Counting Religion in Britain, August 2018

Counting Religion in Britain, No. 35, August 2018 features 22 new sources. It can be read in full below. Alternatively, you can download the PDF version: No 35 August 2018


Boris Johnson and the burka

The debate over the wearing of the burka/full face-veil in public in Britain has reignited following a colourfully-worded column in the Daily Telegraph by Conservative politician Boris Johnson. Although the former British Foreign Secretary opposed a ban on the burka, as recently introduced in Denmark, he described the garment as ‘oppressive and ridiculous’ and likened Muslims who wore it to ‘letter boxes’ and ‘bank robbers’. His comments caused a great deal of offence and there have been many calls for him to apologize, among them from the Prime Minister. The possibility of a disciplinary investigation of Johnson by the Conservative Party has also been mooted.

In the first test of the public mood on the subject, Sky Data interviewed a nationally representative sample of 1,649 British Sky customers by SMS on 8 August 2018. Asked whether Johnson should apologize for his choice of words, the country was divided, 45% saying he should (peaking at 58% of under-35s) and 48% that he should not (peaking at 58% of over-55s), with the remaining 7% undecided. But a clear majority (60%) thought it was not racist to describe women in burkas as looking like letter boxes or bank robbers, with 33% saying it was racist. A similar number (59%, including 69% of over-55s) expressed support for banning burkas in public places, 26% being opposed and 15% undecided. Full data tables are available at:

In another online poll, of 4,673 adult Britons on 8 August 2018, YouGov also discovered the nation was split down the middle about whether Johnson should apologize for the language he had used in his column: 45% thought he should, 44% that he should not, and 11% were unsure. The number opposed to him apologizing was greatest among over-65s (61%), Conservatives (65%), and UKIP voters (91%). Full data tables are available at:

A third survey was undertaken by ComRes for the Sunday Express among an online sample of 1,045 adults aged 18 and over on 10 August 2018. They were asked whether they thought Johnson should be disciplined (implicitly by the Conservative Party) for his comments. Two-fifths believed that he should be, including the majority of younger age groups (62% of under-25s and 55% of those aged 25-34) and one-half of Londoners. Among the entire sample, 53% opposed the imposition of discipline on Johnson, peaking at 77% of over-65s, while 7% expressed no opinion or preferred not to say. Full data tables are available at:

Deltapoll brought up the rear with an online poll of 1,904 Britons for the Sun on Sunday on 14-16 August 2018. Asked about Boris Johnson’s comments on the burka, 23% considered them offensive and that he should apologize for them; 28% judged that they were ‘over the top’ and that he should apologize for that but not for starting a debate on a sensitive issue; 36% said that the remarks were correct and Johnson had nothing to apologize for; and 12% were undecided. The pro-Boris camp was strongest among Conservatives (54%), ‘Leave’ voters in the 2016 referendum on European Union membership (60%), and over-65s (61%). Full data tables are available at:

Religious prejudice in political parties

On behalf of The Observer, Opinium Research broadened the agenda to perceptions of religious prejudice in the two main political parties, asking 2,003 members of its UK online panel on 14-17 August 2018 whether the Conservative Party and Labour Party were prejudiced against six groups: British Christians, British Jews, British Muslims, British Hindus, British Sikhs, and atheists. In the case of the Conservative Party, definite or probable prejudice was said to range from 13% (against Christians) to 27% (against Muslims); for the Labour Party, the range was from 11% (against atheists) to 36% (against Jews). The Conservative Party was believed to tolerate Islamophobia by 26% and the Labour Party to tolerate anti-Semitism by 34%. Boris Johnson was regarded as Islamophobic by 26% and Jeremy Corbyn, Labour Party leader, as anti-Semitic by 32%. Full data tables are available at:

BMG Research also asked its own sample, of 1,481 adult Britons interviewed online for The Independent on 6-10 August 2018, whether Corbyn was anti-Semitic and found 27% in agreement, with 23% considering the Labour Party itself as institutionally anti-Semitic. Three-fifths judged that allegations of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party had been handled badly. Respondents were additionally given a list of four actions (which had surfaced in debates about Labour and anti-Semitism) and invited to say whether each was anti-Semitic or not. Accusing Jewish people of being more loyal to Israel than their home country was labelled as anti-Semitic by 26%; claiming that Israel’s existence as a state is a racist endeavour by 38%; requiring higher standards of behaviour from Israel than other nations by 36%; and comparing contemporary Israeli policies to those of the Nazis by 47%. For all questions in this survey, approximately one-third were recorded as don’t knows. Full data tables are available at:

The Labour and anti-Semitism controversy took a new turn when it was revealed that in 2014 Corbyn had taken part in a wreath-laying ceremony in Tunisia for people who had been accused of involvement in the terrorist attack on Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. This dimension was explored by YouGov in an online poll of 1,640 Britons on 14-15 August 2018. Although three-quarters of the public were aware of the story, only one-quarter admitted to following it closely. Of those who were aware, 44% assessed that Corbyn had not given an honest account of his attendance at the ceremony and the same number believed that he probably had taken part in laying a wreath on the graves of those responsible for organizing the 1972 attack. The whole affair has tarnished Corbyn’s reputation somewhat, 16% of respondents who were aware of the story now thinking worse of him in the light of it, albeit a plurality of 47% already held a negative opinion of the Labour leader in any case. For a blog on the survey, with links to full data tables, see:

Deltapoll’s survey for the Sun on Sunday, noted above (with link), also covered attitudes to anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. One-half the sample felt that the party had a problem with anti-Semitism, 28% agreeing that it was riddled with people holding anti-Semitic views and 22% that there were pockets of anti-Semitism, while 36% judged Jeremy Corbyn to be personally anti-Semitic. One-quarter of respondents believed that anti-Semitism was more common in the Labour Party than in other political parties, but two-fifths were unable to say.


On behalf of the BBC Asian Network, ComRes has surveyed two samples on lifestyle issues, including in relation to religion. The first sample was of 2,001 British adults, interviewed online on 13-15 July 2018. The second was of 2,026 British Asians, interviewed by telephone during July 2018. Most questions were put to both samples. Full data tables, with breaks by religious affiliation for British Asians (including 1,021 Muslims, 475 Hindus, 189 Sikhs, and 341 others), can be accessed via the links at:

The omnibus survey of British adults was mainly intended to provide comparisons with the replies of British Asians but is also of intrinsic interest in demonstrating the relatively low significance attached to religion by a cross-section of the population. Given 12 options for helping to define personal identity, and invited to select the two most important to them, just 7% chose religion. Asked how important religion was to them, 72% replied that it was not important against 26% claiming it to be important, and with a majority (52%) stating it was not at all important. Three-quarters of Britons agreed with the proposition that religion is a cause of division and conflict in society. Low saliency of religion was also demonstrated by the fact that 90% of Britons would not be offended if a family member had a relationship with someone of a different faith, while 73% anticipated that neither they nor their family would be offended if a family member married someone of a different religion.

More than one-third (36%) of British Asians selected religion as an important factor in helping define their identity, greater even than nationality (33%) or ethnicity (22%). Almost three in four (73%) indicated that religion was very or fairly important to them personally, including 89% of Muslims, and 86% that it was important to their family (94% among Muslims). However, 48% of British Asians and majorities of Hindus and Sikhs acknowledged that religion is a cause of division and conflict. On social issues, Muslims were more conservative than Hindus or Sikhs, particularly when it came to same-sex relationships, which 48% of Muslims declared not to be morally acceptable, with a further 26% not revealing their hand. But there were no differences between the three religious groups when it came to expressing strong confidence in Britain as a place where they could fulfil their aspirations and ambitions.

Thought for the Day

Thought for the Day is the three-minute ‘pause’ in Today, BBC Radio 4’s prime-time flagship morning news and current affairs programme, when invited guests reflect on a topical issue from a religious standpoint. Reform of the slot, to encompass non-religious voices, has long been an ambition of the National Secular Society (NSS), which has recently released partial results of a poll it commissioned from Censuswide with an online sample of 2,003 UK adults on 18-21 May 2018. Asked whether Thought for the Day should still be broadcast by the BBC, 36% of respondents agreed that it should (including 41% of over-55s) and 10% disagreed, but the majority (54%) neither agreed nor disagreed, perhaps indicating indifference or lack of knowledge. Less than one-fifth (18%) considered that Thought for the Day should always feature religious content, while 32% disagreed (peaking at 40% in the South-West and among adults aged 45-54) and 50% were undecided. Full data tables have been supplied to BRIN by NSS and the NSS press release can be found at:

Criticizing Christianity

One-quarter (27%) of 5,525 adult Britons interviewed by YouGov via app on 14 August 2018 felt it to be more acceptable to criticize Christianity (and Christians) than other religions in the UK, UKIP voters (35%), men (34%), and under-25s (33%) being especially likely to say so. By contrast, just 7% deemed it less acceptable, and the plurality (49%) suggested that it was neither more nor less acceptable to criticize Christianity than other religions. The remainder of the respondents (17%) were undecided. Data tables are at:


Regular worshippers volunteer twice as often as those who are not regular worshippers, but the proportion has dropped for both groups between 2012 and 2017, according to a recent report by nfpSynergy on Volunteering Trend Data. In 2012, 40% of regular worshippers and 19% of other Britons claimed to have given time as a volunteer during the previous three months, either to a charity or other organization or in their local community. In 2017, the figures were 37% and 15%, respectively. Data derive from the Charity Awareness Monitor, for which 2,000 adults aged 16 and over were interviewed in each year. The report can be downloaded (after registration) from:

Uniformed organizations

On behalf of the Youth United Foundation, a charitable consortium of 11 uniformed organizations, ComRes has recently completed a report on Social Integration: The Role of Uniformed Youth Groups. The quantitative evidence base was an online survey of 2,015 young people aged 11-18, comprising 569 members and 1,426 non-members of uniformed organizations, between 21 November and 19 December 2017. One of the principal findings was that uniformed youth were significantly more likely than non-uniformed youth to mix with people who were different from them, including persons of a different religion, and to regard it as important so to do. They were also more likely to participate regularly in social action. The report, which includes a profile of uniformed and non-uniformed youth by religion (Christian, non-Christian, unsure, and atheist) and a breakdown by religion of reasons for joining or not joining a uniformed youth group, can be found at:

Young people and immigration

The Ipsos MORI Young People in Scotland Survey, 2017, for which 1,781 state secondary school pupils were interviewed online between September and November, included a module on attitudes to immigration, which was commissioned by the Scottish Government. The responses were disaggregated by religious affiliation, albeit only three categories were deemed statistically viable: no religion (professed by 57% of the sample), Christian (24%), and non-Christian (4%). In general, there were few differences of opinion between religious nones and Christians, but non-Christians tended to have outlier views, possibly a function of small cell size (only 101 cases). On the specific matter of whether Scotland would lose its identity if more Muslims came to live there, 28% of all young people agreed and 42% disagreed. A report on the module is available at:

Scottish religion

Religion appears to be losing its hold over once God-fearing Scotland, according to a poll by Survation for the Humanist Society Scotland (HSS), for which 1,002 Scottish adults were interviewed online on 5-10 July 2018. Although 61% of respondents said they had been raised in some religion, the majority (59%, including 69% of under-45s) currently described themselves as not religious, with 37% being Christian (almost three-fifths of whom were Church of Scotland and one-fifth Catholic) and 4% non-Christian. Seven in ten never or hardly ever prayed outside religious services and three-quarters had never or hardly ever attended such services during the past year, apart from for rites of passage. Less than one-third (31%) believed in God while 49% did not; 34% believed and 51% disbelieved in life after death; 33% believed and 56% disbelieved in heaven; 20% believed and 68% disbelieved in hell; 21% believed and 67% disbelieved in divine miracles; 21% believed and 63% disbelieved in reincarnation; 19% believed and 68% disbelieved in supernatural powers of deceased ancestors; 29% believed and 60% disbelieved in angels; 25% believed and 65% disbelieved in demons or evil spirits; and 18% believed and 71% disbelieved in a judgement day. Full data tables are available at:

HSS has issued a 12-page report on the poll: Fraser Sutherland, Beliefs in Scotland, 2018: A Study of Religion and Belief in Scotland, available to download at:

Dating apps and religion

On behalf of the BBC’s Newsbeat programme, YouGov conducted an online poll among 2,066 16- to 34-year-olds in the UK between 3 and 10 April 2018 to ascertain their views on dating apps/websites. Interviewees were asked about the importance of nine attributes when deciding whether or not to meet up with somebody they had met through a dating app/website. One of the attributes was the religion of the prospective friend, which 11% said would be very important to their decision, 25% fairly important, 35% not very important, 21% not at all important, with 8% undecided or preferring not to say. Full data tables can be found at:

Asian elephants

On 22-24 June 2018, Populus conducted an online survey into the attitudes of 2,065 adult Britons towards the role played by Asian elephants in tourism in India and South-East Asia. One of the questions concerned the taking of elephants from the wild for use in temples in connection with religious services or festivals. The overwhelming majority (88%) of respondents thought this practice was not justified, with only 6% approving it. Full data tables are available at:


Church of England ministry

The Church of England has published two new annual reports on its ministry. The 2018 report on vocations highlights: growth in the overall number of recommended candidates; growth in the number of young candidates (under 32 years); and growth in the number of female candidates, who are now in the majority. The 56-page Ministry Statistics, 2017 presents a wealth of information in 23 figures and 25 tables. Of the 20,040 active ordained clergy in the Church of England, 39% are stipendiary (92% of whom are full-time and 28% women), 15% are self-supporting, 36% (mostly retired) have permission to officiate, 5% are chaplains, and 5% fill other roles. The reports can be accessed via the news release at:

Humanists UK

Humanists UK, formerly the British Humanist Association (BHA), announced on 8 August 2018 that it had reached a new milestone in its history: 70,000 members and supporters across the UK and crown dependencies.  The BHA was formed in 1963 as a common front for the Rationalist Press Association and the Ethical Union but grew very slowly in its early years, having only 3,000 members in 1970.

