Counting Religion in Britain, January 2016


Counting Religion in Britain, No. 4, January 2016 features 25 new sources. It can be read in full below. Alternatively, you can download the PDF version: No 4 January 2016



On 19 January 2016 Professor Linda Woodhead of Lancaster University delivered a lecture at The British Academy on ‘Why “No Religion” is the New Religion’. It can be listened to at:

The lecture was partly underpinned by an opinion poll designed by Woodhead and undertaken by YouGov among an online sample of 1,668 adult Britons on 21-22 December 2015. Asked to give their religious affiliation, 46% of adults replied that they did not regard themselves as belonging to any particular religion (i.e. they were ‘nones’), more than the 44% self-identifying as Christians (including 28% as Anglican and 8% as Roman Catholic). Nones constituted the majority among the two youngest age cohorts, being 60% of 18-24s and 55% of 25-39s, and also among Scots (52%) and Liberal Democrats (51%). They were least likely to be found among the over-60s (34%). The data table can be found on YouGov’s archive website, filed under 21 January 2016, at:

A press release from Lancaster University on 18 January, which was the basis for much of the pre-lecture media coverage, pointed out that the proportion of nones had increased from previous YouGov surveys (being 37% in January 2013 and 42% in February 2015). In her lecture, Woodhead anticipated that ‘this trend will continue because nones tend to be young whereas Christians tend to be old; nones are being hatched while Christians are being dispatched’. Based on her previous research, both the press release and the lecture also provided some context and commentary about the religious profile of nones, who are by no means entirely secular when it comes to belief in God or even religious practices. This release can be found at:

Andrew Atherstone, the evangelical Anglican theologian and historian, has an article about Woodhead’s research on nones in The Tablet for 30 January 2016 (pp. 8-9), critiquing not so much her data as her interpretation of them. This is available online, to subscribers only, at:

Same-sex marriage

Same-sex marriage has been legal in England and Wales since March 2014 and in Scotland since December 2014. During the past three years supporters of same-sex marriage in Britain have increased from being a plurality (46% in January 2013) to a majority (56% in January 2016). This more liberal attitude has been reflected in affiliates of most religious denominations and faiths, although in many, including the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church, it is still only a plurality which believes that same-sex marriage is right, just 8% ahead of Anglicans and 9% of Catholics who say it is wrong. Nones were overwhelmingly in favour of same-sex marriage in both years. A few headline statistics are tabulated below. The 2013 data are taken from one of Linda Woodhead’s YouGov polls, those for 2016 from a YouGov poll commissioned by Jayne Ozanne (Church of England General Synod member and gay rights activist), for which 6,276 Britons were interviewed online on 19-21 January 2016. Two sets of data tables are available, one for all adults disaggregated by religious affiliation and one for professing Anglicans disaggregated by demographics. They can be found on YouGov’s archive website, filed under 29 January 2016, at:

% down


Anglican Catholic


January 2013        


38 36




43 44


Don’t know


19 20


January 2016


45 45




37 36


Don’t know


19 20


Veracity of groups

Trust in clergy and priests to tell the truth has fallen by 18 points in Britain since 1983 (when they were the most trusted of all professions), according to the 2015 Ipsos MORI Veracity Index, conducted by face-to-face interview of 990 adults between 5 December 2015 and 4 January 2016. Although 67% do still trust clergy and priests to tell the truth, this is slightly less than say the same about hairdressers (69%) and the ordinary man/woman in the street (68%), and it is considerably less than trust doctors (89%) and teachers (86%). Just over one-quarter (27%) doubt the veracity of clergy and priests, and the proportion exceeds one-third among members of Generation X, skilled manual workers, and residents of southern England outside London. For further details, see the news blog (including a link to the full data tables) at:

