British Academy Recognition and Other News


BRIN secures British Academy recognition

The British Academy, the UK’s national academy for the humanities and social sciences, announced on 23 July 2014 that BRIN is to be one of fine new Academy Research Projects in the social sciences. Following an open and peer-review-based competition, BRIN has been awarded funding for five years in the first instance, with the potential for further support thereafter. BRIN and the four other projects ‘have been recognised for the excellence of their scholarship, and the promise and exciting nature of their programmes’. The British Academy’s announcement can be found at:

Ipsos Global Trends Survey, 2014

Britain has often been placed toward the bottom of international league tables of religiosity, and this continues to be the case according to the newly-published inaugural Ipsos MORI Global Trends Survey, 2014. Fieldwork was undertaken online in 20 developed and developing countries in two waves (3-17 September and 1-15 October 2013) among a sample of adults aged 16/18-64 (thereby excluding the over-65s, who tend to be the most religious cohort, as well as the group least likely to use the internet). Britain was ranked sixteenth in terms of identification of its citizens with any religion or faith (57% against the unweighted global mean of 71%), and sixteenth equal for the personal importance of religion/faith (27%, with 64% of Britons saying it was not important to them). It was also fifth equal for agreement with the statement that ‘organised religion is not for me’ (72%, with just 21% dissenting and 7% uncertain). The most consistently religious of the nations investigated were Argentina, Brazil, India, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Turkey, and the United States. Topline results can be extracted from the survey website at:

Prospects for religious revival

In an important new article, ‘Late Secularization and Religion as Alien’, published on 17 July 2014, Steve Bruce of the University of Aberdeen argues that it is ‘sociologically implausible’ that secularization could be reversed in the UK since there are too many obstacles to ‘religious revival’, whether of Christianity or other creeds. In particular, ‘the shared stock of religious knowledge is small, the public reputation of religion is poor, and religion is carried primarily by populations that are unusual in being drawn either from a narrow demographic or from immigrant peoples’. These ‘carriers of religion’ in the UK have been allegedly reduced to elderly women, residents of rural peripheries, Poles, West Africans, and Muslims, leading to the conclusion that ‘religion is now alien’. ‘Being religious is no longer a characteristic that is thinly but fairly evenly distributed throughout the population: it is concentrated in specific minority populations, which reinforces the sense that religion is what other people do.’ The article is published in Open Theology, Vol. 1, 2014, pp. 13-23 and available for free download at:

No religion hotspots

In a recent post on the Nonreligion & Secularity blog, dated 21 July 2014, Katherine Sissons of the University of Oxford explores the potential of DataShine, a data visualization tool developed at University College London, for the study of the distribution of no religion in the 2011 census: ‘“Godless Cities” and “Religious Enclaves”? The Distribution of Religion and Nonreligion in England and Wales’. She cautions against an over-simplistic interpretation of the data, noting that, although there are some apparent no religion urban ‘hotspots’ (such as Brighton and Norwich), religious and non-religious populations are generally not as spatially segregated as is often assumed, with, for example, above average levels of irreligion occurring in several more rural areas, such as large parts of Wales, East Anglia, and the South-West. The post can be read at:

Churches and social capital

‘The Church in England reaches approximately 10 million people each year through its community activities, even excluding “familiar” church activities – Sunday services, Christmas, Easter, Harvest, baptisms, weddings, and funerals.’ So concludes Paul Bickley in a new report prepared by Theos think tank for the Church Urban Fund: Good Neighbours: How Churches Help Communities Flourish. The report itself is largely based on an analysis of twelve case studies of the work of Church of England congregations in areas of high deprivation but is informed by an online survey from ComRes among 2,024 English adults aged 18 and over between 19 and 21 February 2014.

Respondents in the national study were first asked to select from a list of community activities and services (i.e. delivered by churches, charities, or voluntary organizations, rather than by private companies or the state) those which they or someone in their immediate family had accessed in the last twelve months. Almost half (48%) reported accessing such activities and services and 43% not. Among those who had taken up the provision, 51% recalled that it had come from a church or a church group (the tables fail to clarify how this figure was calculated). Setting aside weddings or funerals, the majority of this voluntary provision was church-based in only six areas: pastoral support for pub- and club-goers (68%), marriage/relationship advice (64%), food banks (56%), community events such as lunch clubs and cafés (56%), assistance of asylum seekers/migrants (55%), and counselling/befriending services (50%). In the other eleven areas secular agencies predominated.

Good Neighbours can be read at:

and the ComRes data tables at:

United Reformed Church statistics

The General Assembly of the United Reformed Church met in Cardiff on 3-6 July 2014, and this provides an opportunity to record its latest Britain-wide statistics, which reveal a pattern of decline characteristic of most of the ‘historic’ Free Churches (the United Reformed Church itself evolved after 1972 as a union of several previous denominations). The following table has been abstracted from:




% change





Active ministers




Retired ministers




Active lay preachers




Serving elders




Non-serving elders








Regular attenders




Average congregation




Children associated with Church




Children worshipping at main service




Faith and Belief Scotland

Faith and Belief Scotland: A Contemporary Mapping of Attitudes and Provisions in Scotland, by Anthony Allison, is a report on research undertaken in 2013-14 by the School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh on behalf of the Equality Unit of the Scottish Government. The project was designed to investigate the compliance of Scottish councils with the Public Sector Equality Duty of The Equality Act 2010 in respect of religion and belief as a protected characteristic. Data-gathering comprised qualitative research in eight council areas and an online national survey completed by 1,407 adults aged 16 and over between December 2013 and March 2014.

Although respondents to the online survey were drawn from all 32 Scottish councils, the method of distribution of the questionnaire (‘through various religion and belief mailing lists and popular social media platforms’) means that the sample cannot be considered as statistically representative. In particular, relative to the results of the 2011 Scottish census, adherents of the Church of Scotland and Roman Catholic Church appear to be seriously under-represented and non-Christians and those professing no religion to be over-represented.

Nevertheless, the 37 questions in the online survey do yield some interesting findings, including the significant number of people who rejected the Equality Act’s definitions of religion (43%) and belief (38%), seemingly because they incorporate the lack, as well as the existence, of religion and belief. It is also noteworthy that only 7% of respondents regarded Scotland as a Christian country, with 33% viewing it as a post-Christian or secular nation, and 60% as a society of many religions and beliefs. In part reflection of this fact, there was a significant amount of discomfort with religious organizations providing schools (47%), adoption (39%), and foster care (38%), while 47% were opposed to state funding of religion or belief groups (with 34% in favour).

The report can be found at:

An interactive map, permitting analysis of all 37 questions by gender, religion or belief group, and council is at:


A spike in anti-Semitic incidents in the UK has arisen this month as a direct consequence of the conflict in Gaza between Israel and Hamas, in much the same way as occurred with the similar conflict in January-February 2009. The Community Security Trust is reporting that the number of incidents in this country is currently running at double the level which would be expected under ‘normal’ circumstances (approximately 100 since 1 July 2014 compared with 58 for the whole of July 2013). Recent YouGov polling (as tabulated below) also indicates that, since Israeli military action commenced on 8 July 2014, Britons have been somewhat and increasingly more sympathetic to the Palestinian than the Israeli cause, although the plurality remains neutral and a substantial minority is undecided.

Sympathize with (%)
















Don’t know





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