Islamophobic incidents

Beyond the Incident: Outcomes for Victims of Anti-Muslim Prejudice is the title of Tell MAMA’s annual report for 2017. It documents 1,201 verified incidents of anti-Muslim hatred in the UK during the year, seven in ten of them taking place offline, at street level, and the remainder online, generally on Twitter or Facebook. Most victims were women but most perpetrators were men. The report is available at:


England and Wales census of population, 2021

In the July 2018 edition of Counting Religion in Britain, we reported on proposals to enable Sikhs to be recorded as an ethnic as well as a religious group in the 2021 census of population of England and Wales. There is a similar proposal for Jews to be considered in the same way, by adding a ‘Jewish’ tick-box to the response options for the question on ethnicity. However, senior Jewish community figures, including from the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, are understood to have expressed doubts about the wisdom of doing so, fearing it would impact negatively on comparability with data obtained from the 2001 and 2011 censuses in respect of the question on religion. By contrast, Jewish leaders in Scotland (where the census is arranged by the National Records of Scotland) are inclined to favour the proposal, in order to capture thousands of ‘missing Jews’. The issue has been covered by the Jewish News at:

Scotland census of population, 2021

The National Records of Scotland have initiated a consultation, which remains live until 7 September 2018, about proposed changes in the way in which outputs will be created from the religion question in the census, specifically disaggregation by denominations. For more information, and a link to the SurveyMonkey website for the provision of feedback, go to:

Religious Studies GCE A Levels

Following years of steady advance, Religious Studies (RS) is now losing ground as a subject in the wake of the ongoing reforms of GCE A Level examinations and of secondary education more generally. According to the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ), there were 20,527 entries for GCE A Level RS in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland in the June 2018 examinations, representing a decline of 21.3% on the 2017 total, compared with a decrease of 2.0% for all subjects and of 3.5% in the population of 18-year-olds. RS candidates were predominantly female, at 71.6%, the mean for all subjects being 55.0%. The proportion of RS examinees securing a pass at A* to C grade was 78.8%, against 77.0% for all subjects, although there were fewer than average RS successes at A*. Additionally, there were 8,454 entries for GCE AS Level RS, 55.6% less than in 2017. Full provisional tables for both A and AS Level, showing breaks by gender and grade within home nation, are available, together with an important note and press release outlining changes affecting comparability of results year-on-year, at:

Religious Studies GCSE

GCSE Level RS is also in decline, according to results released by the JCQ the week after the A Level data were published. There were 253,618 entries for the full course GCSE in RS in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland in June 2018, a decrease of 10.1% on June 2017, compared with an increase of 0.2% in entries for all subjects (notwithstanding a fall of 2.7% in the 16-year-old population). A much smaller proportion of candidates for GCSE RS was female (54.1%) than for GCE A Level RS. The cumulative number obtaining a pass between A* and C for the full course GCSE RS was 72.0%, five points more than the average across all subjects. The short course in GCSE RS (traditionally equivalent to half a GCSE) is in freefall, with 34.4% fewer candidates in June 2018 than in June 2017, in line with the progressive disappearance of short courses generally. Full tables, again with an important note and press release outlining changes in the examination system affecting year-on-year comparability, are available at:

School admissions

The vexed issue of the inclusivity of church schools is likely to be reopened following publication of a new research report commissioned by the Department for Education and covering admissions to secondary schools in England: Matthew Weldon, Secondary School Choice and Selection: Insights from New National Preferences Data. In the case of church schools, which determine their own admissions policies (within government parameters), it highlighted that children from black families are significantly less likely to be admitted to a church school to which they apply than those from a similar white family living nearby; and that children from disadvantaged backgrounds (Pupil Premium-eligible) are significantly less likely to be admitted into a church school than a non-Pupil Premium child living nearby. The report is available at:


Populism and the Church of England

Self-identification as Church of England was an important independent predictor of voting ‘Leave’ in the 2016 referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union, according to Greg Smith and Linda Woodhead, ‘Religion and Brexit: Populism and the Church of England’, Religion, State, and Society, Vol. 46, No. 3, 2018, pp. 206-23. This finding, which held good even when controlling for age and region, principally derived from an exit poll commissioned by Woodhead from YouGov in June 2016 but was supplemented by analyses from an earlier (and thus pre-referendum) YouGov study, in June 2013, also commissioned by Woodhead. Comparisons are drawn with the results of Smith’s Spring 2016 survey of an opportunity sample of self-defined UK evangelicals, who inclined to a ‘Remain’ position, had a more internationalist outlook, and were decidedly not in the populist mould of US evangelicals who proved such strong supporters of Donald Trump at the 2016 US presidential election. Possible explanations for this pattern and UK-US differences are advanced, and reasons are given why Brexit-backing Anglicans do not qualify to be described as populist. Access options to the article are outlined at:

Church of Scotland statistics

The extent and nature of the often strained relationship between religious statistics on the one hand and religious mission and planning on the other are explored by Allan Vint in his ‘Statistics, Planning, and the Mission of the Church of Scotland: A Critical Examination of Quantitative Data as a Resource for National, Regional, and Local Engagement’ (PhD thesis, University of Glasgow, 2018, 309pp., including 28 tables and 25 graphs). The introductory chapters consider the rationale and background to the collection and deployment of church statistics from historical, theological, and ecclesiological/ missiological standpoints. The core original research is concentrated in chapters 5-9 and in the 14 supporting appendices, commencing with a presentation of the findings of three online surveys which the author conducted among local leaders and ministers of the Kirk, in 2013, 2015, and 2017. There then follow three case studies of the Church of Scotland’s recent engagement with statistics, one for each of its three tiers of governance: national (the General Assembly and its councils and committee); regional (Presbytery of Glasgow); and local (Kilsyth Anderson Church). The conclusion is that ‘there is currently a significant deficit in fully appropriating and deploying statistical data for church planning and mission’ in the Church of Scotland, and 28 recommendations are made for improvement. The thesis can be downloaded from:

Muslims in politics

The challenges which political parties face in seeking to incorporate ethnic and religious minorities are exemplified in Rafaela Dancygier’s Dilemmas of Inclusion: Muslims in European Politics (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2017, xiv + 242pp., ISBN: 9780691172606, £24, paperback). She emphasizes the trade-offs which may arise when parties reach out to newer groups who are disliked by a set of existing voters and demonstrates how their short-term inclusion strategies can undercut their ideological coherence and electoral performance in the long run. Her research employs mixed methods but the core source is a database of the background of over 80,000 local politicians in the most populous municipalities of Austria, Belgium, England (68 municipalities), and Germany during the ‘long noughties’ (elected politicians in all four countries together with unsuccessful candidates in Belgium and England). Muslim (and other religious minority) politicians were identified through an onomastic approach, by their first and last names, additionally using the Onomap software program in the case of the English sample. The book’s webpage is at:

Please note: Counting Religion in Britain is © Clive D. Field, 2018


Posted in Attitudes towards Religion, church attendance, Ministry studies, News from religious organisations, Official data, Religion and Ethnicity, Religion and Politics, Religion and Social Capital, Religion in public debate, Religious beliefs, Religious Census, Religious prejudice, Survey news | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Counting Religion in Britain, July 2018

Counting Religion in Britain, No. 34, July 2018 features 18 new sources. It can be read in full below. Alternatively, you can download the PDF version: No 34 July 2018


Attitudes to Christians and Christianity

In connection with the recent publication of Krish Kandiah’s Fatheism: Why Christians and Atheists Have More in Common than You Think (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 2018), Home for Good and Hodder Faith commissioned ComRes to undertake an online survey of attitudes to Christians and Christianity among 4,087 adult Britons on 2-6 March 2018. The core of the poll comprised ten statements to which respondents were invited to indicate agreement or disagreement. Topline results are as follows, revealing a very large number choosing the neither agree nor disagree option (perhaps reflecting a lack of engagement with, or knowledge of, the subject matter):

  • ‘I believe that Christians are a negative force in society’ – agree 10%, disagree 51%, neither 39%
  • ‘When I meet somebody new, I assume that they hold no religious beliefs unless they tell me otherwise’ – agree 39%, disagree 17%, neither 44%
  • ‘When I know that someone is a Christian, I find it harder to talk to them’ – agree 9%, disagree 65%, neither 27%
  •  ‘I would be more likely to trust a person with no religious beliefs than a Christian’ – agree 12%, disagree 45%, neither 43%
  • ‘I would be cautious about leaving my children in the care of a Christian’ – agree 7%, disagree 62%, neither 31%
  • ‘I would have more fun socialising with a Christian than an atheist’ – agree 7%, disagree 37%, neither 56%
  • ‘I think that being an atheist or non-religious is more normal than being a Christian’ – agree 28%, disagree 26%, neither 46%
  •  ‘Overall, I have had a positive experience of Christians and Christianity’ – agree 44%, disagree 15%, neither 41%
  • ‘I feel comfortable discussing my religious beliefs with people at work’ – agree 46%, disagree 16%, neither 39%
  • ‘Christians are more tolerant than other people’ – agree 19%, disagree 32%, neither 49%

Full data tables, including breaks by standard demographics and frequency of church attendance (but not by religious affiliation), can be found at:

Religion and violence

ComRes was commissioned by Theos to run another set of attitude statements, this time exploring the relationship between religion and violence, among an online sample of 2,042 Britons on 6-7 June 2018. Topline results were as follows:

  • ‘Religions are inherently violent’ – agree 32%, disagree 55%, don’t know 13%
  • ‘The teachings of religion are essentially peaceful’ – agree 61%, disagree 27%, don’t know 12%
  • ‘Most religious violence is really about things like politics, socio-economic issues, or Western foreign policy’ – agree 64%, disagree 21%, don’t know 15%
  • ‘It is religious extremists, not religions themselves, that are violent’ – agree 81%, disagree 12%, don’t know 7%
  •  ‘Most of the wars in world history have been caused by religions’ – agree 70%, disagree 21%, don’t know 9%
  •  ‘On balance, religions are much more peaceful today than violent’ – agree 40%, disagree 44%, don’t know 16%
  •  ‘The world would be a more peaceful place if no one was religious’ –  agree 47%, disagree 38%, don’t know 16%
  •  ‘The world would be a more peaceful place if no one believed in God’ – agree 35%, disagree 45%, don’t know 19%

Opinion on the subject was thus divided, and dependent on question-wording. Higher levels of negativity would doubtless have been on display had the topic of Islam and violence been explicitly raised. Data tables, including breaks by religious affiliation, can be found at:

The poll findings are touched upon in Nick Spencer’s foreword to a new Theos report by Robin Gill on Killing in the Name of God: Addressing Religiously Inspired Violence, which was published on 16 July 2018 and can be downloaded from:

Pride in the Church 

Asked which of 13 British institutions they had pride in, just 33% of 1,693 adults interviewed online by YouGov on 28-29 June 2018 said they were very (8%) or fairly (25%) proud of the Church of England/Church in Wales/Church of Scotland, only the House of Commons (28%) and House of Lords (21%) being ranked lower. The institutions in which most pride was taken were the fire brigade (91%), National Health Service (87%), and armed forces (83%). Half the sample claimed they were not very (24%) or not at all (26%) proud of the ‘national’ Churches, including three-fifths of Scots. Full data tables are accessible via the link in the blog at:

Religious affiliation 

Representative samples of adult Britons drawn from an online panel are regularly asked by Populus ‘which of the following religious groups do you consider yourself to be a member of?’ An aggregation of the responses to this question for 27,000 individuals across 13 polls between January and June 2018 revealed that 49.3% self-identified as Christians, 6.1% as non-Christians, 42.9% as of no religion, and 1.7% preferring not to say. Compared with the pooled sample for the period July to December 2017, there were 1.4% fewer Christians and 1.4% more religious nones. Weighted data were extracted from sundry tables on the Populus website.