Hate crime

In a poll released for Holocaust Memorial Day on 27 January 2016, 22% of UK adults claim to have witnessed at least one hate crime or hate incident based on religion or beliefs in the last year. The research was conducted by Censuswide, on behalf of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, among a sample of 2,007 respondents aged 16 and over between 2 and 7 December 2015. The Trust’s press release about the survey is at:


On 18 January 2016, Prime Minister David Cameron announced a £20 million initiative to improve the English language skills of Muslim women living in England. The somewhat muddled rationales for so doing included the promotion of integration, the deterring of support for extremism, and the advancement of gender equality. However, the public appears sceptical about the initiative’s potential value as a counter-extremism measure, according to a poll of 5,092 YouGov panellists in the UK on 19 January 2016. Only one-quarter felt the requirement for Muslim women to learn English would reduce radicalization in the Muslim community, while 14% thought that it would simply make matters worse; the remainder judged it would have a neutral effect (43%) or were undecided (18%). Full results are at:

Donald Trump and Muslims

Following his call for a ‘total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States’, Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump has been incurring somewhat of a backlash, both in his own country and abroad, including in the UK. Here a petition calling on the Government to ban Trump from entering the UK attracted so many signatures that it warranted a debate in Parliament. Trump has retaliated by threatening to pull £700 million of planned investment in golf in Scotland if he is refused entry into the UK. Asked by Survation on behalf of the Daily Record what the Government should do in these circumstances, a plurality (47%) of 1,029 Scots interviewed online on 8-12 January 2016 opposed any ban on Trump travelling to the UK while 40% favoured it, the latter disproportionately women, under-35s, and Scottish National Party voters. The full data can be found in Table 58 at:

Islamic State (1)

A poll published in the Evening Standard on 8 January 2016, but based on online fieldwork by BMG Research among 1,585 UK adults on 9-15 December 2015, found that a plurality (44%) of respondents opposed the deployment of British ground troops in Syria and Iraq in order to defeat Islamic State (IS). One-third were in favour and 23% undecided. Opinion was sharply divided about the wisdom of letting Syrian president Bashar al-Assad remain in power to combat IS, on the lesser of two evils principle, IS constituting a much bigger threat to the UK than Assad’s regime. Some two-fifths of adults could not make up their minds on this matter, with 35% supporting Assad to defeat IS and 26% not, even if it meant that more territory was lost to IS. Data tables are at:

Islamic State (2)

Four-fifths (82%) of Britons regard Islamic State (IS) as an enemy of the UK and 90% consider it has a bad record on human rights, according to a poll by YouGov, conducted online on 5-6 January 2016 among a sample of 1,779 adults. Most of the rest expressed no view, albeit 2% overall (and 5% in Scotland) curiously rated IS as friendly towards the UK. IS also easily topped a list of 11 countries for constituting the greatest threat to the UK, scoring 86%. Data tables can be found at:

Islamic State (3)

Two-thirds of Londoners are very (25%) or fairly (41%) worried about the prospect of a terror attack on London by Islamic State (IS) during the course of 2016. This is according to a YouGov poll for LBC Radio among an online sample of 1,156 London adults on 4-6 January 2016. Most concerned were the over-60s (83%), Conservative voters (82%), and those in favour of Britain leaving the European Union (81%). About one-quarter were not very or not at all worried about IS attacking London and 8% were undecided (including 23% of the under-25s). Data tables are available at:

Sunday trading

The campaign to extend Sunday trading hours in England and Wales (currently limited to a maximum of six for large stores) continues to bubble along below the surface. There is naturally particular interest in such extension among London retailers, and the New West End Company has recently released fresh polling on the subject. Conducted by ComRes online on 7-14 December 2015, it has especial relevance since respondents comprised 850 retail employees in London, 55% of whom were Christians (who have traditionally observed Sundays as a day of rest). Of the whole sample, only 5% never had to work on Sundays and 60% worked every Sunday or every other Sunday. Approximately two-thirds of all retail employees supported plans to extend Sunday trading hours, viewed them in a positive light, and anticipated that they would benefit them personally (both financially and in terms of offering greater flexibility in manage their own time). Even more, around three-quarters, recognized that London requires more flexible shopping hours to accommodate the needs of the capital’s residents and tourists and to compete with online retailers. Full data tables, including breaks by religious affiliation, are at:


