The new edition of Social Trends gives some revealing new statistics about religion the UK and Europe. Social Trends is described by its publisher, the Office for National Statistics, as “An established reference source”, drawing together “social and economic data from a wide range of government departments and other organisations; it paints a broad picture of UK society today, and how it has been changing.”
This year’s edition should give the Government — with its obsession with the needs and opinions of “faith groups” — something to think about. To start with, we discover that only 38% of British respondents to a Eurobarometer Survey said they believed in God.
Other figures then give an indication of just how confused the nation is about religion. In reply to the question “Do you regard yourself as belonging to any particular religion?” 45.8% said they didn’t. The most astonishing figure of all is that those belonging to the CofE/Anglicans have dropped from 29.3% to 22.2% in just a decade. That this has not been national news can only be because it is no surprise and/or people want to keep it quiet. Obviously some of the drop can be attributed to deaths, but not when the drop is so massive. So where have the rest of them migrated to? The figures suggest that it is to “Christian – no denomination” and no religion, both of which showed 3% – 5% increases. It seems plausible that “Christian – no denomination” is a half way house for the cultural Christians who bolstered the 72% figure in the 2001 Census before they join those of “no religion”.
With the exception of the Roman Catholics, presumably because of Eastern European immigration, all other Christian denominations are much reduced, as are Buddhists. There are large proportional increases for Hindus and (surprisingly) Jews and above all Muslims (from 1.8% to 3.3%), and in some communities they may well be in the majority.
Incredibly, 13% of men and 15% of women claimed that they attended a religious service once a week or more. Even the churches own figures don’t support that.
So, how are we to reconcile the disparity between those claiming to belong to a religion while at the same time saying they don’t believe in God? Or those who claim to go to church when they quite plainly don’t?
The fact is that when people are questioned by opinion pollsters about their religion, they still, for some reason (residual guilt, perhaps?), feel the need to exaggerate and even lie about their beliefs and activities. Taking this into account, the figures must be even more alarming for religious leaders who try to give the impression that they are important figures in the life of the nation.
This research shows once more that Britain is one of the most irreligious nations on the face of the earth. So, what is it with this Government and “the faith communities”? When is the majority non-faith community going to get a look in?