One-half of adults have no godparents, presumably because they have not been baptised, according to an online poll by YouGov of 4,886 Britons on 13 July 2018. The proportion was highest in Scotland (56%) and among Scottish National Party voters (62%). An additional 17% of respondents did not know whether they had any godparents or not, including 21% of both men and over-65s. Data tables are available at:

Human rights 

Freedom of thought and religion is provided for in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In a recent Ipsos Global Advisor survey, conducted among online samples of adults in 28 countries between 25 May and 8 June 2018, 56% of 1,000 Britons aged 16-64 correctly identified this particular right as being covered in the Declaration. However, when asked to prioritize the four or five which were most important to protect from a list of 28 possible human rights, just 20% of Britons selected freedom of thought and religion, five points fewer than the multinational mean, with freedom from discrimination the top priority in Britain (on 33%). Given a list of 16 groups needing most protection with regard to their human rights, religious minorities were ranked twelfth in importance in Britain (on 21%). Topline results only are available at:

Anti-Semitism and the Labour Party

The controversy surrounding anti-Semitism in the Labour Party has flared up yet again. In a further test of public opinion, the Jewish News and Jewish Leadership Council commissioned ComRes to poll an online sample of 2,036 Britons on 20-22 July 2018. This revealed that 34% of the entire electorate and even 16% of Labour voters believe the party has a serious problem with anti-Semitism; and that similar proportions, respectively 31% and 13%, considered the former Labour minister Margaret Hodge had been right to call party leader Jeremy Corbyn anti-Semitic. Almost half (48%) of all adults and 29% of Labour voters agreed with the proposition that Corbyn is letting the Labour Party down by failing to tackle anti-Semitism in its midst. More generally, 32% judged anti-Semitism to be on the rise in the UK, while 25% disagreed and 43% were undecided. Full data tables are available at:

Coverage of the survey in the Jewish News can be read at:


One-quarter of 1,668 Britons questioned by YouGov for the Sunday Times on 19-20 July 2018 said that they would be very (13%) or fairly (11%) likely to vote for a new political party on the far right which was committed to opposing Islamism and immigration and supporting Brexit. The proportion rose to 38% with Conservatives and 44% among those who had voted ‘leave’ in the 2016 referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union. Almost three-fifths of the entire sample declared they would be unlikely to vote for a new party with this sort of agenda and 18% were undecided. Full data tables are at:

Islamic State 

The British government recently became embroiled in controversy when it became known that it was willing to waive its longstanding opposition to the use of capital punishment by foreign governments in the cases of Alexanda Kotey and Shafee el-Sheikh. They are two alleged members of an Islamic State (ISIS) cell which carried out the torture and murder of western hostages in the former ISIS caliphate in Iraq and Syria. Originally from Britain, they have been stripped of their British citizenship and are due to face trial in the United States, where the death penalty is still in operation. In an online YouGov poll of 7,177 adult Britons on 24 July 2018, 62% of respondents agreed that the British government had been right to make an exception to its policy and to allow the pair to be prosecuted in a jurisdiction where the death penalty could be imposed. The proportion peaked at 82% among Conservatives and 89% of UKIP voters. Only 20% of the whole sample opposed the government’s course of action, while 18% were undecided. Full results are available at:


Methodist Statistics for Mission

The Methodist Church has an unbroken record of annual statistical returns stretching back to 1766. The series, known officially as Statistics for Mission and unofficially as the October count, has been a real boon to church historians and statisticians as well as the envy of many other denominations. However, the arrangements are now set to change. For the Methodist Conference, meeting in Nottingham between 28 June and 5 July 2018, accepted Memorial M13 from the Newcastle-upon-Tyne District Synod to the effect that the burden of data collection should be reduced significantly (‘only minimal data should be collected’ in future, Conference determined, comprising membership numbers and average attendance) and the effort freed up as a result redirected towards missional activity. Methodist Council has been instructed by Conference to operationalize this new policy, which will transitionally mean much lighter reporting by Methodist circuits and districts in the connexional years 2018/19 and 2019/20. For the text of the memorial and the Conference’s reply, go to:

Anti-Semitic incidents

The Community Security Trust recorded 727 anti-Semitic incidents across the UK during the first half of 2018, the second highest total for a January-June period since statistics were first kept, albeit 8% fewer than between January and June 2017. With only two exceptions, the monthly total of incidents has exceeded 100 in every month since April 2016. The 16-page report on Antisemitic Incidents, January-June 2018 can be downloaded from:


LGBT people

The Government has published the results of its national LGBT survey, completed online in July-September 2017, and associated action plan. The survey attracted responses from a self-selecting sample of 108,100 adults aged 16 and over living in the UK who self-identified as having a minority sexual orientation or gender identity or as intersex, the largest groups being gay or lesbian (61%) and bisexual (26%). Religion or belief was one of the background characteristics investigated, 69% of interviewees claiming to have none, with 18% professing to be Christians. Further information, including a 304-page research report with some religious breaks (for example, in respect of having undergone or been offered sexual ‘conversion’ therapy), is available at:


A further breakdown by religion and sex of the prison population of England and Wales has been published by the Ministry of Justice. The proportion of prisoners professing no religion is currently 30.7% overall, compared with 30.8% twelve months previously, and with no significant gender difference. Full details are available in table 1.5 of the return of the prison population for 30 June 2018 at:

Ethnic Sikhs

According to a report in The Times for 23 July 2018 (p. 17), the campaign to have Sikhs recognized as an ethnic as well as a religious group in the 2021 census of England and Wales has moved a step closer to success, following an overwhelmingly positive response to the idea in a postal survey of gurdwaras organized by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for British Sikhs. This expression of support is felt likely to satisfy the requirement of the Office for National Statistics (ONS) for evidence of the ‘public acceptability’ of the proposal, the last major hurdle to be cleared before ONS is able to make a formal recommendation to effect the change.

However, the newspaper’s report prompted several letters to the editor of The Times from Sikhs objecting to the recognition of Sikhs as an ethnic group (24 July 2018, p. 24, 25 July 2018, p. 24). One of the letters, from Lord Singh of Wimbledon, observed that most Sikhs in the UK today are British-born and native English-speakers and thus would not meet the criteria for ethnic Sikhs. Another alleged that British gurdwaras are largely controlled by Sikh separatists, who initiated the campaign in the first place. In reply (27 July 2018, p. 24), Jagtar Singh, Secretary General of the Sikh Council UK, reiterated that there was widespread endorsement of the idea among Sikhs, adding that 83,000 of them had written in their ethnicity as Sikh under the ‘other’ category at the 2011 census.

ONS is also considering offering Jews the opportunity to record themselves as an ethnic group in the 2021 census.


Secularization and economic change

Economic growth can be ruled out as a cause of secularization, a new study suggests. Rather, rises in secularization and, more particularly, tolerance for individual rights have been identified as predictors of economic growth (as measured by GDP) in the twentieth century by Damian Ruck, Alexander Bentley, and Daniel Lawson in ‘Religious Change Preceded Economic Change in the 20th Century’, Science Advances, Vol. 4, No. 7, 18 July 2018, eaar8680. Data derive from a birth cohort analysis of the post-1990 waves of the World Values Surveys and European Values Surveys for 109 nations, including Great Britain. The article, and associated resources, can be freely downloaded at:

Ruck has also blogged about the research on The Conversation at:

British Social Attitudes Survey, 2017

The National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) has published British Social Attitudes, 35, 2018 Edition, based on face-to-face interviews with a probability sample of 3,988 adults aged 18 and over between July and November 2017. The report itself, comprising a series of chapters of expert analysis of public opinion on various social and political issues, contains nothing of explicitly religious interest but clarifies that the survey included religion as one of its standard background variables. It can be read at:

The questionnaire is available at:


Fiona Tweedie

Revd Dr Fiona Tweedie, part-time Mission Statistics Coordinator for the Church of Scotland since 2014, has now assumed an additional part-time role as Research Associate at the Church Army Research Unit in Sheffield. Her undergraduate degree was in computer science and statistics, and, prior to becoming the Church of Scotland’s first Ordained Local Minister in 2011, she was a lecturer in statistics at the University of Glasgow (1996-2001) and University of Edinburgh (2001-05). 

David John Bartholomew 

The October 2017 edition of Counting Religion in Britain noted the death of Professor Bartholomew earlier that month. Celia Swan and Martin Knott have now contributed a fuller-length obituary in Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, Series A, Vol. 181, No. 3, June 2018, pp. 907-9. Access options are outlined at:

Please note: Counting Religion in Britain is © Clive D. Field, 2018


Posted in Historical studies, News from religious organisations, Official data, People news, Religion and Ethnicity, Religion and Politics, Religion in public debate, Religious Census, Religious prejudice, Survey news | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Counting Religion in Britain, May 2016

Counting Religion in Britain, No. 8, May 2016 features 31 new sources. It can be read in full below. Alternatively, you can download the PDF version: No 8 May 2016


Anti-Semitism (1): Attitudes of Jews toward the Labour Party

The recent row about anti-Semitism in the Labour Party seems to have further damaged its standing with the Jewish electorate. A majority (63%) of British Jews regard the Labour Party as anti-Semitic, and 66% assess its current leader, Jeremy Corbyn, as doing a bad job in addressing the issue. Whereas 15% of Jews voted Labour at the 2015 general election, and 32% of those who did not have considered voting Labour at some time in the past 10 years, only 7% would vote Labour now. The Jewish community remains overwhelmingly (67%) Conservative in its political allegiance, although it has only really been so since the Second World War. In part, this perhaps reflects the very low perception of anti-Semitism in that party (6%), a similar perception applying to the Liberal Democrats but not to UKIP (which 46% of Jews view as anti-Semitic). Notwithstanding the current publicity being given to anti-Semitism, 82% of Jews say they feel very or quite safe in Britain. Data derive from a survey of 1,008 members of Survation’s pre-recruited panel of self-identifying Jews in Britain, interviewed mainly by telephone on 3-4 May 2016.

The poll was commissioned by the Jewish Chronicle which published its own analysis of the results in its edition for 6 May 2016 at:

Full data tables, including breaks by demographics, are available at:

Results for a question on the voting intentions of Jews in the forthcoming referendum on European Union membership were separately reported in the Jewish Chronicle for 13 May 2016, 49% being in the ‘remain’ camp, 34% in the ‘leave’ camp, and 17% undecided. These data tables are at:

Anti-Semitism (2): Attitudes of Labour Party members

A bare majority (52%) of 1,031 Labour Party members interviewed online by YouGov for The Times on 9-11 May 2016 acknowledged that the Party has a problem with anti-Semitism, 38% being in denial. Moreover, 47% thought it no worse a problem in the Labour Party than in any other political party, while 35% blamed the press and opponents of Party leader Jeremy Corbyn for exploiting the issue in order to attack him (a further 49% accused them of manufacturing the problem for the same reason). Likewise, although 59% approved of the suspension from the Party of Ken Livingstone, the former Mayor of London, only one-quarter judged the remarks leading to his suspension to be anti-Semitic and wanted him to be expelled from the Party. Data tables can be accessed via the link in the blog at:

Anti-Semitism (3): Attitudes of the electorate

Asked about the extent of prejudice against Jews in the UK, 29% of 1,694 Britons replied that there is a great deal or a fair amount in an online poll by YouGov for Tim Bale on 2-3 May 2016. This was five points more than in a previous survey in December 2014. Not very much prejudice was reported by 43%, none at all by 5%, with the remaining 23% unable to say. Some anti-Semitism on the part of respondents themselves was in evidence, 7% agreeing with the long-standing trope that ‘Jews have too much influence in this country’, rising to 14 per cent among UKIP supporters and 10% for men and Scottish residents. A similar overall proportion (6%) acknowledged that they would be less likely to vote for a political party led by a Jew and also disagreed with the proposition that ‘a British Jew would make an equally acceptable Prime Minister as a member of any other faith’; the number was again double among UKIP voters. Almost one-third of the sample claimed to have Jewish friends, acquaintances, or work colleagues, which is a surprisingly high ratio, given that there are relatively few Jews in the country and that they are spatially concentrated.

Bale had an article about the survey in the online edition of the Daily Telegraph for 5 May 2016, which can be found at:

The full data tables are at:

Perceptions of Islam

A significant degree of negativity toward both Islam and Muslims has again surfaced in a poll conducted by ComRes for Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association (UK) among a sample of 2,012 adult Britons interviewed online on 22-24 April 2016. Topline findings are tabulated below, in the order in which questions were asked, except for the omission of questions about understandings of the Caliphate (a central preoccupation of the sponsor), which are too complex to summarize here. It will be seen that a majority of respondents denied that Islam is compatible with British values, while a plurality disagreed it promoted peace in the UK and believed it is a negative force in the country. Only a minority acknowledged having a good grasp of Islamic traditions and beliefs, but there was little appetite to learn more or to see Islam taught more in schools. At the same time, there was acceptance that British Muslims are seriously and unfairly disadvantaged by misconceptions of Islam. The public’s long-standing desire for a separation of religion and politics was reaffirmed. Detailed computer tables, giving breaks by a range of demographics (including religious affiliation and possession of Muslim family, friends, or acquaintances), are available at:

% across



Don’t know

Islam promotes peace in UK




Possess good understanding of Islamic traditions/beliefs




Possess Muslim family/friends/acquaintances




Get most of knowledge about Islam from media




Islam is compatible with British values




Islam promotes acts of violence in UK




Islam is a violent religion




Most people in UK have negative view of Islam




Islam is a negative force in UK




Would like to know more about Islamic traditions




More should be taught about Islam in UK schools




Misconceptions of Islam negatively impact quality of life of British Muslims




Misconceptions of Islam negatively impact quality of life of all Britons




Extremist views/actions conducted in Islam’s name by Muslim minority unfairly impact perceptions of Muslims




No place in UK politics for religious influence of any kind




UK Muslims do not have unifying figurehead




Admiration for global religious figures

Of the three international religious leaders included in YouGov’s latest 30-nation ranking of most admired living figures, the Dalai Lama took a larger share of the vote than the Pope in 19 countries, including the United Kingdom, the Dalai Lama performing especially strongly in Australia, France, Germany, and Norway. The Pope out-performed the Dalai Lama in nine countries, most impressively in the Philippines, while in Argentina and New Zealand the two leaders were tied. Internationally, the Pope has fallen seven places since last year’s rankings, suggesting his influence may be on the wane. The veteran evangelist Billy Graham, mostly out of the limelight these days, predictably trailed the other two religious leaders, except in Egypt (where he came first of the three) and in Brazil, South Africa, and the United States (where he came second). In the United Kingdom, which Graham has missioned on several occasions, his percentage share of admiration was below the global mean, whereas for Pope Francis it was slightly above. Of course, in virtually all countries the lists were dominated by secular names. Statistics for religious figures alone are tabulated below. Topline results for all figures for all participating nations, together with an explanation of methodology, can be found at:

% share of admiration

Pope Francis

Dalai Lama

Billy Graham

Global mean












































Hong Kong
























New Zealand




















Saudi Arabia








South Africa
















United Arab Emirates




United Kingdom




United States




Trust in religious leaders

In a separate YouGov study for YouGov@Cambridge, three-fifths of 1,742 Britons interviewed on 13-14 March 2016 said they had limited (32%) or no trust (28%) in religious leaders in general to tell the truth, peaking at 73% among those judging the current political system to be broken. Just 30% expressed a great deal or fair amount of trust in religious leaders, with marked contrasts between 18-24s (20%) and over-65s (43%) and between those thinking the political system works well (43%) and that it is broken (22%). Comparisons with a somewhat eclectic list of other groups are shown in the table, below. 

