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13th September 2021

I recently made a new will. Having decided what I wanted it to say I took professional advice to get the wording right. The result was a pretty dry piece of prose!

While studying family history I have looked at several earlier wills – quite a contrast. One from 1834 began: In the first place I bequeath my soul unto the hands of Almighty God hoping for mercy through Jesus Christ. In an even earlier one (1780) I found: I commend my soul into the Hands of God who gave it trusting for the pardon of all my Sins thro’ Jesus Christ. Mine included nothing like that! God, I fear, did not feature.

I suppose this is just one example of how things are different now from the way they were in previous generations. Have you noticed how often someone being interviewed on the radio or TV assures us ‘I am not religious’ – as if being ‘religious’ was somehow something to be ashamed of? Even those of us who might be described as ‘religious’ often keep the religious and secular separate, echoing society more generally.

Were references to God or quotations from the Bible in everyday life signs of a more ‘religious’ society? Somehow I doubt it. Yes – churchgoing might have been more the norm, at least among certain sections of society, but did that mean God was more honoured? Some would say that people are more honest today. Whereas at one time you had to pay at least lip service to the Christian faith, today only those with a genuine faith speak in these terms. Which is better?

David T Roberts