Scottish church census

Plans have been announced for a fourth voluntary census of churchgoing in Scotland, to be taken among the country’s 4,000 places of Christian worship on 8 May 2016. It is being sponsored by a consortium of denominations and organizations who have commissioned Peter Brierley of Brierley Consultancy to organize the census by means of a two-page postal questionnaire (which can alternatively be completed online). Brierley has been involved in the three previous Scottish church censuses, in 1984, 1994, and 2002. Statistics will be gathered about the size of congregations at both Sunday and mid-week services, with numbers broken down by gender, age, and frequency of attendance. There will also be some sponsored questions. The final report will be published during spring 2017. Meanwhile, a leaflet about the census is available at:

History of Christian Research

Peter Brierley has also been busy writing a valuable 4,800-word personal history of the Christian Research Association. This commenced as MARC Europe in 1983, with Brierley (the former Cabinet Office statistician and director of the Bible Society) in charge. When it had to be closed down after ten years, following the withdrawal of the subsidy from World Vision, Brierley established the Christian Research Association (usually known as just Christian Research) as a charity in 1993, and with the same aims as MARC Europe. Christian Research ceased to exist as an independent entity in 2008, when it was incorporated into the Bible Society, where it nominally exists. Brierley opted to set up his own consultancy in 2007, which he still runs, carrying on – in necessarily attenuated form – the research, publishing, and training programmes which had been associated with MARC Europe and Christian Research. To request a copy of the history, contact Brierley at:

Evangelicals and health

‘Warning: the Church is seriously good for your health’. So claims the Evangelical Alliance in reporting (in the January-February 2016 issue of Idea magazine, pp. 14-15) the headline results of its online survey of the views of 1,703 self-selecting and self-identifying UK evangelicals at the end of 2015. The claim is based on the finding that ‘more than nine out of 10 evangelicals had been in good health during the past year compared to just three quarters of all English adults’. No attempt is made to explore the social correlates of good health which might explain these differences. Moreover, 93% of evangelicals agreed that they should lead healthy lifestyles to look after their God-given bodies, and 82% were opposed to the legalization of assisted dying. Miraculous healing of the sick was believed in by 98%, while 94% reported that their church offered prayer when they or a loved-one were seriously ill, albeit 59% felt there was scope for churches to strengthen their healing ministry. One-half of evangelicals thought that Christians should never try yoga nor hypnotherapy. The article is available at:

Church of England statistics for mission, 2014

Newly-released statistics for mission for 2014 reveal that the Church of England’s overall steady long-term numerical decline is continuing, affecting all principal measures of religious participation. Most media attention on the release focused on average all-age weekly attendance at church during October, which fell below one million for the first time since the metric was introduced in 2000, to 980,000 or 1.8% of the population and 12% less than in 2004, although this figure excludes 145,000 attending services for schools held in churches. Usual Sunday attendance stood even lower, at 765,000, compared with 1,606,000 when that metric was inaugurated in 1968. Only at Christmas does the Church of England exert significant quantitative reach in terms of churchgoing, drawing in 2,400,000 attenders for Christmas Eve or Christmas Day services (equivalent to 4.3% of the population), together with 2,200,000 at Advent services for the congregation and local community, and 2,600,000 at Advent services for civic organizations and schools. Take-up of the Church’s rites of passage, traditionally one of the broadest indicators of its appeal, has decreased more steeply than for churchgoing over the past decade: by 12% for baptisms, 19% for marriages, and 29% for funerals. Just 12% of babies now receive an Anglican baptism and 31% of deceased persons an Anglican funeral (against 41% in 2004). The 58-page report, incorporating extensive disaggregation to diocesan level (which naturally pinpoints some exceptions to the general trend) can be found at:

