Thursday, 26 February 2015

Britons Now Find Atheists More Moral Than Theists

I must be slipping as my attention was only drawn to this survey today in my copy of BHA News.

An opinion poll carried out for Huffington Post by Survation last November confirmed the astonishing rejection of religion in favour of non-belief in the UK in recent years and a consequent shift in the perception of the relative morality of Atheists and religious people.

Despite the 2011 census in which 55.3% of people in England and Wales described themselves as Christian and only 25.1% described themselves as having no religion, this survey revealed this to be rather more complex than the simple Christian = religious assumption which enabled religious groups to present the census as confirmation that those with religious belief were still in a strong majority.

61% of those interviewed for this survey described themselves as 'not religious' with 39% describing themselves as either 'somewhat' or 'very' religious. For each age-group, 'non-religious' was in the clear majority over the other two combined. In contrast to other surveys which generally tend to show the older age groups to be more religious, those above the age of 44 describing themselves as 'very religions' comprised only 4-6% of the sample.

Age Group18-2425-3435-4445-5455-6465+
Very Religious10%15%11%6%4%5%
Somewhat Religious34%33%24%30%28%38%
Not Religious56%52%65%64%68%57%
Survey conducted 31 October - 1 November 2014. Sample size: 2004.
The Survation survey found that 40% of people who described themselves as 'Christian' also described themselves as 'not-religious' while only 12% described themselves as 'very religious'. The equivalent figures for those identifying with other religions but describing themselves as 'not religious' was: Muslim 8%; Judaism 48%; Other religion 31%.

It is very clear from this result that the terms 'Christian' and 'Jew' are more terms of ethnic identity in multi-cultural British society and not particular identifiers of religious belief. Even 8% of ethnic 'Muslims' are not religious. Describing oneself as an Atheist Jew, an Atheist Christian, even an Atheist Muslim, is perfectly understandable as an expression of ethnic identity. It will probably soon be the norm in Britain to have Christian, Muslim, Hindu and Jewish Atheists.

But perhaps the most gratifying result was that only 6% of people now think religious people are more moral than Atheists and even only 20% of those who described themselves as 'very religious' think Atheists are less moral than religious people. More than half of those interviewed (52%) thought that religions did more harm than good in society with only 24% thinking religion did more good than harm.

This latter result would have been unthinkable 50 years ago when it would have been generally assumed that morals come from religion and that 'Godless' was a synonym for 'lawless, immoral and untrustworthy'. Now, with Atheism in the majority and religion so obviously being behind almost all the strife and tension in the world, and so divisive in society, secular Humanist Atheism is perceived to be a force for good, based on a view of all humans as having equal worth and entitled to respect as individuals regardless of ethnic origin, gender, sexual orientation or ability.

There's nothing like experience to show you that what you had been brought up to believe when Christians were in charge was a lie told by those who needed to parade their holier-than-thou piety as a cover for bigotry, hate and repression. Those who preach against bearing false witness were the ones doing it on a grand scale.

Full details of the poll may be seen here. PDF

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