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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1 Response so far »

  1. 1

    Alfred (Dowson) said,

    I confess it has taken me more than long enough to get round to checking our Group’s website, yet I do appreciate all the hard work involved. Thank you.

    The only thing is – I am finding it terribly hard to read. Would it be possible, without too much work, to enlarge the type, increase the contrast, and reduce the dominant green background?


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