What do other surveys say?

The British Social Attitudes Survey

The British Social Attitudes Survey (BSA) is published annually by the National Centre for Social research since 1983, and conducts around three thousand interviews each year with a representative sample of the UK population.

The 26th report, published in 2010, includes a number of issues of interest to humanists in two of its chapters, ‘Religion in Britain and the United States’ and ‘Religious faith and contemporary attitudes’. The 27th report, published in 2011, updated a number of the statistics involved.

Key points:

  • In Britain, those who profess no-religion have risen from 31% to 43% between 1983 and 2008. In 2009, this was found to have further risen to 51%.
  • Conversely, in 1983 66% identified as Christian, in 2008 the number was 50%. In 2009, this further declined to 43%.
  • The proportion identifying as belonging to some other religion has risen from 2% in 1983 to 5% in 2009.
  • In 2008 37% of the UK population are sceptical, 35% have definite or doubtful.
  • In 2009 only 17% of the British population attend religious services at least monthly, and only 11% attend at least weekly.
  • Those self-described as members of the Church of England consist of 20% of the population in 2009 (40% in 1983). In 2008, it was found that 49% of this group never attend services; only 8% of people who identify with the CofE attend church weekly.
  • 62% of people in Britain never attend a religious service.
  • 42% of all those questioned are against any form of faith school
  • 52% agree that “Britain is deeply divided along religious lines”
  • Religion in Britain is estimated to have a ‘half-life’ of one generation

Ipsos Mori Poll 2007

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’.

Guardian/ICM poll 2006

  • 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

Citizenship Survey- 2007/8

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 of England’s attendance figures

Between 2002 and 2008, average Sunday attendance figures have diminished from 1,005,000 to 960,000.

For full information, please see the BHA website.


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