Advent Pot-Pourri


Correlates of belief

The socio-structural and religious correlates of over-time belief in God, life after death, hell, heaven, and sin are explored in a new article by Ben Clements published in the advance access edition of Journal of Beliefs and Values on 26 November 2014: ‘The Correlates of Traditional Religious Beliefs in Britain’. Data derived from a multivariate analysis of the British samples from the four waves of the European Values Study between 1981 and 2008. No uniform decline in individual beliefs was detected, with the picture one of change (reducing belief in God, heaven, and sin) and continuity (for belief in life after death and hell), although the proportion holding none of the five beliefs did increase from 8% to 25% over the period of the surveys. Women, affiliates of a faith, attenders at religious services, and those attaching importance to religion were found to be more likely to believe. Age effects were not consistent, while higher socio-economic status (reflected in occupation and educational attainment) tended to be associated with lower levels of belief. Access options to the article are explained at:

Catholics, assisted suicide, and abortion

The Roman Catholic Church’s teachings on the sanctity of life are well-known and apparently continue to exercise some sway over the faithful, despite clear evidence of liberalizing opinion and the desire of many Catholics to make up their own minds about such matters. This is suggested by new research by Ben Clements into Catholic attitudes to assisted suicide and abortion which is reported in ‘An Assessment of Long-Term and Contemporary Attitudes towards “Sanctity of Life” Issues amongst Roman Catholics in Britain’, Journal of Religion in Europe, Vol. 7, Nos. 3-4, 2014, pp. 269-300. The empirical evidence is divided into two main sections. In the first, British Social Attitudes Surveys, European Values Studies, and some other recurrent polls are used to compare attitudes over time to the two issues among Catholics and the general public, mostly since the early 1980s. It is shown that, although the gap between the two has closed, Catholics still tend to hold more socially-conservative views than the rest of the population. In the second section, the YouGov/Westminster Faith Debates poll of Catholics in June 2013 is analysed to determine the socio-demographic and religious correlates of Catholic attitudes to assisted suicide and abortion. The variables found to have the most consistent effects in underpinning a conservative position on sanctity of life were ageing and greater religiosity (in terms of both believing and behaving indicators). Access options to the article are explained at:;jsessionid=1h6f4t8e08s5w.x-brill-live-02

Catholic schools

The Catholic Education Service (CES) for England and Wales published digests of its 2014 census data for Catholic maintained and independent schools and colleges on 28 November 2014, with separate reports for England and Wales. A response rate of 100% was achieved. In England and Wales combined there were 2,245 Catholic schools attended by 845,762 pupils. Increases were recorded in the number of pupils educated in Catholic maintained schools and in teachers employed in them. The proportion of pupils from ethnic minority backgrounds and living in the most deprived areas also rose, exceeding the national average in each case, but the proportion receiving free school meals remained below the national figure. The number of pupils who were Catholics continued its slow decline, standing at 69.5% in English maintained schools and 56.5% in the Welsh ones. The CES press release, incorporating a link to the digests, is at:

School nativity plays

A traditional nativity play is held in only a third of schools, according to an online survey of more than 2,000 of its members by Netmums, the parenting website, which was released on 2 December 2014. Instead, more than half of schools now stage an ‘updated nativity’ featuring contemporary characters, while one in eight schools hold Christmas performances devoid of any religious content. Two-thirds of parents whose schools do not put on a traditional nativity play said that they would like it to. The Netmums press release is at:

The subsequent reporting of and comment in the media on the Netmums survey prompted YouGov to run a couple of questions on the subject in its regular weekly poll for The Sunday Times, for which 1,838 Britons were interviewed online on 4-5 December 2014. More than three-fifths (62%) of the sample thought it better for schools to stage traditional nativity plays, and this was especially so among Conservative voters (75%), UKIP supporters (80%), and the over-60s (75%). No question was asked about religious affiliation, but, given the distribution of responses to such questions in other YouGov studies, a significant minority of people professing no faith must also have elected for traditional nativity plays. More modern Christmas plays relevant to contemporary Britain were favoured by 17% (24% for 18-24s), while 12% did not want either sort of play, and 10% did not know what to think. Among parents of children attending primary school, 42% said that their child’s school put on a traditional play with religious content, 40% a modern play with religious content, 5% a modern play with no religious content, and 5% no play at all. Data tables are at:

