Archive for January, 2010

Definitive study confirms that Britain has little time for religion

New research from NatCen (the National Centre for Social Research) has confirmed that religious belief and adherence in Britain is in free fall. The research also finds Church ‘teachings’ on a range of social issues are completely out of step with the opinions and desires of the population at large.

The report analyses the latest British Social Attitudes Survey and shows that over the last two decades the number of people describing themselves as atheist or agnostic has risen to 37%, while those identifying themselves as Christian has dropped from 66% to 50%. This decline is largely due to a drift away from the Church of England; in 1983, 40% of people described themselves as Anglicans, now only 23% do so.

Among those who self-identified as Anglicans, not even a fifth attend church as much as once a month, and half never go at all. This decline is not evident among all religions. There has been an increase from 2% to 7% in non-Christian religious affiliation due to immigration and population growth amongst ethnic minorities.

Forty-three per cent of people do not feel they belong to any particular religion, up from 31% in 1983.

Other interesting figures: 62% of people in Britain never attend religious services; only 17% of Britons are completely without doubt about the existence of God (in the USA 61% has no doubt that God exists); 79% of Britons think religion “provides comfort in times of trouble”; 67% think religious leaders should not try to influence Government decision-making; 73% think people with strong religious beliefs are often too intolerant of others.

On social issues it is clear that religious leaders are completely out of step with the majority. For instance, 92% of people who identify themselves as non-religious think a doctor should be allowed to help end the life of a patient with an incurable disease (and 71% of people who say they are religious agree).

Only 3% of non-religious people think sex before marriage is “always” or “almost always” wrong (this rises to 29% among the religious). On homosexuality, only 19% of non-religious people think it is “always” or “almost always” wrong – whereas 50% of religious people think it is. On abortion, 67% of non-religious people think it is ‘sometimes wrong’ or ‘not wrong at all’ if there is a strong chance of a birth defect, compared with 86% of non-religious people.

The findings confirm that religion is not an important issue for the British generally. In fact the news for the churches is likely to be even worse, because it is a well-known phenomenon among pollsters that on questions of religion, respondents tend to exaggerate and overstate their commitment. Nevertheless we have a Government that seems to be completely dominated by the idea that religion is terribly important to everyone and that the religious take on morality is the correct one. The figures on attitudes to assisted dying are particularly significant, given that earlier this year a parliamentary bill on the matter was rejected on the say-so of religious interests. It is time the Government took on board the fact that permitting religion to have so much influence on policy-making is thwarting the will of the people.


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News for January

The January Newsletter can be downloaded from here or from the ‘About Us’ page (where other newsletters from the past year can also be found).

We have an interesting programme of meetings, starting in February, which is listed on the Events and Meetings page.

The November meeting consisted of a talk by Tony M and Tony A on the life and works of the Humanist philosopher and peace campaigner Bertrand Russell.

The group’s Winter social was held on 8th December once again at the Women’s Centre, Ludlow. More than 20 members participated in a very enjoyable evening of social chat and the customary games. We were also treated to an impromptu rendering by David Cade of new Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy’s Christmas poem. David, who clearly has remarkable thespian talent, managed to bring this unusual and secular poem splendidly to life.

In ’12 Days of Christmas’, Duffy tackles a wide range of subjects from troops in Afghanistan to MPs’ expenses, climate change and endangered birds. US President Barack Obama, actress Joanna Lumley and artist Anish Kapoor also get a mention. The poem begins: “On the first day of Christmas, a buzzard on a branch. In Afghanistan, no partridge, pear tree; but my true love sent to me a card from home. “I sat alone, crouched in yellow dust, and traced the grins of my kids with my thumb. Somewhere down the line, for another father, husband, brother, son, a bullet with his name on.”

The other 11 verses see the poet give her interpretation of the traditional Christmas song while commentating on the state of society and politics. Five gold rings feature “bankers’ profits fired in greed” while eight maids-a-milking sees one who “milked money to mend her moat”. Carol Ann Duffy, who is not religious, took over from Sir Andrew Motion as poet laureate in May, and is the first female in the post’s 341-year history.

We also enjoyed Tony Mason’s picture recognition challenge which was followed by Pam Cusack’s cryptic quiz for which the party was divided into men v. women teams. In a very tight contest the ladies emerged victorious by one point!

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