The latest British Social Attitudes Survey (BSA), published at the start of this month but conducted in 2009, shows 50.7% of people surveyed claim to be non-religious. Only 43.7% say they are Christian, while the remaining 5% belong to non-Christian religions.
These are of course radically different results from those of the last Census, which measured over 70% of the population as Christian, and a tiny 15% of the public as non-religious.
The BSA results provide further evidence that the particular wording of the religion question on the Census distorts its results. Rather than asking ‘What is your religion?’, the BSA asked, ‘Do you regard yourself as belonging to any particular religion?’. This is not a leading question and, unlike the Census question, will not tempt cultural Christians into defining themselves as religious. Whereas the Census question seems to measure a weak form of cultural affiliation, the BSA measures something much closer to actual religious belief.
We believe that it is vital that everyone who fills in the Census understands how a tick in a religious box will be used. The Census isn’t a vote on cultural affiliation (what would be the point in that?). Rather a religious tick can be used as a vote for the proliferation of faith schools, for the continued existence of unelected religious peers in the House of Lords, and for state resources to be poured into religious organizations.