% degree of trust to tell truth

Great deal/fair amount

Not much

Not at all


89 7


Family members








People you meet in general




UK military leaders




Religious leaders




Trade union leaders








People who run large companies




UK government ministers




Senior European Union officials




Senior US government officials




The same survey explored several other matters of religious interest. Asked about the role of a ‘higher force’ (such as God, fate, or destiny) in their own lives, 5% assessed that everything which happened to them was caused by this force, 8% that most of what happened was so caused, and 22% that some of what happened was so caused. That made 35% according some role to a higher force against 38% denying it had any influence at all, the remaining 27% being undecided between the options on offer. Men (45%) and 18-24s (48%) were most likely to refute the intervention of a higher force in their lives. Membership of church or religious organizations during the past five years was reported by 8% of respondents overall, rising to 13% of over-65s and 14% of Scots. Given a list of possible conspiracy theories, the suggestion that official accounts of the Holocaust are a lie, with the number of Jews killed being exaggerated, was strenuously refuted – merely 2% agreed with the proposition (albeit 5% of UKIP voters).

Data tables for the poll can be accessed via the link at:


Britons claim to feel far more comfortable about discussing religion with their family and friends (80%) than they do sex (50%), according to the latest poll by ComRes for the Dying Matters Coalition, for which 2,085 adults were interviewed online on 15-17 April 2016. There is also greater willingness to discuss religion than either dying (64%) or money (78%), albeit slightly more reticence than about politics (82%) or immigration (85%). Just 17% say they would feel uncomfortable talking about religion, and no more than 19% among any demographic sub-group (the Welsh being most reluctant). However, when it comes to factors potentially ensuring a ‘good death’, ‘having your religious/spiritual needs met’ is rated as the least important of the six options, with a mean score of 5.29 on a six-point scale, the list topped by ‘being pain free’ on 2.44. Addressing religious and spiritual needs is judged the single most important factor by only 5% of respondents overall, and no more than 6% in any sub-group. Data tables are available at:

Places of worship and community

Places of worship are accorded a very low priority by the public in shaping a local community, according to a recent survey commissioned by TSB Bank, for which OnePoll surveyed 4,000 UK adults online between 20 January and 18 March 2016. Indeed, asked which of 22 facilities and services were most essential, a place of worship came in penultimate position, attracting just 12% support, marginally ahead of a youth club on 10%. The list was headed by a post office (74%) and a bank (73%). Even fewer, 9% of men and 8% of women, said that the existence of easily accessible places of worship was a factor they liked about their current home. Full data tables from the poll are not in the public domain, but headline findings appear in a report from TSB at:


This will be the last edition of Counting Religion in Britain before United Kingdom voters decide on 23 June 2016 whether they wish the country to remain a member of the European Union (EU) or not. So, it seems appropriate to review the latest evidence about referendum voting intentions by religion. It comes from Lord Ashcroft’s online survey of 5,009 adult Britons interviewed between 13 and 18 May 2016. Respondents were not asked how they proposed to answer the actual question on the referendum ballot paper but about their inclination to vote, on a feeling thermometer running from 0 to 100, where 0-49 denoted a leaning towards remaining in the EU, 51-100 a leaning towards leaving, and 50 represented undecided. As the table below indicates, a majority of voters (52%) inclined towards the leave position, 14 points more than opted to remain. However, among Christians the gap in favour of leaving widened to 22%. A plurality of both non-Christians (49%) and religious nones (48%) was also in favour of leaving, albeit the margin over the remainers was very small (3% and 6%, respectively). See, further, page 92 of the data tables at:

% across




All voters












No religion




Voting intentions of Jews in the referendum, according to a different survey, are mentioned in the final paragraph of the first item in this edition, ‘Anti-Semitism (1)’, above. For Sikh views on the EU, see ‘British Sikh Report’, below.


English church census, 2016

Plans for another ecumenical census of church attendance in England, the first since 2005, have been abandoned, according to news reports in the Church Times and on the Churches Together in England website. The census was to have taken place in October, with a pilot scheduled for June. The plans had been devised by a steering group which has been meeting since autumn 2015 under the chairpersonship of the Bishop of Manchester, David Walker. But they had to be aborted after several major denominations, including most recently the Church of England itself, indicated their unwillingness to sign up to the administrative resource implications. News stories about the cancellation of the census can be found at:


The overwhelming majority (88%) of 1,800 UK churchgoers and church leaders interviewed online by Christian Research in early May disagreed with the suggestion that preaching a sermon in church is outdated. However, sermons in excess of half an hour in length appealed to only 10% of the sample, more so to men (14%) than women (6%) and to those aged 25-34 (19%) than over-65s (9%). In reality, 15% of sermons were reported as exceeding 30 minutes, the most common length (44%) being from 10 to 20 minutes. Regarding priorities for content, most emphasis (44%) was placed on biblical exposition, by men (49%) more than women (39%). Practical application was second in significance (40%), albeit preferred by more women (44%) than men (36%). Neither sex attached much importance to humour or anecdote in sermons. Four-fifths of worshippers did not mind whether the preacher was male or female, but one-fifth favoured a man in the pulpit. The research was commissioned by the Christian Resources Exhibition (CRE) in the run-up to CRE International at the ExCeL Centre in London on 17-20 May, which featured a Sermon of the Year competition. As with virtually all Christian Research polling via its Resonate panel, few data have entered the public domain, but CRE has a press release at:

Church Commissioners annual report

The Church Commissioners, who support the mission and ministry of the Church of England from the proceeds of a diverse investment of £7 billion, have published their annual report and financial statements for 2015, entitled Investing in the Church’s Growth. The overall return on this investment last year was in excess of 8%, not far short of the annual average of almost 10% over the past 30 years, and well ahead of inflation. The Commissioners’ total expenditure in 2015 was £218.5 million, amounting to 15% of all spending across the Church, with their biggest single outlay (56%) being on clergy pensions (for service prior to 1998). Media coverage has focused disproportionately on the fact that Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc, is shown among the Commissioners’ 20 most valuable equity assets, despite frequent accusations against Google that it fails to pay its fair share of UK tax. The report is available for download at:

Fresh Expressions of church in the Diocese of Sheffield

An analysis of 56 Fresh Expressions of church (fxC) started in the Diocese of Sheffield between 1992 and 2014 has been prepared by George Lings and published by the Church Army’s Research Unit. Nearly all (47) of these fxCs are still in existence, adding 13% to the average weekly attendance in the diocese’s parish churches. Of the 2,450 fxC attenders, 35% are existing Christians, 27% dechurched, and 39% non-churched. The report is available at:

Church of Scotland statistics

Church of Scotland statistics for the year-ending 31 December 2015, which were reported to the General Assembly meeting in Edinburgh this month, revealed a continuing decline. There were 14,788 fewer members in 2015 than 2014, a decrease of 4%, this being the net figure of 6,330 admissions and 21,118 removals from the rolls. Half the removals were as a result of deaths, which were nine times as numerous as new members received on profession of faith. The Church conducted 21,235 funerals during the course of the year, equivalent to 37% of all deaths in Scotland. There were only 3,591 baptisms, a far cry from the peak of 51,767 in 1962. Indeed, media coverage of the General Assembly highlighted the intention to give serious consideration to online baptisms (for example, via Skype or over the phone), which are already popular in America, to stem the fall. The headline statistics can be found in Appendix X of the General Assembly’s Order of Proceedings at:

Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches

The Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches (FIEC) has released a summary report on its 2014-15 ‘data survey’, which was initially prepared for consideration by its Leaders’ Conference in November 2015. The FIEC was founded in 1922 as an umbrella organization for non-denominational and unattached churches and missions. It currently represents 559 ‘church gatherings’ in Great Britain and is continuing to grow. The ‘data survey’ revealed that 39,000 individuals (31,000 adults and 8,000 young people under 18) attend FIEC churches on a typical Sunday morning, an increase of 10% since a similar survey in 2003. The number worshipping at least monthly (and thus considered to be regular attenders) is, at 46,000, almost one-fifth more. Church membership stood at 27,000 in 2014-15, equivalent to 59% of regular adult attenders compared with 64% in 2003. Most (54%) of FIEC churches have fewer than 35 members, the smaller the church, the more likely it is to be in numerical decline. The proportion of Sunday attendances in the morning has risen from 58% in 1989 to 70% today, while the number of churches holding evening services has fallen over the same period, from 93% to 77%. The ratio of young people in FIEC congregations has reduced from 32% to 20% since 1989, with 13% of churches having no young people in the pews and 53% reporting no baptisms in the past year. One in seven attenders is aged 75 or over. A further data survey is planned towards the end of 2016. The summary report for 2014-15 can be found at:

British Sikh Report

British Sikh Report, 2016 is the fourth annual edition of a survey overseen by a group of Sikh professionals, and conducted (mainly online) in late 2015 and early 2016 among a self-selecting (and thus potentially unrepresentative) sample of 1,416 adult Sikhs in the United Kingdom. Britain’s place in the world was a special theme of this year’s study. On membership of the European Union (EU), 57% of British Sikhs were in favour of remaining (mostly subject to reform of the EU, the survey being conducted before the British government’s agreement with the EU in February 2016), 12% wanted to leave the EU, with 31% undecided. However, 54% disagreed with allowing an unlimited number of EU migrants into the country, and 67% wanted their access to benefits to be limited. On immigration generally, although 59% agreed that migrants made a positive contribution to society, 67% feared that public services could not cope with the current level of net influx, and 53% that diversity and cohesion would be adversely affected by it. Only 32% supported Britain taking in more refugees (with 39% opposed), albeit 51% approved of greater help being given to refugees already in Europe. Other topics covered were ethno-religious self-identity, relevance of caste, observance of the Panj Kakkars, charitable giving and volunteering, attitudes to British military involvement in Syria and the retention of a nuclear deterrent, and demographics (including employment status and highest educational attainment). Gurbachan Singh Jandu contributes an article on ‘Britain’s Sikhs in 2016: A Community with Society in Mind’ (pp. 5-12). British Sikh Report, 2016 is available to download at:


2021 census

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has confirmed that it intends to include a question on religious affiliation in the 2021 population census of England and Wales, using the same wording as in 2011, to ensure continuity in reporting with both 2001 and 2011 results. A primary driver for so doing is to enable organizations to meet their duties under the Equality Act 2010, which defines religion as a protected characteristic. Following public consultation, ONS is declining to extend the question, noting: ‘While data users proposed that additional information about philosophical belief should also be collected, testing ahead of the 2011 Census demonstrated that including philosophical beliefs within the question changed how respondents thought about religion. This led to them providing answers on religious belief rather than affiliation. It is therefore not intended to expand the scope of the religion question to include this aspect of the protected characteristic.’ The statement appears in section 3.9 of The 2021 Census: Assessment of Initial User Requirements on Content for England and Wales – Response to Consultation, which is available (in English and Welsh) at:

Scottish Surveys Core Questions, 2014

Scottish Surveys Core Questions combines into a single dataset the answers to identical questions asked of an aggregate 21,000 respondents in the annual Scottish Crime and Justice Survey, the Scottish Health Survey, and the Scottish Household Survey. The report and tables for 2014, the third year of the series, have just been published by the Scottish Government, with religion as one of the 19 core questions. Overall, 44% of the Scottish population had no religion, 52% was Christian (29% Church of Scotland, 15% Roman Catholic, 8% other denominations), and 3% non-Christian. Religious affiliation was used as a variable for analysing the incidence of general health, long-term limiting health conditions, smoking, mental wellbeing, unpaid care, local crime rates, and confidence in the police. The apparent statistical significance of some religious correlates was weakened when results were standardized by age, reflecting the disproportionately elderly profile of Church of Scotland affiliates and the younger profile of nones and Muslims. However, even after age standardization was applied, the greatest prevalence of smoking was still found among Catholics and nones. More details at:


Protestant and Catholic differences

‘Protestant and Catholic Distinctions in Secularization’ are examined by Sarah Wilkins-Laflamme, with particular reference to the United States, Canada, and Great Britain, in Journal of Contemporary Religion, Vol. 31, No. 2, 2016, pp. 165-80. The underlying data derive from cross-sectional national surveys for the period 1985-2012, including 86,000 respondents to British Social Attitudes Surveys. In all three countries, there has been a steep decline in Protestant affiliation over time, but the remaining Protestants have generally seen heightened rates of religious practice (measured by attendance at religious services and prayer) when compared with remaining Catholics. With regard to orthodox religious beliefs, both remaining Protestants and remaining Catholics exhibit increasing levels of believing. For the incidence of religious behaviour and believing, Protestants now surpass Catholics in the United States and Canada and are said to be on track to do so in Britain. The societal implications of the ‘religious core’, at once diminished yet strengthened, are briefly assessed. Access options to the article, and to supplementary tables available online, are explained at:

