God Trumped by Aliens – and Other News

God Trumped by Aliens

More people believe in the existence of life on other planets (53%) than believe in God (44%, which is a lower proportion than in other polls, possibly explained by a difference in question-wording). Only Northern Ireland bucks the trend; here belief in aliens stands at 30%. One-fifth think unidentified flying objects (UFOs) have landed on earth, and one-tenth claim to have seen one (more so among men than women). A staggering 52% contend that evidence of UFOs has been covered up in order not to compromise the stability of government.

Source: Survey by Opinion Matters conducted online among a representative sample of 1,359 UK adults, and on behalf of 2k Games, publishers of the new alien-themed videogame XCOM: Enemy Unknown, where the task is to save the world from enemy invasion. Full data are not in the public domain (although BRIN has requested them), and details for this post have been taken from coverage in various online media following the launch of the product on 12 October.

Religion and Ageing

Religious affiliation remains at a relatively high level among the over-50s, although (as with most religious indicators) it is greater among women (89%) than men (79%). There is also variation by age, the proportion with no religion falling steadily from the 55-59 cohort (27% of men and 20% of women) to those aged 80 and over (13% and 5% respectively). Wealth likewise makes a difference, both men and women in the lower wealth groups being more likely to espouse a religion than those in higher wealth groups; in the highest wealth group the number with no religion stands at 27% of men and 17% of women. The religion reported is overwhelmingly Christian, with non-Christians amounting to only 3% of older men and 2% of women.

Moreover, those over-50s who actively practise their faith by attending religious services have somewhat enhanced levels of psychological well-being compared with those who never attend worship. This effect, which is statistically significant, is reflected in ‘less depression, greater affective well-being, higher eudemonic well-being and greater life satisfaction’. Frequency of attendance (‘“dose-response” effects’) is not necessarily material: ‘participants who reported attending religious services a few times a year had similar levels of psychological well-being on several measures to those who were regular attenders’. In the case of life satisfaction, mean scores are 19.8 for non-attenders, 20.9 for those worshipping a few times a year, and 21.4 for those attending two or three times a month or more often.

Source: Wave 5 of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA), in which 10,274 English adults aged 52 and over were surveyed by NatCen between July 2010 and June 2011, through a combination of face-to-face interview and self-completion questionnaire. The dataset is available at the Economic and Social Data Service as SN 5050. The report, The Dynamics of Ageing, edited by James Banks, James Nazroo and Andrew Steptoe, was published by the Institute for Fiscal Studies on 15 October 2012. Tables 4A.81-85 (pp. 175-7) and S3a-b (p. 271) are especially relevant for BRIN users. The document can be downloaded from: 


Challenges to the Christian Journey

Male and female Christians face somewhat different challenges in their faith journey, according to a recent poll of regular churchgoers. For men the top six (out of thirteen) hurdles are perceived to be: societal pressure to behave in certain ways (50%), work-life balance (47%), pornography (39%), financial pressures (38%), integrity in the workplace (36%), and materialism (35%). For women the greatest challenge is considered to be family life problems (54%, 22% more than is thought to affect men), followed by work-life balance (51%), societal pressure to behave in certain ways (50%), media portrayal of women (45% – twice the difficulty of media portrayal of men), materialism (30%), and sexual pressures (27%).

Pornography comes last on the list of challenges said to be faced by women; at 3%, it is deemed to be an insignificant problem compared with the thirteen-fold greater temptation for Christian men. Interestingly, more male churchgoers (43%) than female (34%) think pornography is an issue for men, although there is an even greater difference by age, 62% of the 18-34s citing pornography as a male problem against 25% of the over-65s. Denominationally, members of New Churches (63%) and Pentecostals (48%) are most exercised by the snare of pornography for men, albeit the sub-samples are small. Pornography causes far more angst than alcohol and drugs, the latter combination said by 15% to be a challenge for men and 6% for women.

Source: Online survey of 510 churchgoing Christians in the UK, conducted by ComRes for Premier Christian Media via Cpanel between 14 and 28 September 2012. Full data tables published on 23 October at: 



There are signs that the commercialization of Halloween, the curious hybrid of paganism and a Christian feast of the dead (All Hallows’ Eve, on 31 October), may have peaked. Despite the best (and hitherto very successful) efforts of the superstore chains to manufacture a Halloween market, its value may have dipped this year. It is anticipated that UK consumers will spend £268 million on Halloween-related products in 2012 (including £78 million on dressing up), which is less than Planet Retail’s estimates of the size of the Halloween market in 2011 (£315 million) and 2010 (£280 million). The biggest spenders on Halloween are younger adults and those with families.

Although 53% of UK adults agree that Halloween is a ‘fun event for kids’, 45% dismiss it as an ‘unwelcome American cultural import’ and 33% fail to see the funny side of trick or treating. Only 23% claim that they will participate in a Halloween activity in 2012, 6% fewer than expect to take part in a Bonfire Night event. In terms of specific Halloween activities, 4% of adults plan to go trick or treating with children, 7% to dress up their children, 6% to dress up themselves, 7% to attend a party, 4% to host a party, and 8% to carve a pumpkin. Pumpkin-carving is forecast to be down significantly in 2012, doubtless because prices of the fruit have risen as a consequence of the poor weather.

Source: Online survey by YouGov among 2,167 UK adults aged 16 and over, undertaken between 1 and 8 October 2012. Part of a business intelligence report on Halloween and Bonfire Night by YouGov’s Sixth Sense arm, which costs £1,750. This is a bit beyond the means of BRIN, so we have been unable to view the full data. However, there was a press release on 24 October about the research, and that is freely available at:




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