold, or gold with blue stars.

Women are expected to cover their heads in Orthodox Churches.

After 1922, the USSR denounced religion, and thousands of churches were closed, destroyed, or used only for secular activities. Since glasnost, a resurgence of interest in religions of all kinds has emerged throughout the former Soviet Union. Russians marked the thousand year anniversary of Christianity in 1988 by opening many new and restored churches.


pagan - языческий

Byzantine - Византия

a resurgence - возрождение


Ex. 11. Prepare a project about one of the main religions faiths (Christianity, Islam, etc.)


Ex. 12. Write down Ten Commandments, that are often written above the Ark containing the Torah.


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