New UK studies trash ‘Christian nation’ claims

FAR from being the Christian nation that so many politicians insist it is, Britain is fast distancing itself from Christianity, according to two significant polls recently published.

The National Secular Society points out that the two large-scale polls indicate that our country is not, by any stretch of the imagination, religious.

Indeed, we are a nation of secularists who want religion and politics separated.

The findings come in the wake of claims from the Communities Secretary Eric Pickles that Britain is a Christian nation and that the Government intends to find a greater role for religion in policy-making.

A poll conducted by Yougov together with the Government-sponsored British Social Attitudes Survey reveal a nation averse to “faith” and hostile to religious leaders seeking political power.

Of the Yougov-Cambridge poll carried out among 2,027 adults, an overwhelming 81 percent of respondents agreed with the statement:

Religious practice is a private matter and should be separated from the political and economic life of my country.

Only six percent disagreed.

  • When asked “Do you regard yourself as belonging to any particular religion?” 53 percent said no while 42 percent said yes.
  • 76 percent said that religious leaders should NOT influence how people vote in elections (6 percent thought they should)
  • 71 percent said that religious leaders should have NO influence over the decisions of the government (8 percent said they should)
  • 65 percent said that Britain would NOT be a better place if more religious leaders held public office. (7 percent said it would)

The same set of questions was asked in some other countries and the results can be seen here.

Heads down, arses in the air. This pictures shows Muslims praying in London. The capital has a high rate of religiosity because of large immigrant populations.

The 29th edition of the British Social Attitudes Survey, which was published on Monday, confirms these trends. It has been analysed by the BBC which concluded along the following lines:

  • In the thirty years since the British Social Attitudes survey was first produced, religious affiliation amongst people in Britain has dropped from 68 percent (in 1983) to 53 percent (in 2011).
  • 85 percent of people aged 66 plus say they were brought up in a religion, compared to 60 percent of 18-25 year olds. And the gap is even greater when people are asked if they are religious now. 77 percent of people aged 66+ say they are religious compared to 35 percent of people aged 18-25.
  • The likelihood of young people aged 16-25 being religious varies widely by ethnicity. White British are the least likely to be religious (24 percent of White British of this age group describe themselves as religious), while Bangladeshis are the most likely (at 97 percent). In descending percentage: 95 percent Pakistani, 89 percent Black African, 87 percent Indian, and 58 percent Black Caribbean.
  • Young people were asked whether religion made a difference to their lives. Muslims were the most likely group to think so (68 percent of them). In contrast, self-defined Catholics were the least likely to, (only 12 percent).

Wales emerges as the least religious nation in the UK, with 58 percent saying they have no religion. Greater London (once one of the least religious part of the UK but now home to tens of thousands of religiously devout immigrants) has only 42 percent non-religious. The Midlands, another centre of immigration, recorded 41 percent

But, say the NSS:

There are grounds to suggest these particular figures should be taken with a pinch of salt. It is well known amongst statisticians that respondents often overstate their religiosity. This trend is well demonstrated by the fact that 14 percent of respondents claimed to attend a religious service once a week or more. This is at least double the figure borne out by church attendance figures. 58 percent said that they never attended public worship (up from 53 percent in 1991). Thirteen percent of the irreligious stated that they sometimes attended religious services.

Anglicans had the highest total non-attendance (56 percent), with Roman Catholics on 28 percent, other Christians on 39 percent, and non-Christians on 29 percent. Men (65 percent) were more likely never to attend than women (54 percent).

Read the YouGov-Cambridge Survey Results in full.

Hat tip: BarrieJohn

27 responses to “New UK studies trash ‘Christian nation’ claims”

  1. RabbitOnAStick says:

    2027 people really isn’t enough to be honest.

    I recall Bill Bryson mentioning a poll statistic in his book Notes From A Big Island that asked women if they knew whether they wore their tights over or under their knickers. The respondents that said they didn’t know extrapolated to some several millions of women!


    Bit like religion actually if religion weren’t so invidious and dangerous.

