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Religion and belief: some surveys and statistics
07-09-2011, 03:54 PM
Post: #1
Religion and belief: some surveys and statistics
Religion and belief: some surveys and statistics

Numerous surveys indicate that the proportion of individuals who do not hold religious beliefs is steadily increasing.

Religions and beliefs are notoriously difficult to measure, as they are not fixed or innate, and therefore any poll should be primarily treated as an indication of beliefs rather than a concrete measure.

However, one of the most well-respected measures of religious attitudes is the annual British Social Attitudes Survey, further details of the latest report may be found here.
Census Data

The English and Welsh Census uses the highly leading question “What is your religion?”. By assuming that all participants held a religious belief, the question captured some kind of loose cultural affiliation, and as a result over in 2001 70% of the population responded ‘Christian’; a far higher percentage than nearly every other significant survey or poll on religious belief in the past decade.

The Office for National Statistics understands the religion question to be a proxy question for ethnicity. This is in order to capture the Jewish and Sikh populations, both of which are captured under race legislation but are not included in the ethnicity category in the census, as they should be, rather than the religion category. The result is that a very loose, cultural affiliation is 'measured' by the census in terms of religion or belief, with particular over-inflation of the Christian figure, and an undercounting of the non-religious population. As a result, the census data on religion is most definitely not suitable for use by employers or service providers
2011 Census Polls

In a poll conducted by YouGov in March 2011 on behalf of the BHA, when asked the census question ‘What is your religion?’, 61% of people in England and Wales ticked a religious box (53.48% Christian and 7.22% other) while 39% ticked ‘No religion’.

When the same sample was asked the follow-up question ‘Are you religious?’, only 29% of the same people said ‘Yes’ while 65% said ‘No’, meaning over half of those whom the census would count as having a religion said they were not religious.

Less than half (48%) of those who ticked ‘Christian’ said they believed that Jesus Christ was a real person who died and came back to life and was the son of God.

Asked when they had last attended a place of worship for religious reasons, most people in England and Wales (63%) had not attended in the past year, 43% of people last attended over a year ago and 20% of people had never attended. Only 9% of people had attended a place of worship within the last week.

The Humanist Society of Scotland commissioned a separate poll asking the Scottish census question, ‘What religion, religious denomination or body do you belong to?’. In response, 42% of the adult population in Scotland said ‘None’.

When asked ‘Are you religious?’ 56% of the same sample said they were not and only 35% said they were.

See our Census 2011 Campaign for a fairer, more accurate census on belief in Britain
The 2001 Census:

According to the 2001 UK Census, those of no religion are the second largest belief group, about 2 and a half times as many as all the other (non-Christian) religions altogether – at 15.5% of the population. 7,274,290 people said they had “no religion” - though only 10,357 specified that they were atheists.Jedi Knights had 390,127 followers, and formed a larger group than several of the “major religions”: Jews (259, 927); Sikhs (329, 358); Buddhists (144,453); or minor religions such as Jainism (15,132), Zoroastrianism (3,738) or the Baha’i faith (4,645).
Surveys and polls on Religion and Belief in the United Kingdom:

In the UK, those who describe themselves as non-religious have risen from 31% to 51% between 1983 and 2009 according to the British Social Attitudes Survey’s 27th report issued in 2011.

An Ipsos MORI poll, published in January 2007 for the British Humanist Association indicated that 36% of people – equivalent to around 17 million adults – are in fact humanist in their basic outlook.

Another question found that 41% endorsed the strong statement: ‘This life is the only life we have and death is the end of our personal existence’. 62% chose ‘Human nature by itself gives us an understanding of what is right and wrong’, against 27% who said ‘People need religious teachings in order to understand what is right and wrong’.

In a 2006 Guardian/ICM poll:

63% of people say they are not religious (compared to 33% that do)
82% of those questioned see religion as a cause of division and tension between people
Only 17% of those polled believe the UK is best described as a Christian country

In a Mori poll for the Catholic weekly, The Tablet, published May 2005, the decline of religious belief is evident:

36% of people in the 18-34 age group in Britain define themselves as atheist or agnostic
In the population as a whole, 24% say they have no religion

In the 2007-08 Citizenship Survey, participants were requested to select factors that they regarded as important to their identity from thirteen options. Whilst family was top with 97%, followed by interests (87%), religion ranked bottom at 48%. Religion ranked bottom consistently with all age groups up to 65+, where it only moves up to eleventh. Christians ranked religion as thirteenth as a factor important to their identity.
Church Attendance in the UK:

According to the 27th report (2010) of the British Social Attitudes Survey, 20% of the population are affiliated with the Church of England (compared to 40% in 1983). The 26th report found that 49% of this group never attend services; only 8% of people who identify with the Church of England attend church weekly.

Overall 62% of the population never attend any form of service.

According to ‘Religious Trends No 7 (2007-2008)’ published by Christian Research, overall church attendance in the United Kingdom has diminished rapidly in terms of percentages and in real terms.

In 1990 5,595,600 people, representing 10% of the UK population, regularly attended Church, by 2005 this number had reduced to 3,926,300, equating to 6.7% of the UK population

By 2015, the level of church attendance in the UK is predicted to fall to 3,081,500 people, or 5% of the population.

The Church of England’s own attendance figures, attest to the decline; between 2002 and 2008, average Sunday attendance figures have diminished from 1,005,000 to 960,000.
Religion and Belief internationally:

In September 2010, Ipsos conducted a 23 country poll on religion.

Of the 18,192 people who participated, 48 per cent agreed "religion provides the common values and ethical foundations that diverse societies need to the thrive in the 21st Century".

However 52 per cent agreed with the statement "religious beliefs promote intolerance, exacerbate ethnic divisions, and impede social progress in developing and developed nations alike". With the exception of the United States of America, generally wealthy nations had a markedly more negative view of religion.
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