Archives of Faith in the City

The archives of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Commission on Urban Priority Areas (ACUPA), which was appointed in 1983 and produced the seminal if – in some circles – controversial report on Faith in the City: A Call for Action by Church and Nation in 1985, have now become available for consultation at the Church of England Record Centre. They extend to 30 boxes and 512 files, among them records of the research submitted to or commissioned by ACUPA. This includes the interview survey by Gallup Poll of 402 Anglican stipendiary parochial clergy in February-March 1985, designed to elucidate differences between those serving in Urban Priority Areas and elsewhere in terms of background, experience, and attitudes. A hierarchical catalogue for the archives can be browsed at:

Economic impact of St Vincent de Paul Society

Oxera Consulting has completed an economic impact study of the work in England and Wales of the St Vincent de Paul Society (SVP), an international Roman Catholic voluntary organization founded in 1833 which tackles poverty and provides assistance to those in need. In its report, entitled Economic Impact of Visiting and Befriending, Oxera assessed that the visiting and befriending activities of the SVP in England and Wales have a positive economic benefit by: avoiding costs to the National Health Service; improving the quality of life of the beneficiaries; enhancing labour market outcomes; and, in the longer term, reducing costs to social services. In practice, not all the benefits could be quantified, but those which could be suggested that, conservatively, SVP’s 10,000 volunteers generate a net £11 million of welfare improvement each year, albeit the majority of this sum apparently accrues to increased wellbeing of the volunteers themselves. The report, which sets out the full workings on costs and benefits, can be read at:

Baptist ministry

The final report of a review of Baptist ministry undertaken by the Ignite Project Team includes (at pp. 10-18) a statistical snapshot of the ministry, mainly extracted from the database of the Baptist Union of Great Britain Ministries Department. The database contained 2,711 names as at 22 September 2015, including those in training and applicants. Of the 1,521 active ministers, 83 per cent were men and 61 per cent were aged 51 and over, with an additional 979 ministers on the retired list. Since 1985 the number of ministers enrolled each year has been trending upwards and has exceeded that of ministers retiring, except in 2014, although the gap is narrowing. As a consequence of the growth in ministers, there were actually fewer Baptist churches without a minister in 2015 than in 1995 (440, or 23%, versus 723), and there has been a significant increase in churches with three or four ministers. About one-quarter of ministers are estimated to be part-time. The report is available at:

Cost of (Jewish) living

Writing in The Jewish Chronicle for 8 January 2016, two economists (Anthony Tricot and Andrea Silberman) have estimated the additional costs of a Jewish lifestyle in the UK (the so-called ‘Jewish premium’) as £12,700 per family a year. The additional costs were broken down as follows: £5,900 for a property in North-West London (one-fifth of British Jews living in Barnet); £1,500 for eating out in kosher restaurants; £3,000 for a Jewish faith schools supplement; £1,100 for Simchahs (such as weddings and barmitzvahs); £700 for synagogue membership; and £500 for kosher meat (which is double the cost of ordinary supermarket meat and which has inflated more than twice as fast as non-kosher meat during the past ten years). A number of other costs were not included in the basic calculation but are likely to be incurred by many Jewish families, such as Age-16 Israel Tours (£2,800 per child), post-university Israel gap years (£10,000 to £15,000), attendance at the Limmud conference (£1,270 per family), and the 400% mark-up on kosher Passover holidays. Several suggestions are made for improving the affordability of Jewish living. The article can be read at:


2011 religious census

Since the New Year the Office for National Statistics has published three new ad hoc tables of data from the religious census of England and Wales in 2011. These can be downloaded in Excel format from:–identity–language-and-religion–eilr-/index.html

