Welcome to 2013

Welcome to 2013! All of us at BRIN wish our readers every success and happiness in the New Year. We thank you for using our website (there have been over 360,000 page views to date). We sincerely hope that not many of you are triskaidekaphobic (afraid of the number 13), for it will doubtless seem a very long twelve months to you. We cover the phenomenon in the first item of our latest round-up of religious statistical news, which summarizes stories that have come to hand over the festive period.


Britons remain a fairly superstitious lot, and apprehension about the number 13 is still quite widespread. We have already reported (in our post of 23 August 2012) that, even that far back, 8% of adults feared that the New Year would not be a good one for them because it contains the number 13 in the date. It presents particular challenges for drivers, as David Millward’s article in the Daily Telegraph on Boxing Day reminded us: ‘Unlucky 13 Plate Risks Driving Superstitious Motorists Away’. The story concerned discussions taking place between car manufacturers and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency about how they will cope with the number 13 registration plate for new vehicles, which comes into force in March and remains so until August, when the plate changes to 63.

The story is not new. The Automobile Association (AA) had got there first when it published, on 14 August 2012, a press release based on online interviews with 20,029 AA members aged 18 and over from the AA/Populus panel, conducted between 19 and 26 July 2012. The survey revealed that one-tenth of AA members were sufficiently superstitious themselves to suggest it best to avoid buying a new car with an ‘unlucky 13’ number plate. Disproportionately, they were older drivers and blue-collar workers. However, this concern was dwarfed by an anxiety about the potential difficulties of subsequently trying to sell the car on to other owners, who were anticipated to be even more superstitious. Overall, 29% had an anxiety on these grounds, ranging from 20% of drivers aged 18-24 to 33% of AA members over 65 years. The press release is still available at:


Top 10 Christmas carols

O Holy Night (written by a Frenchman in 1847 and translated into English in 1855) was the nation’s best-loved Christmas carol in 2012, according to an online poll of a self-selecting sample of thousands of listeners of Classic FM radio. It headed the chart for the tenth year in succession. The top 10 was as follows:

1. O Holy Night

2. Silent Night

3. In the Bleak Mid-Winter [Gustav Holst version]

4. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

5. In the Bleak Mid-Winter [Harold Darke version]

6. O Come All Ye Faithful

7. O Little Town of Bethlehem

8. Away in a Manger

9. Joy to the World

10. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

The full top 30 countdown of the Nation’s Favourite Christmas Carols was broadcast on Classic FM on Christmas Day and is listed at:


Cost of Anglican bishops

The office and working costs of the 44 diocesan and 69 suffragan and full-time assistant bishops of the Church of England amounted to £17,014,000 in the year-ending 31 December 2011. This represented an increase of £1,031,000 or 6.5% over the previous year. Most of this rise was due to an additional £782,000 of legal expenses (apparently linked to the consecration and enthronement of bishops and clergy discipline cases under the Discipline Measure). The principal budget line, staff costs (£8,729,000), grew by a more modest 2.7%. These office and working costs are met by the Church Commissioners, who also fund the stipends, employer’s national insurance and pension contributions of the bishops themselves (to the tune of £5,000,000 in 2011). Full details are contained in Bishops’ Office and Working Costs for the Year Ended 31 December 2011, published on 19 December 2012 and available at:


Faith in the public sphere

The Muslim Council of Britain had a higher public profile throughout the noughties than did the Archbishop of Canterbury, according to new research published by the Henry Jackson Society (a cross-partisan British think-tank) on 17 December 2012. The report, Faith in the Public Sphere: A Study of Media Reporting of Faith-Based Claims, was written by Hannah Stuart and Houriya Ahmed, and derives from an analysis of ‘requests’ and ‘responses’ to public issues by five major world faiths in the UK, as recorded in three national newspapers (Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, and The Guardian) between 1 January 2000 and 31 December 2010. A ‘request’ was identified as a call for the government, state, or a public institution to act; a ‘response’ as support for, opposition to, or criticism of the government, state, or a public institution or policy.