Catholic disaffiliation

British Social Attitudes (BSA) Surveys, in this case for 1991-2011 (and especially 2007-11), have also been mined by Stephen Bullivant in his study of ‘Catholic Disaffiliation in Britain: A Quantitative Overview’, Journal of Contemporary Religion, Vol. 31, No. 2, 2016, pp. 181-97. Disaffiliates are defined as those who were brought up as Catholics but no longer identify as such, either because they regard themselves as belonging to some other religion (switchers) or to none at all (leavers). A much smaller proportion of Catholics (38%) was found to have disaffiliated than was the case with other mainstream denominations, some of the lowest retention rates being among Baptists and Methodists, only 36% and 34% of whom (respectively) stayed loyal to their faith of upbringing. Nevertheless, Catholic disaffiliations increased over time, from 25% for pre-1945 cohorts to 40% for post-1945 cohorts (a possible Vatican II effect, Bullivant suggests), and dwarfed, in the ratio of ten to one, converts to Catholicism. Men raised as Catholics were one and a half times more likely than women to disaffiliate. Moreover, a large contingent of the overall 62% of Catholics retaining their cradle identity rarely or never practised their religion, while a significant minority were even atheists or agnostics. Access options to the article are explained at:

A somewhat broader and more up-to-date account of results from this research, focusing on England and Wales and drawing upon BSA surveys for 2012-14, can be found in Bullivant’s Contemporary Catholicism in England and Wales: A Statistical Report Based on Recent British Social Attitudes Survey Data (Catholic Research Forum Reports, No. 1, London: Benedict XVI Centre for Religion and Society, St Mary’s University Twickenham, 2016, 18pp.). Its four chapters explore: religion in England and Wales; the Catholic population; retention and conversion; and church attendance. Catholic data are disaggregated by gender, age, and race/ethnicity. Extrapolating from BSA, Bullivant suggests that the Catholic community of England and Wales numbers (professedly) 3,800,000 against 6,200,000 brought up as Catholics. This report is freely available to download at:

Catholics and faith schools

‘Attitudes Towards Faith-Based Schooling amongst Roman Catholics in Britain’ are explored by Ben Clements in an online first article in British Journal of Religious Education. The underlying data derive from a survey of 1,062 adult Catholics in Britain by YouGov for the Westminster Faith Debates in 2013. Some support is found for the ‘solidarity of the religious’ thesis, with the more orthodox Catholics (in terms of their religious practice and beliefs) showing a greater propensity to endorse publicly-funded faith school provision for Christians and non-Christians alike. The effects of moral attitudes and socio-demographic variables (except for ethnicity) were weaker and less consistent. Access options to the article are explained at:

Urban and rural Anglican dioceses

Owen Edwards has proposed a new model for defining rural, mixed, and urban Anglican dioceses in England and Wales, based upon 10 statistical factors, in comparison with an earlier (2001) model devised by David Lankshear. ‘Classifying “Rural” and “Urban” Dioceses of the Church of England and the Church in Wales: Introducing the Ten-Factor Model’ is published in Rural Theology, Vol. 14, No. 1, May 2016, pp. 53-65, and access options to the article are explained at:

Polarized Jews

Jews are likely to hold more divergent and stronger views than non-Jews across a wide variety of social issues. This is according to a comparison of a 1995 study of British Jewish opinion, undertaken by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, and British Social Attitudes (BSA) Surveys for 1993-94, both of which permitted respondents to choose between moderate or more extreme positions in answer to 14 identically-worded questions. No subsequent survey of the British Jewish community appears to have deliberately replicated BSA questions in this way. In all but one of the 14 cases, the Jewish sample exhibited a wider spread of attitudes than BSA interviewees, which was statistically significant in 11 instances. Competing non-religious (socio-demographic and language norm) explanations for the variance are considered and dismissed. This greater polarization of Jewish opinion conforms to Jewish folklore, religious narratives, and tropes of Jewish humour. An open access version of Stephen Miller, ‘Are Jews More Polarised in Their Social Attitudes than Non-Jews?  Empirical Evidence from the 1995 JPR Study’, Jewish Journal of Sociology, Vol. 57, Nos 1 and 2, 2015, pp. 70-6 is available at:

Digital methodologies

Digital Methodologies in the Sociology of Religion are explored in a new book edited by Sariya Cheruvallil-Contractor and Suha Shakkour (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2016, xxvi + 227pp., ISBN 978-1-4725-7115-1, £21.99, paperback). It comprises 15 fairly short chapters by 25 contributors (10 of them from the United Kingdom) which tease out the methodological lessons to be learned from online research which they have conducted, identifying key tips for future practitioners. There is also a useful bibliography of relevant primary and secondary literature (pp. 197-223). The empirical findings of the research are only incidentally reported. Digital methodologies employed, besides the fairly obvious use of online surveys, include Facebook, YouTube, videoconferencing, apps, crowdsourcing, and gaming. They can be helpful in targeting minority and otherwise hard-to-reach populations, particularly in non-Christian communities, which are the subject of several of these essays (for example, Jasjit Singh’s contribution on the religious engagement of young Sikhs). However, in statistical terms, digital research, although relatively inexpensive, often struggles to achieve representative samples and thus to generate scientifically robust data. This even applies to online surveys, which frequently rely upon self-selecting respondents. The book’s webpage can be found at:

Implicit religion and adolescents

Leslie Francis and Gemma Penny have examined the late Edward Bailey’s notion of the persistence of implicit religion among a sample of 8,619 adolescents aged 13-15 in England and Wales who participated in the Teenage Religion and Values Survey and who had no formal religious affiliation (nones) nor practice (never attended religious services). Implicit religion was operationalized as attachment to traditional Christian rites of passage (religious baptism, marriage, and funeral). Marriage in church was sought by 43%, a church funeral by 42%, and baptism of children by 21%. It was found that young people who remained attached to these rites displayed higher levels of psychological wellbeing than those who were not attached, suggesting, the authors contend, that implicit religion serves similar psychological functions as explicit religion. ‘Implicit Religion and Psychological Wellbeing: A Study among Adolescents without Formal Religious Affiliation or Practice’ is published in Implicit Religion, Vol. 19, No. 1, 2016, pp. 61-78, and access options are explained at:

Journalists and religion

The United Kingdom’s 64,000 professional journalists are not an especially religious lot, even less so than the population as a whole. This is according to a new report from the University of Oxford’s Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism: Neil Thurman, Alessio Cornia, and Jessica Kunert, Journalists in the UK. A random sample of journalists drawn from the Gorkana Media Database was invited to complete an online survey in December 2015, of whom 715 responded. The majority (61%) said that they had no religion, 74% that religious belief was of little (22%) or no importance (52%) to them, and 76% that religious considerations had little (28%) or no influence (48%) on their work. Moreover, as many as 45% expressed little (27%) or no trust (18%) in religious leaders, only 11% having a great deal or complete trust in them. The relatively low religiosity of journalists may be at least partially explained by the fact that they are disproportionately white and university-educated. The report is available at:

George Whitefield’s voice

Christian history is full of examples of evangelists who have preached to large crowds in the open air without any amplification of their voice. Historians have often doubted whether these crowds were quite as large as estimated at the time and, in any case, whether the preacher would actually have been audible. Now matters have been put to the test in respect of George Whitefield, the great transatlantic preacher of the eighteenth century, who is said to have attracted as many as 80,000 people on a single occasion. Braxton Boren, a graduate in both physics and music technology, has used contemporary experimental and topographical data combined with modern simulation techniques to calculate the maximum intelligible range of Whitefield’s field preaching in Philadelphia and London. He concludes that, based on Whitefield’s vocal level, he could have reached a crowd of 50,000 under ideal acoustic conditions and still half as many even when noise levels were higher or crowd density lower. Braxton’s ‘Whitefield’s Voice’ is published in George Whitefield: Life, Context, and Legacy, edited by Geordan Hammond and David Ceri Jones (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), pp. 167-89.

British Religion in Numbers

The annual update of the British Religion in Numbers (BRIN) source database has just taken place (it was deliberately delayed to allow the BRIN website to be migrated to a new platform, and, as part of that, for the database itself to be moved from MySQL to WordPress software). New entries have been created for 158 British religious statistical sources (disproportionately sample surveys), of which 121 date from 2015, 27 from 2014, and 10 from previous years. This brings the total of sources described in the database to 2,552. The 2015 sources include many important surveys, a very large number relating to Muslims, Islam, or Islamism (notably Islamic State), with a smaller cluster of polls exploring Jewish opinion and the attitudes of Britons toward Jews and anti-Semitism. Sources can be browsed at:

An advanced search facility is available at:


SN 7894: What about YOUth? Survey, 2014

The ‘What about YOUth?’ survey was commissioned by the Health and Social Care Information Centre and conducted by Ipsos MORI through a combination of self-completion postal and online questionnaires between 23 September 2014 and 9 January 2015. It investigated the health and wellbeing of a random sample of 15-year-olds in England, which can be analysed by a raft of background variables, one of which was religious affiliation. The substantial size of the dataset (120,115 interviews, representing a response rate of 40%) makes it of particular interest. A catalogue description, with links to technical and other information, is available at:

SN 7963: Scottish Household Survey, 2013 and SN 7964: Scottish Household Survey, 2014

The Scottish Household Survey, initiated in 1999, is undertaken on behalf of the Scottish Government by a polling consortium led by Ipsos MORI. Information is collected about the composition, characteristics, attitudes, and behaviour of private households and individuals in Scotland; and about the physical condition of their homes. For the 2013 survey (January 2013-February 2014) data were gathered on 10,650 households and 9,920 adults; for 2014 (January 2014-March 2015) on, respectively, 10,630 and 9,800. The specifically religious content of the questionnaire for both years covered: religion belonged to; experience of discrimination or harassment on religious, sectarian, or other grounds; and incidence of volunteering for religious and other groups. Catalogue descriptions for the datasets are available at:

SN 7972: British Election Study, 2015 – Face-to-Face Post-Election Survey

The series of British Election Studies originated in 1963, and the post-election survey for 2015 (there was also an internet panel) was based on face-to-face interviews with a probability sample of 2,987 British electors, 1,567 of whom also filled out a self-completion module. Fieldwork was conducted by GfK NOP between 8 May and 13 September 2015, with funding from the Economic and Social Research Council allocated to a research team at the Universities of Manchester, Oxford, and Nottingham. Respondents were asked whether they regarded themselves as belonging to any religion and, if so, how often they attended religious services other than for rites of passage. These are important background variables for analysing the answers to the recurrent and non-recurrent questions on political and related topics. A catalogue description for the dataset is available at:


Please note: Counting Religion in Britain is © Clive D. Field, 2016


Posted in church attendance, Historical studies, Measuring religion, News from religious organisations, Official data, Religion and Ethnicity, Religion and Politics, Religion in public debate, Religion Online, Religious beliefs, Religious Census, Religious prejudice, Rites of Passage, Survey news | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Church of England Health Check and Other News

Church of England health check

Further to our post of 31 January 2014, we now note the appearance of the second and third instalments of the ‘Church Health Check’ series being run in the Church Times. In the issue for 7 February 2014 (pp. 21-8) there were various essays by academics and insiders focusing on the leadership and structure of the Church of England. Those which had a particularly quantitative dimension were by:

  • Professor Linda Woodhead who examined (pp. 21-2) the Church’s statistics of ministry for 2012, concluding that ‘there are no longer enough troupers left to keep the show on the road, and the show will have to change’ – see further the BRIN post of 24 October 2013 at
  • Professor Leslie Francis who summarized (pp. 26-7) his research into psychological type profiling of Anglican bishops, to determine whether the Church has the right sort of episcopate – see the BRIN post of 30 November 2013 at
  • Professor David Voas who reported (pp. 26-7) on the importance of clergy leadership qualities to church growth, noting ‘there are strong associations between growth and personality type, but none between growth and attendance on leadership courses’ – see the BRIN post of 18 January 2014 at

The same issue of the Church Times also contained (p. 2) two shorter reports quoting further findings from the newspaper’s 2013 readership survey, which attracted 4,620 self-selecting respondents. They revealed that 73% expressed confidence in the leadership of the Archbishop of Canterbury (7% disagreeing), but just 23% had confidence in the General Synod (37% disagreeing and 41% undecided), and 37% in the Archbishops’ Council. Sub-nationally, 69% (71% among laity) had confidence in their local clergy and 63% in their diocesan bishop. On matters of sexual morality, Anglo-Catholics and Broad Anglicans were shown to be more liberally disposed than Evangelicals, suggesting that the Church of England’s internal strife over homosexuality is far from over. Among Evangelicals, 63% disapproved of ordaining practising homosexuals as priests and 65% as bishops, while 75% were opposed to same-sex marriage in church and 51% to the blessing of such relationships. There was more sign of consensus on another historically contested issue (but now with just one final hurdle to clear in July’s General Synod following this week’s debate), that of women bishops, with support running at 76% for Anglo-Catholics, 77% for Evangelicals, and 93% for Broad Anglicans. These two reports are freely available online at:

The third instalment of the ‘Church Health Check’ can be found in the current issue of the Church Times (14 February 2014, pp. 21-7) and is devoted to the social impact of the Church of England. This has a rather limited quantitative element. However, the lead article by Professor Linda Woodhead (pp. 21-2) draws upon her 2013 Westminster Faith Debates surveys to illustrate how people still connect to the Church in ways apart from regular attendance at public worship, while also noting that take-up of all three church-based rites of passage has diminished. Some of the Opinion Research Business polling for the Church of England over the last decade or so is also relevant in this context, a couple of examples of which can be viewed through the Research and Statistics link webpage (which, incidentally, is in desperate need of an overhaul and update to consolidate the archival material) at:

The same issue of the Church Times (p. 3) carries further results from the 2013 readership survey, revealing that 67% of this sub-set of Anglicans are currently involved in some form of unpaid community work (volunteering), with 35% active in two or more fields. Education (19%), local community action (18%), cultural activities (18%), children’s work (12%), and social welfare services (10%) were most frequently mentioned by the self-selecting sample. Volunteering by these clergy and lay churchgoer respondents is said to be at least twice as great as by the population at large, as recorded in Government surveys. See further:,-turn-to-a-churchgoer

Finally, the issue of 14 February 2014 contains a full page (p. 17) printing nine letters from readers in response to the first two instalments of ‘Church Health Check’.