  2. The Woggler says:

    Whilst being skeptical of polls, it’s pretty obvious to all but deluded twits like Eric Pickles that this is not a Christian nation (whatever one of those might be).

  3. Broga says:

    Even those who claim to be religious are usually “nominal.” They couldn’t explain what their beliefs mean and have never thought about them. As for the fundies, they haven’t thought about their beliefs either and cling to them from the pit of their ignorance. As for Pickles he is a sad clown with his religious claims pronounced smugly and with no facts or arguments to back them. The religious “opinion formers”, including clerics, cling with increasing desperation to their privileges and expenses and to the only jobs most of them could do.

    Good news this, whatever the numbers

  4. Ivan says:


    2027 is in fact double the normal sample required for a + or – 3% accuracy.

  5. RabbitOnAStick says:

    Ivan if that figure is much more than usual, thats quite intriguing. Bit like voting I guess. At least 60-70% of voters in the UK s don’t want the government that is in power in a first past the post system.

    I would have thought the proper numbers to use in a religious poll would suerly have been 12 or 40. At least we know those figures are factually correct.

  6. Lazy Susan says:

    2027 is a fair sized sample. You’d have to read the whole report to find what sampling method was used, what the spread is, and so on. Generally these things are reported simply in terms of the average which, even with my smattering of statistics, is almost a waste of time. But it makes headlines that sells newspapers.

    Damn, I’m ranting about the media already and it’s on 10 am. Curse you, Barry.

  7. Brummie says:

    Define a curse please Lazy Susan.

  8. DS says:

    Although the sample size, and the wording of the questions/answers are subject to debate, I think the telling number is the trend. If the questions and answers are the same from year to year, that trend is way more important than any extrapolated percentages.

  9. Georgina says:

    I always want to dance among the BITAs singing, I am a female, your prayers have been compromised, now go home and wash you dirty little man.

    However, here in this town, the police tell them to move along (or the cars hoot VERY loudly), so I don’t get a chance.

  10. barriejohn says:

    It’s not only in Great Britain either. Who could have imagined, just a few short years ago, the following happening in the USA?

    Follow the links to get the full picture. I know it’s only (liberal) Maryland, but these are footballers quite emphatically going public in support of gay rights at last. Actions speak louder than words!

  11. Trevor Blake says:

    Men (65 percent) were more likely never to attend than women (54 percent).

    Is this accurate? What is the cause? Can and should and by what means a change?

  12. AgentCormac says:

    I have to agree with Broga. During the last census – and despite a BHA campaign to try and prevent this kind of thing from happening – a friend of mine indicated on his census paper that he was CofE, when he actually has no faith at all. When I asked him why he had put a tick in the CofE box he told me it was because he’d gone to a CofE school and Sunday school as a child, and so he’d naturally just indicated that this was his background. I’m sure there are a great many other people who also unthinkingly claim to have affiliation to one brand of religion or another who actually have no real interest in it at all. So if these numbers are skewed, my money is on reality being a lot more encouraging for us than it is for Lambert Palace or the Vatican.

  13. barriejohn says:

    My mother is always absolutely insistent that she be recorded as being “CofE” on all relevant documents, depite my best efforts to get her to put something else. Yet she always says: “My idea of eternal life is that when you die you go into the ground and are then recycled.” You wouldn’t believe the arguments that we have had over this phantom church membership, as she only ever darkens the door at funerals nowadays (and that’s normally a crematorium anyway), but I think younger generations might have a different outlook.

  14. Lucy says:

    I think that ‘I am a christian’ means ‘ I am not a jew or a muslim, and i notice christmas and i know about the bible.’ not much else.

  15. James B says:

    Religion is like cricket – it used to be popular, but the only people who give a shit these days live in the third world

  16. Buffy says:

    So you have the “Christian Nation” nutters over there too? My condolences.

  17. Robster says:

    Maybe it’s because there seems to be as many churches as there are McDonalds outlets. Maccas serve the better menu amd are more friendly. Does that make Britain a “McDonalds Country”? At least trade at the churches seems to be in a permanant recession.

