Religious Beliefe and Practices. Although England is a secular country, about one-half of the population is baptized in the Anglican church; however, only 10 million are communicant members. Roman Catholics number 6 million, and the rest belong to nonconformist free churches such as Methodist or Baptist. Except for some areas of Irish settlements in the northwest, religious tolerance persists.
The Church of England traces its history back to the arrival of Christians in Britain during the second century. It has preserved much of the tradition of medieval Catholicism while holding on to the fundamentals of the Reformation. It broke with the Roman papacy during the reign of Henry VIII (1509—1547). The church has gone through persecution and was also influenced by the Puritans. Nevertheless, it has maintained an episcopal form of government, with the monarchy acting as the secular head of the English church and the Archbishop of Canterbury having spiritual prominence.
Arts. England has a strong and distinctive tradition in literature, theater, and architecture. In literature, writers tend to focus on their particular region, while in plays they are more likely to deal with England as a whole. In architecture, the English have borrowed from other cultures, but they have transformed the concepts into a characteristically English style. England has also become a leader in popular culture with musical groups that have captured international prominence. London is the theater center for the English-speaking world.
Medicine. England's national health service provides quality care. However, the system has declined somewhat under the Thatcher government and private practice has increased.
Death and Afterlife. In the Anglican church, exactly what happens at death is a mystery. However, Anglicans believe that the individual "is received by God into his arms," which is taken to mean the person passes into a timeless and spaceless relationship with God, unlike that which is experienced in this life. Funerals are conducted by a priest or minister a day or two after death.