One of the three, Table CT0557 disaggregating religion by proficiency in English by sex by age in England, has acquired political significance in view of Prime Minister David Cameron’s announcement on 18 January 2016 of a £20 million initiative to improve the English language skills of Muslim women living in England (the other three home nations being excluded from the funding). In justification, he cited the fact that 190,000 such women, according to the census, speak little or no English. The 2011 census figures for the language proficiency of adult Muslim women have been recalculated by age group and are summarized below:

% down


25-44 45-64 65+


Main language English


42.3 26.4 14.1


Main language not English – speak English very well/well


39.4 34.0 19.2


Main language not English – cannot speak English well


16.4 31.4 37.2


Main language not English – cannot speak English


1.9 8.1 29.5


1851 religious census

The 1851 census of religious accommodation and worship, undertaken by the Government as an extension of the decennial census of population, is an undisputed crown jewel of primary sources for the study of British church history. Its utility is being progressively enhanced by the publication of scholarly editions of the original schedules held at The National Archives in Kew. Two new such editions have appeared recently.

The Religious Census of Bristol and Gloucestershire, 1851 is published in the Gloucestershire Record Series, Vol. 29 (Gloucester: Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society, 2015, xvi + 428pp., ISBN 9780900197888, hardback, £30). It has been edited by Alan Munden (who already has an edition of the 1851 religious census for Northumberland and County Durham under his belt). Included are full transcripts, with annotations, of the returns for 894 places of worship, 422 of them Church of England, 211 Methodist, and 261 of other denominations. Rather confusingly, their arrangement deviates from the convention followed in most other county editions, Munden juxtaposing the original Census Office order with his own numerical hierarchy. It should also be noted that the manuscript schedules for the five registration sub-districts in Bristol city have long since been lost so that Munden has had to ‘recreate’ them from other contemporary or near-contemporary sources, inserting church attendance data from a local census in Bristol in 1881. There is a substantial 38-page introduction to and commentary on the Gloucestershire returns, together with separate bibliography, explanatory notes, guide to editorial practice, list of parishes transferred to or from Gloucestershire, specimen schedules, seven appendices, and indexes of persons and places. A map and some more intensive aggregate quantitative analysis of the results would have been valuable additions.

Religious Life in Mid-19th Century Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire: The Returns for the 1851 Census of Religious Worship has been edited by David Thompson (one of the pioneers in studying the census, especially through his 1969 doctoral thesis on Leicestershire) and is published in Cambridgeshire Records Society, Vol. 21, 2014 (viii + 275pp., ISBN 9780904323238, paperback, £27). With accompanying footnotes, it reproduces transcripts of the returns for 597 places of worship in the two counties (400 in Cambridgeshire, 197 in Huntingdonshire), of which 272 were Church of England, 144 Methodist, and 181 of other denominations. They are arranged in registration district order, with a statistical summary provided for each registration district, including attendance totals for general congregations and Sunday scholars based on the average figures in the schedules (where given) rather than the actuals for 30 March 1851 (the day of the census). There is a very full introduction (pp. 1-62) which is strong on describing the methodological and interpretative challenges of the census and on a topographical analysis of the results in these counties. There is also a bibliography of primary and secondary sources and indexes of persons and places.


The Changing World Religion Map

Undoubtedly one of the largest-scale religious studies publishing projects of 2015 was Springer’s The Changing World Religion Map: Sacred Places, Identities, Practices, and Politics, edited by Stanley Brunn (ISBN 9789401793759, hardback, £809.50, also available as an e-book). This is less of the encylopedia or reference work implied by the title than a collection of 207 thematically-arranged chapters, cumulating to almost 4,000 pages. Some chapters are multinational in scope while the majority are of the case study variety. At a quick glance, only five of the essays major on the United Kingdom, two of them relating to Northern Ireland, and just one has a quantitative bent. This is Lia Dong Shimada and Christopher Stephens, ‘Mapping Methodism: Migration, Diversity, and Participatory Research in the Methodist Church in Britain’ (pp. 2997-3016). It documents the Church’s efforts in recent years to enhance the collection and exploitation of its statistics for mission, on a participatory research basis, including through the use of maps as a reporting tool and a mechanism to promote inclusivity and diversity. The contents page of the work and abstracts can be freely browsed, and copies of individual chapters obtained (mostly via purchase but some on open access), at:

