Religion has become a ‘toxic brand’ in UK

Religion has become a ‘toxic brand’ in UK

Commenting on a new belief survey in the UK, British academic Linda Woodhead said that religion has become ‘a toxic brand’ in the country.

The exclusive poll for the HuffPost UK reveals that just 8 percent of Britons describe themselves as very religious, while more than 60 percent said they were not religious at all.

Significantly, more than half of Britons believe that religion does more harm than good, with less than a quarter believing faith is a force for good.

Even 20 percent of Britons who described themselves as being “very religious” said religion was harmful to society, and a quarter said atheists were more likely to be moral individuals than religious people.

In fact, one in eight Britons said atheists tend to be more moral, compared to just 6 percent who say atheists are less moral, challenging widely held beliefs that religion is one of the last remaining bastions of British morality.

The strong evidence of a British society which is largely secular and multicultural has led to some call for a rethink of the role of religion in public life.

Linda Woodhead, professor of the sociology of religion at Lancaster University, said it was “striking” to see the number of people professing no religion.

This confirms something I’ve found in my own surveys and which leads me to conclude that religion has become a ‘toxic brand’ in the UK. What we are seeing is not a complete rejection of faith, belief in the divine, or spirituality, though there is some to that, but of institutional religion in the historic forms which are familiar to people.

Woodhead said the reasons for a retreat from religion are “numerous”, from sex scandals involving Catholic priests and rabbis, to conflict in the Middle East and Islamist terror attack.

I’d add religious leaderships’ drift away from the liberal values, equality, tolerance, diversity, [which is] embraced by many of their own followers and often championed by non-religious and atheist people more forcefully.


Andrew Copson, above, Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association added:

This survey just confirms what we know is the common sense of people in Britain today – that whether you are religious or not has very little to do with your morality.

Most people understand that morality and good personal and social values are not tied to religious belief systems, but are the result of our common heritage and experience as human beings: social animals that care for each other and are kind to others because we understand that they are human too.

Not only that, people understand that religious beliefs themselves can be harmful to morality: encouraging intolerance, inflexibility and the doing of harm in the name of a greater good. We only need to look around us to perceive that fact.

Copson said there were “lessons” for what role religion should continue to play in public life.

It is unsustainable for religious leaders, politicians and others to seek to make the idea of Britain as a ‘Christian country’ the basis of our national character.

We need an inclusive shared society and an end to the privilege of religious institutions that allows a third of our state schools to be controlled by religious groups, unelected clerics to sit in our Parliament, and discriminatory religious organisations to provide what should be secular public services.

11 responses to “Religion has become a ‘toxic brand’ in UK”

  1. Broga says:

    This is the most optimistic news about religion I have ever read. I assume our Religious Broadcasting Corporation, known as the BBC, will give it minimum or zero publicity. Meanwhile the RBC will continue to inflict TfTD on us, stuff religion into programmes and drench us with the superstition every Sunday. Some questions:

    1. How much longer can 26 unelected bishops (sign in to collect £300 every time) be allowed to continue interfering with legislation in the House of Lords.

    2. When are “faith schools” to be ended?

    3. When will religious tax privileges be removed?

    4. When will the infamous chancel tax be removed from the statue book?

    5 When will the Head of State be removed as Head of the C. of E?

    6. When will Charles Windsor no longer be given a platform to air his bizarre superstitions?

    7 When will the government take strong and immediate action to stop the torture of young girls from FGM and the torture of animals with the insane demand for halal meat.

    Better stop there. That will do for now.

  2. Newspaniard says:

    @Broga. Are you afraid of what The Prince of Wales has to say? To listen to or read his opinions is not compulsory. Do you wish to censor all opinions which do not conform to your norms?

  3. Adam Tjaavk says:

    Comparing BBC religion/nonreligion? Moaning, moaning, moaning – drenching, you hear, drenchhhhing! – give it a rest!


  4. David Anderson says:

    There is a quaint old custom called criticism. It is particulary useful when aimed at people or organizations who are given a public platform on which to air their views, especially when paid for by the public.

  5. Broga says:

    @Newspaniard: What I want is a level playing field where Charles’ dotty views can be discussed and challenged. I feel the same way about the BBC where superstition is delivered every day and no challenge is permitted. I also dislike a Religious Correspondent putting a favourable spin on religious news and the same from the Royal Correspondent whose comments are rarely other than thinly disguised flattery.

  6. Paul Cook says:

    Some Years ago when I studied for social and economic history A level one bit made me smile. It was oral history from about the turn of the last century. It was recordings of very poor people given charity by churches. The poor people went to church to get the food to survive – their thoughts on religion – and these were expressed very thoughtfully- were that it was a load of rubbish- they didn’t care for it at all, but they simply ‘went through the motions’.

    This is what this report says, but on a larger scale.

  7. Paul Cook says:

    The facade of religion and monarchy I have no doubt will change in the not too distant future, if the Lords change and we are able to debate to remove this nonsense from blighting our lives I cannot see how the monarchy can cling to a belief system so evidently false and ridiculous. It makes them look imbecilic.

  8. barriejohn says:

    Are we all on the same side here?

    The Freethinker also seeks:

    •The disestablishment of the Church of England.
    •The removal of all religious representation from the House of Lords.
    •The ending of religious indoctrination and religious assemblies in State schools.
    •The closure of all publicly-funded “faith-based” schools.
    •The ending of the provision of prison, hospital and armed forces chaplains at public expense.

  9. Trevor Blake says:

    As Christianity fades in the UK, some of what it was will never come again. When you remove a tumor you don’t put another tumor in. But some of what was Christian will be filled by other social forms. The UK can now decide if it will be Muslim, secular, or anything else. Guess which social form is most willing to do whatever it takes to come out on top. I don’t advocate secular forms play dirty, I advocate Islamic forms not be allowed to play dirty.

  10. David Anderson says:

    I’ve been wondering that as well barriejohn. Seems that some people have the hots for the monarchy, well, let them have it. A monarchy like we have here in Spain is just a decoration and irrelevant to most people but occasionally useful. As Paul Cook says the British monarchy are begining to look imbecilic especially the Prince of Piffle.

    With 60% (growing?) saying that they have no religión the government will eventually have to either acknowledge this and kick out the bishops or give in to King Piffle, the defender of faiths and appoint imams, rabbis, gurus, witch-doctors and whoever else to represent the multi-cultural society of the UK.

    Solution; a constitution with the separation of church and state, easy.

  11. Robster says:

    About now, I’m sure, a gaggle of priest and bishop types will be huddled together in a panic regards the impressively rapid demise of faith and religious belief in Britain. They’ll all be there wearing their impressive but silly hats, wondering what the hell happened to their influence and power in only a couple of decades. Why, when they’ve got god ‘n jesus on their side, they’re losing the battle. The wine and crackers…nope, the silly dogmatic nonsense, no, the constant judgement by men in no position to judge anything? Errr…no. People are realising, quite quickly that the whole facade is dodgy, built on lies and untruths and in no way deserves to be taken seriously, good.