Sunday, 17 September 2017

Religious Belief in UK Continues to Plummet!

British Social Attitudes: Record number of Brits with no religion.

The catastrophic (from the point of view of those who earn their living from it) decline in religious belief in the UK continues apace according to the authoritative British Social Attitudes Survey. 'No religion' has rockets by 5% in just one years, from 48% in 2015 to 53% in the latest (2016) survey.

More than half (53%) of the British public now describe themselves as having “no religion”, up from 48% in 2015. The proportion of non-believers has increased gradually since the survey began in 1983, when the proportion saying they had no religion stood at 31%.

Church of England decline continues
The decline in religious affiliation is hitting the Church of England particularly hard. Just 15% of people in Britain consider themselves Anglican, half the proportion who said this in 2000.

The proportion of non-believers has risen from just 31% in 1983 when the survey began.

One again the church of England has seen the biggest decline and has now fallen to 15%; half what it was in the year 2000. By contrast, the proportion of self-identified Catholics has remained stable at around 5%. Other religions account for a further 6%.

The fall in religious affiliation has been driven mostly by a decline in the proportion of 18-24 year-olds identifying with a religion, but there was a decline in all age groups between 2015 and 2016. 'No religion' in the 18-24 year-old age group increased to 71% from 63% in 2015; a stunning 8% rise in a year! In this group, Anglicans now comprise just 3%.

The Anglican Church has seen the sharpest decline amongst the 18-24 year-old age group. It now stands at just 3%, and this is the group set to produce the next generation. The only age-group in which affiliation to the C of E exceeds non-belief is the 75+ group. Even in that group, non-belief comes second. The decline in religious affiliation of British-born people is even greater than these figures suggest, since it has been masked to some extent by an increase in Islam due to non-EU immigration and in Catholicism due to EU immigration from Catholic Eastern European EU member states such as Poland.

This increase follows the long-term trend of more and more of us not being religious. The differences by age are stark and with so many younger people not having a religion it’s hard to see this change abating any time soon. The falls in those belonging to the Church of England are the most notable, but these figures should cause all religious leaders to pause for thought.

We know from the British Social Attitudes survey that religious people are becoming more socially liberal on issues like same sex relationships and abortion. With falling numbers some faith leaders might wonder whether they should be doing more to take their congregation’s lead on adapting to how society is changing.

Roger Harding, Head of Public Attitudes at the National Centre for Social Research

Ironically, Paul Bayes, the bishop of Liverpool explained that the decline is because people are becoming more honest! (Honestly!). Quoted in the Guardian, he said:

In this modern world people are more willing to be honest and say they have ‘no religion’ rather than casually saying they are ‘C of E’. This honesty is welcome … But saying ‘no religion’ is not the same as a considered atheism. People’s minds, and hearts, remain open.

These figures really should now raise serious questions about the role of the Anglican Church (especially) in UK public life. How can it now be justifiable that Anglican bishops occupy 26 seats by right in the unelected Upper Chamber of the UK Parliament? These sentiments were voiced by Andrew Copson for Humanists UK (Formerly the British Humanist Association) and by Terry Sanderson for the Secular Society:

How can it be right that 97% of young people today are not Anglicans, but some 20% of the state schools to which their children will go belong to the C of E? More generally, how can the Church of England remain in any meaningful sense the national legally established church, when it caters for such a small portion of the population?*

Andrew Copson, Humanists UK’s chief executive.

These statistics indicate that the time has come for this country to have a serious debate about the place of religion in our society.*

Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society

*Quoted in the Guardian

The very sharp decline in religious affiliation amongst the young is probably a reflection of the increasingly liberal, secular views of the younger generation with liberal attitudes toward equal rights, same-sex marriage, etc. These are all areas in which the Christian churches have traditionally been conservative and hostile to a greater or lesser degree. Public squabbling about the ordination of women, the role of women in the church, the issue of gay priests, opposition to contraception and women's reproductive rights, and hostility to homosexuality and transgender in particular, on top of the multiple child abuse and financial scandals, have all worked against the church.

Secular morality has moved on, leaving the Christian churches mired in their own increasing irrelevance, yet unable to adapt and remain Christian. Unchangeable dogma keeps them anchored to the spot as society moves on without them.

And of course, improved education in science and the continued association of fundamentalist Christianity with the patently absurd fairy tales in the Bible, has caused young people to reject religions as primitive superstitions which are used as excuses for denying basic human rights to people and undeserved privileges for the clergy.

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