Debt support

Four-fifths (79%) of Anglican clergy believe that helping people to manage their money wisely is an important part of the Church of England’s mission, with 48% of parishes actually providing formal or informal help to those in financial difficulties and 22% running debt advice or budgeting courses. The findings derive from an online survey undertaken in October 2014 by the Church Urban Fund and the Church’s Mission and Public Affairs Department, to which 1,685 clergy responded. The Church of England issued a press release about the research on 27 November 2014, which can be read at:

Christians in sport

Practising Christians in the UK are almost 10% less likely to participate in sport once a week than the general public (25.8% and 35.2%, respectively), according to a poll commissioned and published by Christians in Sport (in association with the Bible Society) on 26 November 2014. The press release, which is thin, fails to offer the obvious explanation for such a disparity, that (on the evidence of censuses of church attendance and sample surveys) practising Christians have a more elderly profile than the population as a whole, but it does mention that only 19% of churches actively encourage their congregations to play sport. Although noting that the study was undertaken by Christian Research, the press release gives little further detail. The presumption must be that it was conducted via Resonate, Christian Research’s online panel of UK practising Christians (including church leaders), with some 2,000 of the 15,000-strong panel completing this particular survey. Detailed data tables do not appear to be in the public domain, certainly not on the Christian Research website. We have had occasion in the past to express regret at the lack of visibility about the methodology and results of Resonate polls, which now take place monthly. Christian Research (which is part of the Bible Society family) and its clients potentially do themselves a great disservice by failing to report these Resonate polls more transparently and to open them up to professional scrutiny. The Christians in Sport press release can be found at:

New Churches in North-East England

An interdisciplinary conference on New Churches founded in the North-East since 1980, based on a research project funded by the William Leech Foundation, will take place at St Johns College, Durham on 17 April 2015. The conference website, including a link to the draft programme, can be found at:

Muslims and crime

In his (somewhat laboured) article published in the advance access edition of British Journal of Criminology on 30 November 2014, Julian Hargreaves challenges the dominant scholarly discourse concerning criminological issues faced by British Muslims. Utilizing British Crime Survey/Crime Survey of England and Wales data for 2006-10, he seeks to replace the current misleading generalizations about Muslim experiences of victimization, discrimination, and demonization. Instead, he paints a more nuanced picture in which there were only small or no statistically significant differences between Muslims and non-Muslims in being victims of personal crime, although Muslims were more likely to be victims of household crime (in reflection of living in areas of socio-economic disadvantage). Moreover, Muslim attitudes to the police were, by and large, positive and often more positive than those of non-Muslims. The full text of ‘Half a Story? Missing Perspectives in the Criminological Accounts of British Muslim Communities, Crime, and the Criminal Justice System’ is currently free to download from:

Muslims and employment

Some BRIN readers may have noticed the headline in The Independent for 1 December 2014: ‘British Muslims Face Worst Job Discrimination of any Minority Group, according to Research’. Intrigued to know more, BRIN has tracked the findings down to a forthcoming article in Social Science Journal by Nabil Khattab and Ron Johnston on ‘Ethno-Religious Identities and Persisting Penalties in the UK Labor Market’. Utilizing pooled data from the British Labour Force Survey (covering 553,600 adults aged 19-65 interviewed in the April-June quarters of 2002-10), the authors have estimated the gross and net effects of ethno-religious background on the likelihood of (a) avoiding unemployment and (b) securing employment in professional and managerial (salariat) jobs. The net calculations take the ‘human capital resources’ (such as educational attainment) of the 14 ethno-religious groups into account. This is by no means an easy article to summarize (nor to read). However, the principal conclusion appears to be that ‘most non-white groups face an employment penalty, but Muslim groups – both men and women – experienced the greatest penalties. These penalties are exacerbated when … searching for a managerial or a professional job …’ The most advantaged group in terms of employment prospects was Jewish White British, even more so than Christian White British. Although the article formally only exists as a corrected proof at the moment, it is still possible to access it (by purchase or institutional subscription) at:

Religious book sales

The current issue (5 December 2014, p. 8) of The Church of England Newspaper reports an analysis by The Bookseller of the sales of books on religious and related topics. Until 2007, apparently, the value of sales of mind, body, spirit titles outstripped that of traditional religious books, the relative proportions being 56% and 44%. Thereafter, throughout the years of economic recession, the share of mind, body, spirit titles reduced to 41% (of a slightly diminished overall sales total), falling by 29%, while traditional religious books reached 59%, up 28% in sales. However, from 2014, as the economic recovery has taken effect, mind, body, spirit sales have risen by 10%, with a particularly large increase in sales of works on mindfulness. It is hard to comment without seeing the full data, which do not seem to be on The Bookseller’s public website and are presumably only available to subscribers.


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