Catholics polled on family life – the sequel

On 8 November 2013 BRIN reported on the Roman Catholic Church’s global consultation of the views of the faithful on family life, including vexed issues such as contraception and same-sex relationships, in preparation for the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family, to be held in the Vatican on 5-19 October 2014. The consultation, by means of a 40-question survey instrument, attracted significant attention, not to say controversy, inside and outside the Catholic Church. It was criticized in some quarters for its inadequate methodology and theologically opaque content, although the Vatican was at pains to point out that it was not an opinion poll and that the Church’s teaching is not determined by majority popular vote.

Notwithstanding, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales took the lead in putting the questionnaire online and received a healthy response (albeit small in relation to the size of the Catholic population). According to the Catholic Herald (7 February 2014, p. 2) and The Tablet (8 February 2014, p. 28), the Conference received some 16,500 completed questionnaires. The bulk of these (12,266) were filled in online, mainly by laity (80%), with 69% being married and 38% parents. One-fifth of respondents were in ‘positions of responsibility within the Church’, including priests, teachers, and pastoral assistants, while 24% were aged under 45 years and 30% 65 and over. The figures exclude 1,163 responses from 57 other countries, which were forwarded to the relevant Church authorities.

In deference to the Vatican, the Conference has declined to publish its report on the results of the English and Welsh consultation in advance of the Extraordinary Synod (as have the bishops in the United States, Canada, and Australia), despite the fact that both the German and the Swiss Bishops’ Conferences have already published their respective national reports, containing a strong message on the need for ‘reform’. It would be surprising if any different message emerged from England and Wales, given that polling of Catholics in Britain during recent years has demonstrated a wide gulf between opinions in the pews and the Magisterium of the Church. Newly-released polling of 12,000 Catholics worldwide (excluding Britain) by Univision (the television network serving Hispanic America) has revealed similar disaffection, with the partial exception of Africa, as have national surveys by Catholic media and institutions in France, Belgium, and The Netherlands. There is a helpful summary of some of this international research in The Tablet for 15 February 2014 (p. 30).

2011 census: Church of Scotland parish profiles

Overseen by Revd Fiona Tweedie, the Statistics for Mission Group of the Church of Scotland has now completed the task of preparing parish profiles of selected data from the 2011 census of population for Scotland. The profiles, which take the form of attractive 12-page PDF documents comprising charts and tables, include details of religious affiliation. They are available to download through the ChurchFinder on the Church of Scotland website (using the ‘Parish statistics’ link from the table of search results) at:

Invisible church

Speaking of the Church of Scotland, Steve Aisthorpe (the Kirk’s Mission Development Worker, North) has recently written an interesting 26-page preliminary report on Investigating the Invisible Church: A Survey of Christians who Do Not Attend Church. It is based on a survey of a random sample of 5,523 people in the Highlands and Islands contacted by telephone in the autumn of 2013, 2,698 of whom gave a short interview. Of these 934 identified themselves as Christians who do not attend church and agreed to take part in a more detailed study, and 430 (46%) eventually completed and returned the online and postal questionnaire, comprising almost 80 items. Critical Research oversaw the recruitment of participants, data entry, and statistical analysis, while funding came from the Church of Scotland’s Mission and Discipleship Council and three other partners. The report is at:

The headline finding from the study was that 44% of the population of the Highlands and Islands, representing some 133,000 individuals, are professing Christians who are not currently engaged with a local congregation, although only 15% had never attended church regularly in the past and 23% had attended for more than 20 years (with a further 27% for more than 10 years). Inevitably, a good proportion of these are ‘cultural Christians’, but a surprisingly large number (50%) scored highly (more than 30 out of 50) on the Hoge Intrinsic Religiosity Scale, which aims to measure the extent to which faith underpins everyday life. Disillusioned respondents may have been with the Church, and their reasons for church-leaving were explored in detail, but 72% were not disappointed with God, with 50% regarding themselves as part of a worldwide Christian community and 41% as on a spiritual quest beyond religious institutions. There was no simplistic partition into ‘sheep’ and ‘goats’ here.

The areas explored in the quantitative phase emerged from a previous qualitative phase in 2012-13, in which 30 Christians not attending a local church were interviewed in depth. The report on this qualitative phase (dated July 2013) is also available at:

Anti-Semitic incidents

The Community Security Trust (CST)’s 32-page Antisemitic Incidents Report, 2013 was published on 6 February 2014. It revealed that the number of such incidents recorded in the United Kingdom in 2013 was, at 529, 18% lower than in 2012 and only just over half the post-1984 high of 931 incidents in 2009. CST believes the fall in anti-Semitism since 2012 to be genuine and to reflect the lack of anti-Jewish ‘trigger events’ in 2013, such as had caused two temporary spikes in 2012. However, CST still reckons there is ‘significant underreporting’ of anti-Semitic incidents both to itself and the police, and that the true figure is considerably higher. Of the 529 recorded incidents in 2013, over three-quarters took place in Greater London and Greater Manchester, with 69 categorized as violent assaults, although none constituted ‘extreme violence’ (amounting to grievous bodily harm or a threat to life). The most common category, with 368 incidents, was of abusive behaviour, including verbal abuse, albeit these were 23% down on 2012. One-quarter of all incidents were assessed as having far right, anti-Israel, or Islamist motivations. In the minority of cases where a physical description of the perpetrator could be obtained, 62% were white and 25% South Asian. The report, including a profile of incidents by category and month for each year from 2003 to 2013, can be read at:

Values profile of Britain

The January 2014 issue of Modern Believing (Vol. 55, No. 1) is a special theme issue, devoted to ‘What British People Really Think’, and guest-edited by Professor Linda Woodhead. Using data from a variety of sources, but especially from her January and June 2013 YouGov polls for the Westminster Faith Debates, it depicts what the British think about abortion (pp. 7-14); women bishops (pp. 15-26); same-sex marriage (pp. 27-38); euthanasia (pp. 39-48); God, religion, and authority (pp. 49-58); and society, politics, and religious institutions (pp. 59-67). There is also an introduction (pp. 1-5) and conclusion (‘A Values Profile of Britain’, pp. 69-74) by Woodhead. Non-subscribers to the journal, and non-members of subscribing institutions, may struggle to access these articles. The new publisher (Liverpool University Press) does not appear to be offering the option to buy a print copy of this special issue only, while downloads cost an eye-watering £25 per (shortish) article via the following link:

POSTSCRIPT [18 February 2014] BRIN has now ascertained that single copies of this entire issue can be purchased for £15.00, more cost-effective than the article download option. To order a copy, contact

Faith under fire

Do soldiers turn to God when they are on the front line? Some provisional answers to this question are apparently contained in a postgraduate thesis submitted to the Cardiff Centre for Chaplaincy Studies by Revd Peter King, who was chaplain to the Queen’s Royal Hussars during a bloody tour to Helmand province between October 2011 and April 2012, during which 23 British soldiers were killed and dozens more severely wounded. The research was featured in The Sunday Times, 9 February 2014, Main Section, p. 20 in an article by the newspaper’s defence correspondent, Mark Hookham. King surveyed more than 200 men in his 400-strong battle group, finding that 80% professed some religion and 63% reported that they were more likely to frequent religious services while on operations than when in barracks. An Easter service held by King in a cookhouse in Afghanistan had been attended by about 100 men, of whom one-quarter received Holy Communion. Almost half (46%) of the soldiers interviewed by King said they had prayed in Afghanistan, and the same proportion carried or wore a symbol of faith. An awareness of the presence of God had been felt by 17%, and a few even described a religious experience at the front.

POSTSCRIPT [7 April 2014]: The research has now been published as Peter King, ‘Faith in a Foxhole? Researching Combatant Religiosity amongst British Soldiers on Contemporary Operations’, Defence Academy Yearbook, 2013, pp. 2-10, freely available online at:



Posted in church attendance, News from religious organisations, Religion and Politics, Religion and Social Capital, Religion in the Press, Religious Census, Survey news | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Discrimination, Identity, and Other News

The eight stories in today’s post feature a range of topics, but religious discrimination and religious identity especially stand out. It should be noted that the latest statistical bulletin for the Government’s Integrated Household Survey, covering the calendar year 2012 and published on 3 October 2013, did not report on the religious identity question.

Religious discrimination (1)

Perceived discrimination against Muslims has increased during the past three years, but they are still not the group most discriminated against in British society; that unenviable position is thought to be occupied by people with mental health problems, followed by gypsies, transsexuals, and immigrants. This is according to a YouGov poll published on 2 October 2013 and undertaken online on 29-30 September among a sample of 1,717 adult Britons. Interviewees were shown a list of groups and asked how much discrimination they thought each suffered in Britain today, the percentages replying ‘a lot’ or ‘some’ being combined in the table below, with comparisons for January 2011 (where available). Twelve of the 15 groups covered in both surveys were believed to have suffered more discrimination over the three years, only Christians and white persons experiencing a reduction, with no change for atheists (who were the group considered to be least discriminated against). Perceived discrimination against Muslims is now 32% more than against Christians, compared with a gap of 22% in 2011. Discrimination against Jews is believed to be up by one-third.

























Ginger haired












Mentally ill















Working class



The data table for the survey can be found at:

Religious discrimination (2)

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has recently published Identity, Expression, and Self-Respect, Briefing Paper No. 9 in its Measurement Framework series, with some accompanying data in Excel format. The paper considers five indicators in detail, the first of which is freedom to practice one’s religion or belief, which is quantified from the 2010 Citizenship Survey (CS) for England and Wales and from HM Inspectorate of Prisons statistics. In the CS 93% of adults overall felt able to practice their religion freely, but somewhat fewer among the under-45s, several ethnic minorities, and Muslims and Sikhs (for detail, see pp. 17-18 and the table accompanying measure El1.1). Breaks by religion are also sometimes shown in connection with the secondary analysis of data for the other four indicators. The briefing paper and tables are at:

Under a veil

The recent public and media debate about whether Muslim women should be permitted to wear the full face-veil or niqab started in connection with specific cases involving courtrooms and colleges. In canvassing popular opinion on the matter, ComRes therefore decided to take the prohibition of the veil in courts, schools, and colleges as ‘a given’, and to ask respondents whether female Muslims should otherwise be free to wear the veil. One-half (including 61% of over-65s and Conservatives, and 79% of UKIP supporters) thought the veil should not be worn even outside courts, schools, and colleges, and just 32% that it should be. The poll was undertaken by telephone for the Independent on Sunday and Sunday Mirror on 18 and 19 September 2013, among 2,003 Britons aged 18 and over, and the data can be found on pp. 113-16 of the tables posted at:

Religious identity (1)

Details of the religious self-identification of the UK’s regular armed forces personnel as at 1 April 2013 were published by the Ministry of Defence on 26 September 2013 in Table 2.01.09 of the 2013 edition of Statistical Series 2 – Personnel Bulletin 2.01. Although the proportion professing no religion has risen steadily, from 9.5% in 2007 to 16.4% today, the overwhelming majority of our service personnel continue to subscribe to some faith, and invariably (81.7% in 2013) to Christianity. Profession of no religion is highest in the Navy (22.3%) and lowest in the Army (13.5%), with 18.7% in the Royal Air Force. Non-Christians are under-represented in relation to society as a whole, which is probably mainly a reflection of the ethnic profile of the armed services. The full table is at:

Religious identity (2)

In our coverage of the 2011 Scottish religion census on 28 September 2013, reference was made to potential comparisons with national sample surveys of religious self-identification in Scotland. By way of example, we show below a ten-year percentage comparison from the Scottish Household Survey (SHS), which employs a larger than average sample. The 2012 data are extracted from p. 13 of the 2012 edition of Scotland’s People (published on 28 August 2013), those for 2001-02 from the dataset accessible via the UK Data Service (applying the random adult sample weights). Although the question asked is identical to that in the census (‘what religion, religious denomination, or body do you belong to?’), these statistics refer to adults only and are thus not directly comparable to the initial census results (which are for all ages). The SHS figures also omit non-responses (because the dataset for 2012 is not yet available). The general direction of travel, of course, is similar to the changes seen in the census between 2001 and 2011, with a big increase in the number of Scots professing no religion and a large decrease in support for the Church of Scotland.




No religion



Church of Scotland



Roman Catholic



Other Christian






Scottish marriages

Section 7 of Vital Events Reference Tables, 2012 [for Scotland], published by the General Register Office for Scotland on 27 August 2013, contains three tables dealing with Scottish marriages which will be of interest to BRIN readers:

  • Table 7.5 lists the number of marriages solemnized by celebrants from 50 different religious and belief traditions for each year between 2002 and 2012. The key stories are the steep fall in marriages conducted by the Church of Scotland (down by 50% over this period) and the Methodist Church (down by 70%) and the rapid growth in ceremonies conducted by the Humanist Society Scotland since they were legalized in 2005; by 2012 they had overtaken Roman Catholic marriages and were closing fast on the Church of Scotland.
  • Table 7.6 lists the number of civil and religious marriages (the latter disaggregated by Church of Scotland, Roman Catholic, and other religions) for each year between 1961 and 2012 and each quinquennium between 1946-50 and 2006-10. Whereas civil marriages represented only 17% of the total in 1946-50, by 2006-10 the figure stood at 52%.
  • Table 7.7 lists marriages by ‘denomination’ for 2012, when 51% were civil, 18% Church of Scotland, 10% Humanist Society Scotland, and 6% Roman Catholic.

