We reported earlier in the year (http://www.brin.ac.uk/news/?p=151) on the statistics of religious affiliation in the armed forces collected by the Defence Analytical Services and Advice (DASA) section of the Ministry of Defence and annually published online in UK Defence Statistics.
The 2010 edition of UK Defence Statistics has been published by DASA today and is available in a variety of formats through its website at: http://www.dasa.mod.uk/. Table 2.13 presents the religious profession of the services at 1 April 2010, with comparisons for 2007-09.
Excluding the 1.4% of regular armed forces personnel whose religion was not recorded, the number of self-identifying Christians in 2010 is 85.9%, a reduction of almost four points on the 2007 figure of 89.8%.
However, there are still more Christians in the forces than in Great Britain as a whole, for which the figure stood at 71.4% in the 2009-10 Integrated Household Survey (IHS). The proportion is highest in the Army (88.2%), followed by the Royal Air Force (84.0%) and Royal Navy (81.6%).
Non-Christian religions account for only 1.5% of the armed services, far less than the 8.2% recorded in the IHS. This is probably mainly explained by the ethnic profile of the forces. Although the number of BMEs has been steadily increasing of late, there still appear to be relatively few Asians (see Tables 2.9 and 2.10).
In particular, the representation of Muslims in the services, at 0.3%, is well below the 4.2% found in the IHS. Their strongest showing is in the Army (0.5%). Their scarcity is unsurprising, given the hostility of many in the Muslim community to Britain’s military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Those professing no religion have increased from 9.5% in 2007 to 12.6% in 2010, which is again less than the IHS figure of 20.5%. They are much more likely to be found in the Royal Navy (17.7%) and Royal Air Force (15.2%) than in the Army (9.8%).
Thus, our service personnel remain nominally more religious than the rest of us. This probably reflects their desire to have a spiritual ‘insurance policy’ in the event of the worst happening on active service, as well as the embedding of religion through a strong chaplaincy network.