  18. Lazy Susan says:

    One aspect of the Christian Nation thing is morals. Believers claim that (a) morals come from god, and (b) atheists have no moral foundation. These are mutually incompatible. Surely, atheists’ morals must have come from the only possible moral source. Where else could they come from in a theistic perspective? All that atheists are doing is taking these morals while denying they came from god. Atheists take the converse view, namely that morals are evolved and innate, but that Christians deny they arose from natural selection.

    But anyway, in all the simple black-and-white cases, it is impossible to distinguish between atheist morals and Christian morals. Apart from psychopaths, no one is in favour of murder, rape, theft etc. These simple morals could probably be summarized into about 10 “commandments” which would be easy enough for the hard of thinking to comprehend.

    The interesting bits come when it’s not a clear-cut case. Take abortion for just one example. There is a complete spectrum of opinion among Christians and atheists – just as you might expect if everyone is actually trying to figure it out for themselves and coming up with different answers. It is clear that hoping to get any clear guidance from the almighty or from scripture is a total waste of time. (Susan B Antony’s quote comes to mind.) As for guidance on IVF or surrogate motherhood or cloning or eugenics – we are on our own, and we will have to work out for ourselves what is good and what is bad.

    The Christian moral view has other contradictions and logical pitfalls, such as explaining how it is that someone might choose Christianity because it seems to be “good.” How could they make that choice unless they already had morals? And where did the Good Samaritan get his morals from?

    (Substitute Islam, Hinduism, Judaism etc for Christianity throughout at will.)

  19. Richard Thomas says:

    I suppose it would not be possible to shove the results of the survey up the fundament of the former Archbishop of Canterbury who persists in prating about the persecution of Christians? It might prove more effective than Clem Attlee’s words to Harold Laski ‘A period of silence from you would be most welcome’.

  20. Broga says:

    Richard Thomas: I think the Queen, the Archbishop, the BBC and much of the media take the view that we are a theoretical Christian country. The actual numbers, the lack of belief and the sheer indifference to religion amongst the plebs may be subsumed under the theory.

    As long as the theory (or fantasy) is preserved the Queen will deliver her trite Christmas homily, royals will be religiously married and buried at vast expense, there will be prayers in parliament, the BBC will deluge us with religion, hospital and military chaplains will be paid from taxes and 26 unelected bishops will sign in for their generous expenses in the House of Lords. Hundreds of people will lose their homes and be driven into bankruptcy to maintain a nearbye church. And a benign and defensive view will continue to be taken of paedophile priests.

    It is this that allows so many people, despite their own opinions, to feel that they are in a minority. They are conned into thinking this is a religious country.

  21. barriejohn says:

    Lazy Susan: Christians have no way of explaining that, especially the Calvinists, who believe that man is absolutely dead, spiritually, and unable to even seek after God unless the Holy Spirit awakens in him this desire. Even mainstream evangelicals have to wrestle with the idea that mankind is “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph.2:1), and that believers were “chosen in (Christ) before the foundation of the world” (Eph.1:4). How then can this morally depraved and spiritually dead creature act in a moral way at all? Why is there not a complete breakdown of law and order – in fact how come there is any sort of order in society at all? What is the point of preaching the gospel if the “saved” are going to be brought to God in any case? Once again, they have to jump through hoops and perform mental somersaults to square the circle of harmonizing contradictory Bible doctrines. One almost feels sorry for the poor dears!

  22. AngieRS says:

    It’s a shame, James B, that you don’t take yourself off to a cricket ground and see just how popular it is in this country, despite the non reporting of it in most media.
    Try associating religion with football, I think you’ll find the homophobia and hatred of difference to be remarkably similar.

  23. barriejohn says:

    Angie: It’s tribalism – something that Mrs Thatcher and her followers understood only too well. Unfortunately, all sport seems to become infected in time!

  24. 1859 says:

    I think therefore I am….not religious