There were 3,945 religious ‘claims’ (requests and responses) made during this decade, of which 93% were single-faith and 7% multi-faith. Two-fifths of all claims were concentrated in 2005-07, when there was a peak of religious activity associated with anti-terrorism, discrimination, education, employment, pro-life, and public life issues. All told, 18% of claims related to public life, 14% to education, 11% to employment, 11% to public policy, 10% to pro-life, 7% to discrimination, 7% to anti-terrorism, 6% to foreign policy, 5% to family, and 5% to justice. Christians participated in 67% of the claims, Muslims in 31%, Jews in 7%, Sikhs in 4%, and Hindus in 3%. The list of religious ‘actors’ associated with these claims was headed by the Muslim Council of Britain (n = 410, 7%), followed by the Archbishop of Canterbury (n = 393, 7%) and the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster  (n = 264, 5%). The Chief Rabbi ranked seventh as a religious actor (n = 104, 2%).

The research generated a mass of information, within which it is easy to get lost. BRIN suggests that readers might wish to start with the fact sheet and then progress to the executive summary (pp. 6-15) of the main report. The report itself runs to 400 pages, while all the raw data are freely available for analysis. All three outputs can be downloaded from:


Religion and the demographic revolution

It is not often that BRIN recommends a new book before it has had the chance to examine it in depth, but one title certainly worth investing in if you had any vouchers given as presents for Christmas is Callum Brown, Religion and the Demographic Revolution: Women and Secularisation in Canada, Ireland, UK and USA since the 1960s (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, xiv + 302pp., ISBN 9781843837923, £55.00 hardback), which was published on 15 November 2012.

Brown (Professor of Religious and Cultural History at the University of Dundee) is already well-known for his many writings on secularization, not least for his thesis about the transformational religious changes of the 1960s. Indeed, his new book is conceived as the second in a trilogy of histories of religious decline, each deploying a different methodology – discourse analysis, statistics and demography, and autobiography and oral testimony. The Death of Christian Britain (originally published in 2001 and updated in 2009) was the first in the series, mostly rooted in discourse analysis of the successive dominance and recession of Christian culture in Britain. Whereas that title was single-nation in its focus, the second and third works are comparative and transnational in their approach.

Religion and the Demographic Revolution is brimming with quantitative data, from official, denominational, and survey sources. They leap off almost every page of text, as well as clustering in 55 tables and figures, of which 24 relate in whole or in part to the British Isles. Extensive use is made of Pearson’s rank correlations throughout. In many cases the data go back well before the 1960s, when the work theoretically commences. They cover a range of religious measures as well as statistics about sex, marriage, fertility, illegitimacy, and other socio-economic factors.

Through such quantification, Brown seeks to illustrate how the ‘two great social and cultural changes of the western world’, which began in the 1960s, became intertwined: ‘the rapid decline of Christian religious practice and identity and the rise of the people of “no religion”’ on the one hand and ‘the transformation in women’s lives that spawned a demographic revolution in sex, family and work’ on the other.

‘Starting with the distinctive features of the 1960s, the book quantifies secularisation’s scale, timing and character in each nation. Then, the intense links of women’s sexual revolution to religious decline are explored. From there, women’s changing patterns of marriage, coupling and birthing are correlated with diminishing religiosity. The final exploration is into the secularising consequences of economic change, higher education and women’s expanding work roles.’

Brown concludes: ‘To not have a religion has become in the twenty-first century an accepted part of cultural diversity, if not actually the norm or benchmark, of Europe. The people of no religion have emerged as the imminent majority in the bulk of the English-speaking world, as they are of most European nations. When once it was presumed that Europe was Christian, the presumption must be now that this civilisation exists without a defining religion. We should admit that Europe is now shaped by a people remoulding their demography and economy without the benefit of religion. They may not all be atheists, but they constitute the major cultural category in these parts.’  

BRIN hopes to cover the work in greater detail in due course. Meanwhile, the publisher’s blurb can be found at:



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