The tables can be found at:

Time use

Since the earliest days of sample surveys, it has been evident that interviewees have a tendency to overstate their recalled religious activities. This is no more so than in the case of churchgoing where claimed attendance can exceed by a factor of two the totals arrived at by actual censuses of public worship. Steve Bruce and Tony Glendinning of the University of Aberdeen have sought to illustrate the point by repurposing diary data from English respondents (aged 16 and over) to the UK Time Use Survey, 2000-01, which was conducted by the Office for National Statistics. Participants, who were drawn from a random sample of households, were required to record their main and secondary activities for each 10-minute period on the day in question, which included Sundays (3,317 individuals appear to have completed Sunday diaries). Bruce and Glendinning’s methodology and findings are contained in a four-page report on The Extent of Religious Activity in England, which is being disseminated by Brierley Consultancy, an abridged version of which appears in the October 2013 issue of FutureFirst (contact to obtain copies of either or both versions). The authors conclude as follows:

‘There is little religion of any form practised, public or private. Less than 11% of adults in England engage in any religious activity whatsoever (including personal prayers and meditation and consuming mass media religious programming) of any duration at any point during a typical week. Only 8.25% of adults engage in any episodes of communal practice in the company of others. Less than 7% attend church on a Sunday. Read the other way round – 7% going to church on Sunday, 8% doing some communal religion and 11% doing any religion at all – these data offer little support for the claim that the decline of conventional churchgoing has been offset by an increase in alternative religious activities.’ Of course, it must be remembered that the survey embodied a snapshot of religious activity on the day the diary was completed, and that those who do not engage in such activity on one Sunday may do so on another.

Fossil free churches

This item is not a politically incorrect reference to the age or traditionalism of churchgoers but to a new campaign by Operation Noah (an ecumenical Christian climate change charity) to encourage churches (particularly the Church of England) to disinvest in companies seeking expansion in fossil fuel reserves. The campaign, and its accompanying report (Bright Now: Towards Fossil Free Churches), was launched on 20 September 2013 and underpinned by data from Christian Research’s Resonate panel, 1,520 churchgoers replying to its August 2013 omnibus. Although more than nine out of ten churchgoers agree that churches should invest their money ethically, the majority does not see climate change as a key issue relative to other priorities (such as women bishops). In the case of Anglicans, 63% want the Church of England to take the lead in addressing man-made climate change, yet only one-quarter supports the Church disinvesting in companies extracting fossil fuels. As with most Resonate polls, full data are not in the public domain, but Operation Noah’s press release can be read at:





Posted in church attendance, News from religious organisations, Official data, Religion and Politics, Religion in public debate, Rites of Passage, Survey news | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Faith Schools and Other News

Seven religious statistical stories feature in today’s post, including five newly-released YouGov polls, four touching on aspects of religious prejudice, and leading with a major study of attitudes to faith schools.

Faith schools

In our post of 2 September 2013, we referred to new research into faith schools commissioned by Professor Linda Woodhead in connection with the Westminster Faith Debates. It was undertaken on her behalf by YouGov, 4,018 Britons aged 18 and over being interviewed online between 5 and 13 June 2013. That research was published on 19 September, in the form of a press release on the Religion and Society website and the data tables on the YouGov website. Some fascinating results emerged, which, as the press release indicated, will offer ‘little comfort for either those who defend or those who oppose faith schools’. Findings include the following:

  • Only 32% believe the Government should fund faith schools generally, 18-24s being most supportive (43%), with 45% opposed, peaking at 57% in Scotland (where the existence of Catholic schools has often been a matter of controversy), and 23% undecided
  • Government funding of any type of faith school fails to find majority support, but opposition is notably lowest for Anglican schools (38%) and greatest for Islamic schools (60%) – hostility to Hindu and Jewish schools (59% and 55% respectively) is also high, but falls to 43% for Christian schools other than Anglican
  • Only 24% would choose a faith school for their own child, the proportion not exceeding 30% in any demographic sub-group, with 59% being unlikely to do so (peaking at 77% in Scotland)
  • Academic standards (77%), location (58%), and discipline record (41%) are the major factors in choice of school – just 5% attach importance to grounding of a pupil in a faith tradition and 3% to transmission of belief about God, and no more than 23% cite ethical values
  • A plurality (49%) finds it acceptable that faith schools should have admission policies which give preference to children and families who profess or practice the religion with which the school is associated (with 38% deeming it unacceptable, ranging from 31% of women to 51% of Scots)
  • Just 23% (never exceeding 28% in any demographic sub-group) agree that all faith schools should have to admit a proportion of pupils from a different religion or none at all, while 11% think it better for faith schools to admit pupils only of the same faith and 30% that schools should determine their own admissions policies

Analysing the factors which determine favourability to faith schools, Woodhead found strength of belief in God to be the most significant. When it came to attitudes to non-Christian faith schools, an insular (as opposed to a cosmopolitan) outlook was a key influence. In general, while there was some age effect, gender, social grade, and voting intentions appeared to make little difference to opinion.

The press release can be found at:

and the data tables (with breaks confined to gender, age, social grade, region and voting intention) at:

Y-word in football

Yid is slang for a Jew, deriving from Yiddish. On 9 September 2013 the Football Association (FA), which is ‘cracking down’ on undesirable behaviour in football, issued a governance statement about what it described as the ‘y-word’, concluding that ‘the use of the term “Yid” is likely to be considered offensive by the reasonable observer’ and encouraging football fans ‘to avoid using it in any situation’. The statement was clearly directed at Tottenham Hotspur Football Club (the ‘Spurs’) which historically had many Jewish supporters. In consequence, its fans often still describe themselves as ‘Yids’ or as belonging to ‘the Yid Army’, and the team’s opponents, in turn, call Spurs supporters ‘Yids’. The FA’s statement has led to controversy and debate, in which even the Prime Minister has become involved.

To test public opinion on the topic, YouGov questioned 1,878 British adults aged 18 and over online on 18 and 19 September 2013. Although three-fifths of those interested in football felt that it was acceptable for Tottenham fans to use the y-word in describing themselves, fewer (46%) of the sample as a whole agreed (with 26% disagreeing and 28% undecided). One-quarter contended that such self-description encouraged anti-Jewish abuse, albeit one-fifth argued the contrary, suggesting that anti-Jewish abuse was actually discouraged by reclaiming the y-word as a positive. A plurality (41%) deemed it unacceptable for Spurs’ opponents to call Tottenham fans ‘Yids’, but people interested in football were more inclined to tolerate use of the word in this context (47%) than Britons overall (34%). Roughly half of both the public and those interested in football seemed to approve of the FA’s intervention in the matter, but 34% thought there were other (implicitly more important) issues for the FA to focus on, UKIP voters (56%) particularly subscribing to this view. Data tables were published on 20 September at:‘Yid-Army’-results-190913.pdf

By way of footnote, some BRIN readers may be interested to know that a forthcoming exhibition tells the story of Jews and football in Britain. Entitled Four Four Jew: Football, Fans, and Faith, it runs at the Jewish Museum in London from 10 October 2013 to 23 February 2014.

Banning the burka (1)

Recent high-profile cases, involving courts and a college, have reignited the controversy surrounding Islamic women’s dress, the debate having now spilled over into other arenas such as hospitals. The specific point at issue has been the desirability of permitting the wearing of the full face veil or niqab in public, but The Sun commissioned YouGov to run a poll about the burka (a whole-body garment) more generally, 1,792 Britons aged 18 and over being interviewed online on 16 and 17 September 2013. Three-fifths (61%) supported a total ban on the burka in Britain, 5% less than in April 2011, while 32% were opposed to such a prohibition and 8% undecided. The strongest backing for a ban came from UKIP voters (93%), the over-60s (76%), and Conservatives (71%), with the 18-24s (55%), Liberal Democrats (46%), and Scots (42%) most hostile. Opposition to a ban effectively increased when the question was asked in a more roundabout way, 38% agreeing with the proposition that people should be allowed to wear whatever clothing they want in public, including the burka, 54% being in disagreement. At the same time, many respondents wanted officials and employers to have discretion to ban the burka in specific locations: 86% at security checkpoints, 83% in courtrooms (for defendants), 79% in courtrooms (for witnesses), 68% in schools and colleges, and 63% in universities and the workplace. Full data tables were published on 18 September 2013 at:

Banning the burka (2)

YouGov’s polling for The Sunday Times, conducted online on 19-20 September 2013 and published on 22 September, was more nuanced, differentiating between the burka, the niqab, and the hijab (a headscarf which does not cover the face). Whereas two-thirds of the 1,956 respondents supported a ban in Britain on both the burka and the niqab, with fewer than one-quarter disagreeing, only 25% opposed the wearing of the hijab (with 65% against its prohibition). Rather more (76%) wanted schools to be allowed to ban their students from wearing burkas or niqabs, and 81% wanted hospitals to be permitted to ban their staff from wearing the garments. Referring to the recent court case involving a female defendant with a veil, just 6% thought she should be allowed to wear it throughout the entire trial; 54% favoured removal of the veil in court at all times and a further 35% while the woman was giving evidence. The usual demographic variations can be seen in the answers to all these questions, with UKIP and Conservative voters and the over-60s least sympathetic to Islamic dress, and the under-40s (especially), Londoners, and Scots disproportionately more tolerant. The data tables are at:

Churchgoers and evolution

A non-random and disproportionately northern ‘convenience sample’ of 1,100 attenders at 132 Protestant churches, who completed questionnaires in 2009, is used by Andrew Village and Sylvia Baker to examine ‘Rejection of Darwinian Evolution among Churchgoers in England: The Effects of Psychological Type’, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Vol. 52, No. 3, September 2013, pp. 557-72. The principal conclusions are set out in the abstract: ‘The main predictors of rejecting evolution were denominational affiliation and attendance. Individuals from Pentecostal or evangelical denominations were twice as likely to reject evolution compared with those from Anglican or Methodist churches. In all denominations, higher attendance was associated with greater rejection of evolution. Education in general, and theological education in particular, had some effect on reducing rejection, but this was not dependent on having specifically scientific or biological educational qualifications. Psychological type preferences for sensing over intuition and for thinking over feeling also predicted greater rejection, after allowing for the association of type preferences and general religiosity.’ For options to access the article, go to:

Ecumenism in Scotland

A report on ecumenical activity at congregational level has been prepared by the Church of Scotland’s Committee on Ecumenical Relations and the Ministries Council, based on research carried out in February-March 2013. A questionnaire was sent to all the Kirk’s parishes of which 823 (over half) replied online or by post, a significant minority of which recorded the absence of any other denomination in the parish. Where there was a presence, Roman Catholic, Scottish Episcopal and Baptist churches and independent fellowships were thickest on the ground. However, in practice working relationships were closest (in terms of frequent ecumenical contacts) with the United Reformed Church, followed by the Scottish Episcopal Church, Congregational Federation, and Salvation Army. The commonest inter-denominational activities involving Church of Scotland parishes were the World Day of Prayer, Holy Week services, Christian Aid Week, and Week of Prayer for Christian Unity services. Only a minority of parishes belonged to a local Churches Together Group/Council of Churches (43%) or to an ecumenical ministers’ meeting (48%), but it could have been that none existed locally in some cases. The ‘deepest’ forms of collaboration were inevitably limited, just 6% of congregations sharing their building with another denomination, 3% being in a covenanted partnership with a congregation from another denomination, and 1% having involved an ecumenical partner in the appointment of a minister. More Church of Scotland parishes (70%) detailed hindrances to ecumenical working than identified benefits (60%). Further information about the research can be obtained from Very Rev Dr Sheilagh Kesting at SKESTING@COFSCOTLAND.ORG.UK

Ghosts and UFOs

A majority of Britons (52%) believe that some people have experienced ghosts but fewer (38%) think that some individuals have witnessed UFOs with an extra-terrestrial origin. This is according to a YouGov poll conducted online among a sample of 2,286 adult Britons aged 18 and over between 28 and 30 August 2013, on behalf of the Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena (ASSAP) and published by ASSAP on 17 September 2013 (following a preview in the Sunday Telegraph for 15 September, p. 3). Disregarding inevitable variations in question-wording, belief in ghosts appears to have risen over time (see the tabulation of previous data at, and it is especially prevalent among women (62% in the ASSAP survey), the separated/divorced (64%), and residents of the East Midlands (66%). Belief in UFOs is highest in the North-East (50%). Disbelievers in ghosts number 34% and in UFOs 45%, peaking among full-time students at 50% and 61% respectively, with 14% and 17% of adults unsure. The data tables are at:


Posted in church attendance, News from religious organisations, Religion and Politics, Religion in public debate, Survey news | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Muslim Distinctiveness and Other News

Today’s round-up of eight religious statistical news stories leads on the first substantive output from an important and academic-led four-year-old sample survey of British Muslims.