Research in the Social Scientific Study of Religion

On a somewhat more modest scale was the 2015 edition (Vol. 26) of Brill’s annual Research in the Social Scientific Study of Religion, containing 18 contributions of which five were of British religious statistical interest. In the general section, Judith Muskett explored social capital among 923 friends of six English cathedrals in 2011 (pp. 57-76), while Tania ap Siôn analysed 958 prayer requests posted to the prayer board in Southwark Cathedral (pp. 99-119). In the thematic section on the psychological health of ministers, guest-edited by Leslie Francis, there are two consecutive chapters exploring the stress and coping strategies of a sample of 613 rural clergy in the Church of England in 2004: by Christine Brewster, Leslie Francis, Mandy Robbins, and Gemma Penny (pp. 198-217) and Leslie Francis, Patrick Laycock, and Christine Brewster (pp. 218-36). Finally, Kelvin Randall reported on the work-related psychological well-being of 156 Anglican clergy in England and Wales based on the year 14 (2008) wave of his longitudinal study of those ordained as deacons in 1994 (pp. 291-301). For the full table of contents, go to:

Death in Britain

In Mors Britannica: Lifestyle and Death-Style in Britain Today (Oxford University Press, 2015, viii + 428pp., ISBN 9780199644971, £30 hardback), Douglas Davies offers us a fascinating anthropological-sociological overview of death in contemporary Britain, including its religious aspects. He synthesizes a vast amount of existing published research, much of it his own, and provides extensive contextual material (arguably a bit too much on occasion) and a theoretical perspective. However, he is somewhat sparing in his deployment of statistical evidence, which is largely relegated to chapter 2 and, in respect of cremation (whose growing adoption is viewed as an index of secularization), chapter 3. There is no systematic trend analysis of the various official statistics pertaining to death and coverage is also somewhat selective of available British sample surveys on public attitudes to death and associated beliefs (such as in the afterlife). The book’s webpage is at:

Labour market penalties

Nabil Khattab and Tariq Modood have continued their investigation of employment penalties in the UK, based on an analysis of Labour Force Survey data for 2002-13, research which has been previously reported in the journal Sociology. They argue that these penalties are strongly associated with colour (mainly blackness) and culture (particularly being Muslim), black Muslims facing the highest penalty of all, but that they are not fixed, tending to vary in extent and nature. The article, ‘Both Ethnic and Religious: Explaining Employment Penalties across 14 Ethno-Religious Groups in the United Kingdom’, is published in Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Vol. 54, No. 3, 2015, pp. 501-22 and can be accessed online (via paywall, if not a subscriber) at:

Muslim women

Skaiste Liepyte and Kareena McAloney-Kocaman have explored ‘Discrimination and Religiosity among Muslim Women in the UK before and after the Charlie Hebdo Attacks’ (perpetrated by Islamists in Paris in January 2015), reporting their findings in Mental Health, Religion & Culture, Vol. 18, No. 9, 2015, pp. 789-94. Their sample was a self-selecting one of 240 Muslim women living in the UK, with a mean age of 24 years, recruited via YouTube and other online means, 153 of them before and 87 after the attacks. Greater Islamic religious practice and perceptions of discrimination were reported by the post-attack sub-sample. The article can be freely accessed online at:


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


British Religion in Numbers: All the material published on this website is subject to copyright. We explain further here.

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  1. Pingback: Can You Name All Ten Commandments? If Not, This (and 18 Other Questions) Could Get You Deported - U Do News

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