Muslim distinctiveness

The distinctiveness of British Muslims is explored in a short but highly significant article by Valerie Lewis and Ridhi Kashyap, ‘Are Muslims a Distinctive Minority? An Empirical Analysis of Religiosity, Social Attitudes, and Islam’, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Vol. 52, No. 3, September 2013, pp. 617-26. Data derive from face-to-face interviews by Ipsos MORI with a sample of 480 British Muslims between January and May 2009; and from face-to-face interviews by NatCen with samples of Britons of other religious persuasions (n = 2,457) and none (n = 1,903) from the contemporaneous British Social Attitudes Survey. Muslims were found to be more religious than other Britons in terms of beliefs, practices (public and private), and salience. They were also more socially conservative on a range of topics: gender roles in the home, divorce, premarital sex, abortion, homosexuality, and same-sex marriage. In terms of premarital sex and homosexuality, an independent effect of Islam was documented; on other social issues Muslim attitudes tended to resemble those of other religious people. Indeed, more generally, multivariate analysis revealed that much of the difference on socio-moral opinions was due to socio-economic disadvantage and high religiosity, both factors which – Lewis and Kashyap argue – predict social conservatism among all Britons and not just Muslims. The distinctiveness of Muslims, therefore, may not be as great as it superficially seems. It should be noted that no weights were applied to the Muslim data, and that there are several caveats from the authors concerning the representative nature of the Muslim sample (including a high rate of non-response). For access options for this article, go to:

Civic core

Two-thirds of all charitable activity (charitable donations and volunteering) in this country is attributable to just 9% of its citizens (the ‘civic core’). This is according to a report published by the Charities Aid Foundation on 13 September 2013 and entitled Britain’s Civic Core: Who are the People Powering Britain’s Charities? A further 67% of individuals account for the remaining 34% of charitable activity (the so-called ‘middle ground’), while 24% of the population undertake little or no charitable activity (‘zero givers’). Members of the ‘civic core’ have the greatest interest (37%) in supporting religious organizations (including places of worship), with ‘zero givers’ showing the least (10%); among the ‘middle ground’ the proportion is 20%. This trend reflects the fact that the ‘civic core’ is disproportionately composed of women, the over-65s, and people from professional/managerial backgrounds – precisely those groups most inclined to be involved with organized religion. The data derive from an online survey of 2,027 Britons aged 18 and over conducted by ComRes on 31 July and 1 August 2013, and the report is available at:

Full data tables for the poll were released by ComRes on 16 September. Table 21 provides breaks for interest in religious organizations by gender, age, social grade, employment sector, region, ethnicity, and the monetary value of volunteering and charitable donations. Table 64 gives details about volunteering for religious organizations during the past year among the sub-group of respondents who have given practical help to a social cause. Table 89 records self-assigned ‘membership’ of religious groups (56% Christian, 8% non-Christian, 34% none). Unfortunately, religious affiliation is not used in this set of tables as a variable to analyse answers to all the other questions about charitable disposition and activity. The data tables are at:


The Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales reported on 2 September 2013 that the number of confessions (Sacrament of Reconciliation) is rising at many of its cathedrals. Twenty-two cathedrals were contacted by telephone or email on 21 August, of which 20 replied. Overall, 65% (i.e. 13 cathedrals) noted an increase in confessions, mostly attributing it to a ‘papal effect’ (either the visit to Britain of Pope Benedict XVI in 2010, the inauguration of Pope Francis I in 2013, or both), while the remaining 35% (7 cathedrals) said confessions were ‘steady’ or ‘normal’. Actual statistics of those confessing were not cited by the Church, and it is possible that they constitute a relatively small proportion of professing Catholics. The Church’s press release is at:

The story was picked up by all the UK’s Catholic newspapers and by the Church Times, including a particularly upbeat report and leader in the Catholic Herald. Responding to the latter, in a letter to the editor published in the Catholic Herald for 13 September 2013 (p. 13), Anthony Hofler of Wolverhampton was in little doubt from his own experience that confession is falling out of fashion among Catholics, except, relatively, at Christmas and Easter. Undaunted, the front page of the same edition of the Catholic Herald highlighted responses by 32 priests to a survey about a three-year-long initiative in the Diocese of Lancaster to boost the uptake of confessions, apparently also with encouraging results. Significantly, again, no hard data were cited in this report, and none currently appear on the websites of the diocese or the diocesan newspaper, Catholic Voice.

With regard to the ‘papal bounce’, as already noted by BRIN in our post of 28 January 2012, average weekly Mass attendance was actually lower after the papal visit in 2010 than before. And, in gearing up for its Home Mission Sunday (which took place on 15 September 2013), the Church itself conceded there are ‘four million baptised Catholics who rarely or never attend Mass’ in England and Wales.


Recent public divisions about fracking within the Church of England and other Christian groups are evidenced in new research briefly reported in the latest issue of Christian Research’s monthly ezine, Research Brief, which was emailed to subscribers on 6 September 2013:


‘Our Resonate August omnibus, completed by 1.520 Resonate panellists, revealed that two-thirds of practising Christians regard it as valid that the church should derive income from mineral rights on property it owns (marginally higher support amongst church leaders). More than 2 in 5 regular churchgoers felt that the church should be able to profit from shale gas reserves located under land it owns, 1 in 3 were uncertain and 1 in 4 objected (to some degree). Interestingly, men (significantly so) and Londoners agreed more strongly than others. The results see-sawed the other way, 1 in 3 opposed and 1 in 5 in favour, if the land was dwelt on.’

University students’ religion

On 27 April 2013 BRIN provided preliminary coverage of research into English university students and Christianity, undertaken by a team led by Mathew Guest of Durham University, with funding from the AHRC/ESRC Religion and Society Programme. A major aim of the project, which collected data via online questionnaires completed by 4,341 undergraduates in 2010-11 and via in-depth interviews, was to test empirically the widespread assumption that higher education is a force for secularization. Full details of the findings were published on 12 September 2013 in Mathew Guest, Kristin Aune, Sonya Sharma and Rob Warner, Christianity and the University Experience: Understanding Student Faith (Bloomsbury Academic, ISBN 9781780937847, paperback, £19.99 – also available in hardback and ebook editions). The volume was reviewed by Gerald Pillay in Times Higher Education on 12 September 2013. Guest has also contributed a substantial article about the research – entitled ‘What Really Happens at University?’ – to Church Times, 13 September 2013, pp. 27-8.

Scottish religious affiliation

The results from the religion question in the 2011 census of population for Scotland are still not available (they are expected to be included in release 2A of the census data on 26 September 2013). Meanwhile, we can note the religious affiliation question from the latest Scottish Social Attitudes Survey (SSAS), conducted by ScotCen Social Research among 1,229 residents of Scotland aged 18 and over between July and November 2012. The marginals on the UK Data Service Nesstar site show that a majority of Scots (52%) now regard themselves as belonging to no religion, compared with 40% when SSAS commenced in 1999. A further 22% regard themselves as Church of Scotland (35% in 1999), 11% as Catholics (15%), 12% as other Christians (10%), and 2% as non-Christians (1%). This ‘belonging’ form of question-wording is known to maximize the number of religious ‘nones’, and a similar formulation is used in the Scottish census (‘what religion, religious denomination or body do you belong to?’). Claimed attendance at religious services (other than rites of passage) in the 2012 SSAS was 19% at least monthly, including 12% weekly or more often. These figures are down on 1999 levels (27% and 17% respectively) but are probably still aspirational to a considerable degree. The latest Scottish church attendance census, conducted by Christian Research on 12 May 2002, revealed a weekly participation rate of 11%, with no deduction for ‘twicing’.

Churchgoing in the Presbytery of Dunfermline

As noted in the previous entry, there has been no Scottish church attendance census since 2002. Nor does the Church of Scotland – as the ‘national church’ – routinely collect attendance data (in the way that the Church of England has since 1968). So there is added interest to annual churchgoing counts organized in the Church of Scotland’s Presbytery of Dunfermline since 2009, the latest on 17 and 24 March 2013. Through the kindness of Allan Vint, summary data for the Presbytery’s 24 congregations have been made available to BRIN. Total attendance in 2013 was 2,493, 4% down on the 2012 total and 14% on 2009. Attendees comprised 34% men and 66% women; 9% children, 3% teenagers, and 88% adults (with an average adult age of 63, up by four years since 2009).

Baby names

Biblical forenames remain fashionable for Jewish boys, according to a list compiled by the Jewish Baby Directory website. Analysing around 1,000 birth announcements in the Jewish Chronicle, Samuel was found to be first equal in the list of boys’ names for the Jewish year September 2012 to September 2013, with Jacob and Joshua joint third, Joseph joint fifth, and Benjamin, Ethan, Nathan and Noah in joint eleventh position. The attraction of female biblical names was less strong, with Leah in fourth place, Rachel in ninth, and Rebecca in eleventh equal. Previously popular biblical names for girls, such as Sarah and Naomi, failed to make it to the top twenty. The rankings are at:


Posted in Attitudes towards Religion, church attendance, News from religious organisations, Religion and Social Capital, Survey news | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Same-Sex Relationships and the Ministry

The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland voted on Monday to continue dialogue on same-sex relationships and the ministry following consideration of the report on the subject by a Special Commission appointed in 2009.

After several hours of debate, the Kirk’s commissioners voted by 351 to 294 to adopt deliverance 7B, which means a move towards the acceptance for training, induction and ordination for the ministry of those in same-sex relationships.

The Assembly also voted, by 393 to 252, to allow ministers and deacons in same-sex relationships who had been ordained before 2009 to be inducted into pastoral charges.

Homosexuality in the ministry has been, and remains, a hugely contentious issue in the Church of Scotland (as it is, of course, in the Church of England).

The extent of division of opinion in Scotland became readily apparent from a consultation conducted by the Special Commission at two levels of the courts of the Church: Presbyteries and Kirk Sessions. Formal ballot papers were used for this purpose. It should be noted that there was no survey of rank-and-file members of the Church.

1,237 responses were received from Kirk Sessions, representing 86% of congregations. The total membership of these Sessions was 34,438, of whom 22,342 (65%) took part in the discussion meetings.

Responses were submitted by all 43 Presbyteries within Scotland and by the Presbyteries of England and Europe. The total membership of these 45 Presbyteries was 4,309, of whom 2,624 (61%) participated in the discussion meetings.

The statistical outcomes of the consultation are summarized in section 2 of the report of the Special Commission, with a four-way analysis of the answers for each of the questions on the ballot paper: by individual members of Kirk Sessions, Kirk Sessions as a whole, individual members of Presbyteries, and Presbyteries as a whole. A commentary on the findings then follows in section 3. The document is available at:

The Special Commission has also published the full figures from the consultation for both Presbyteries and Kirk Sessions (in the latter case, anonymized within Presbytery). These Excel files will be found at:

The questions posed were generally lengthy and complex, and it is not really possible to do justice to the data here.

Suffice it to say, however, that, while only a fairly small proportion of respondents (9% of members of Kirk Sessions and 11% of Presbyteries) both regarded homosexual orientation as a disorder and homosexual behaviour as sinful, many of those who accepted homosexuality as a given disapproved of homosexual behaviour in practice.

Moreover, 56% of members of Kirk Sessions and 58% of Presbyteries opposed the ordination as minister of a person in a same-sex relationship. 45% and 48% respectively were hostile to such a person exercising some other leadership role in the Church.

About one-fifth of both groups of members of these church courts said they might leave the Church of Scotland if the General Assembly allowed people in committed same-sex relationships to be ordained. 15% in each said they would secede if such people were appointed to other leadership positions.

At the same time, the Church of Scotland really is between a rock and a hard place, since 8% of members of Kirk Sessions and 6% of Presbyteries indicated that they would leave if the General Assembly forbade the ordination of individuals in committed same-sex relationships.

Posted in News from religious organisations, Survey news | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Scottish Kirk Statistics, 2010

The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the supreme court of the Kirk, is meeting in Edinburgh from 21 to 27 May.

On the agenda is the report of the Legal Questions Committee, which includes (at appendices J-L) the statistical returns for the Church as at 31 December 2010. Disaggregated to presbytery level, they are freely available at:

Unsurprisingly, the data reveal that the Church of Scotland is continuing to experience numerical decline, in common with most other mainstream Christian denominations in Great Britain.

This is true in respect of very short-term change, between 2009 and 2010, and of medium-term change, over the decade 2001-10 (comparative congregational figures are given for each year back to 1999 and ministerial ones from 2005).

For example, there were 25% fewer communicants (the principal criterion of membership of the Church) in 2010 than in 2001, with an even larger decrease (of 44%) in total admissions (by profession, certificate or resolution) to the roll of communicants.

Communicants in 2010 stood at 445,646, a far cry from the 1,319,574 of 1956, the peak year following the amalgamation of the Church of Scotland and part of the United Free Church of Scotland in 1929.

There were 18,709 fewer communicants in 2010 than in 2009, according to the comparative table in appendix K (although elsewhere the decrease is variously stated as 14,046 and 14,681), a loss of 4% in the space of twelve months.

Especially worthy of note is that the number of deaths (11,454) far exceeded the 1,928 admitted by profession during the year, the latter figure being not much more than half the total in 1999.

Besides communicants, there were 69,158 children and young people aged 17 and under and 17,684 persons aged 18 and over but not communicants who were involved in congregational life in 2010.

Overall, therefore, the Church’s constituency amounted to 532,488 individuals, about 10% of the Scottish population (which is still rather better than the Church of England’s reach in England).

As for the rites of passage, there were 5,787 baptisms in 2010, 37% less than in 2001. Of these, 7% were of adults. There were 5,048 weddings in 2010 and 28,046 funerals.

Assuming that all Church of Scotland communicants who died in 2010 had a funeral service according to the rites of the Kirk, then three-fifths of all funerals conducted by ministers of the Church must have been of non-communicants.   

This would suggest a high degree of Church of Scotland nominalism, which is borne out by opinion polls of religious affiliation in Scotland.

There were 1,441 congregations in 2010, 7% fewer than in 2001. There were 1,134 ministerial charges, of which 17% were vacant (somewhat worse than the 14% in 2005). Just 15 ministerial students completed courses in 2010. Of the 939 home ministers in 2010, 23% were women, 4% more than in 2005.

There were 36,519 church elders in 2010, up from 36,215 in 2009, but 16% fewer than in 2001. Whereas 49% of elders were women, females accounted for 66% of the 9,609 office-bearers other than elders.

Posted in News from religious organisations | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment