Counting Religion in Britain, October 2016


Counting Religion in Britain, No. 13, October 2016 features 29 new sources. It can be read in full below. Alternatively, you can download the PDF version: no-13-october-2016


Desert island Bibles

The well-known figures featured on Desert Island Discs, the long-running BBC Radio programme, are asked to select eight pieces of music to take with them on a desert island but are additionally offered as accompaniments copies of the Bible and the complete works of Shakespeare. Asked hypothetically, in the event of being stranded on a desert island, whether they would want to be given a copy of the Bible, only 31% of respondents to a recent poll by ComRes said that they would, falling to 18% in the youngest cohort (aged 18-24) and 10% for those with no religion. Unsurprisingly, the proportion was greatest for professing Christians (49%) but otherwise never reached more than 39% in any demographic sub-group (this for the over-65s and residents of North-West England). The majority (56%) declined to accept the Bible, rising to 83% of religious nones, while 13% were unsure what they would do. The poll was commissioned by the Church and Media Network and conducted online on 7-9 October 2016 among a sample of 2,042 adult Britons. Full data tables are available at:

In former days (the programme was first broadcast in 1942), the guests on Desert Island Discs were not automatically offered the Bible and Shakespeare but had to nominate three books to take with them on a desert island. When Gallup invited a sample of Britons to select their titles in 1954, the Bible easily topped the poll, with 36% of the vote, Shakespeare being pushed into third place (5%) after the works of Dickens (7%).

Catholic Church power

Almost half of Britons think the Catholic Church is among the most powerful institutions in the world, according to a YouGov app-based survey on 18 October 2016. Presented with a list of 11 organizations and asked to select the three they judged most powerful, 57% put the United States Central Intelligence Agency in first position, but the Catholic Church came second (on 49%), beating the United Nations into third place (40%). Islamic State (ISIS) was ranked tenth. Topline results are available at:


Prompted by a recent report that young Catholic priests are not interested in becoming exorcists, an app-based survey by YouGov on 21 October 2016 asked Britons whether they believed people or places can be affected by evil spirits and, if so, whether an exorcist could help. One-third (34%) of all respondents said they believed in evil spirits, with 25% thinking exorcism efficacious and 9% not. The majority (58%) expressed belief in neither, while 7% gave other answers. Topline results are available at:


One-half of Britons claim to have experienced paranormal activity in their home, according to a recent pre-Halloween survey commissioned by insurance broker Towergate. One-third say they have been frightened by the supernatural in their own home at night, and one-fifth admit to having called someone (generally a parent or partner) in the middle of the night to seek comfort or support in such circumstances. One person in six reports that they have seen a ghostly figure at home and one in eight that they have moved out of a former home because they were afraid it was haunted. Fear of the supernatural is an even greater deterrent to buying properties in certain locations, with 65% unwilling to purchase near an undertaker’s premises, 62% near a graveyard, and 60% near a sinister-looking church. Many would expect a substantial discount on the asking-price to be offered to tempt them to buy allegedly haunted accommodation, although 45% insist no reduction would be sufficient to overcome their anxieties. As yet, no details of the research (including about methodology) have appeared on Towergate’s website, and the preceding account has been compiled from coverage in the online edition of the Daily Express at:

Gay cake row

A Christian family bakery (Ashers) in Northern Ireland has recently lost its appeal against a conviction that found it guilty of discrimination for refusing to bake a cake supporting same-sex marriage on the grounds that it would have been at odds with the family’s religious beliefs. On the eve of the appeal court’s judgment, on 24 October 2016, YouGov asked 5,490 Britons online whether it had been acceptable for the bakery to have refused the order. A plurality (46%) judged the defendants to have behaved acceptably, including 61% of Conservative and 65% of UKIP voters, and 58% of over-60s. Two-fifths deemed the bakery’s action unacceptable, with 18-24s especially condemnatory (60%). The remaining 14% of the sample were undecided. Full results can be found at:

Churches and the LGB community

Britons are somewhat divided about whether most Christian churches in the UK are welcoming to the lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) community, according to a YouGov poll commissioned by Jayne Ozanne (a campaigner on LGB issues), for which 1,669 adults were interviewed online on 11-12 October 2016. A plurality (37%) was unsure what to say. One-third considered most churches were not welcoming to LGBs, the proportion reaching two-fifths among Labour and Liberal Democrat voters, Roman Catholics, and religious nones. Three in ten electors judged the churches were welcoming to LGBs, the most optimistic sub-groups being Conservative supporters (38%), over-65s (40%), Christians as a whole (45%), and Anglicans (47%). Respondents were also asked a somewhat ambiguous lead-in question about whether the Church of England does or does not exist for everyone who wants to go to church, 47% thinking the former and 17% the latter. Full data tables are available at:

Satisfaction with party leaders

BMG Research’s latest political party leader approval ratings were unusually disaggregated by religious affiliation. Summary results from the online interviews with 2,026 UK adults between 19 and 23 September 2016 are tabulated below, for all voters, professing Christians, and religious nones (too few non-Christians were included in the sample to be viable). The strongest finding to emerge is that a majority of Christians are satisfied with Theresa May’s performance as Prime Minister (54%) and dissatisfied with Jeremy Corbyn’s as Leader of the Opposition (57%). Religious nones, by contrast, exhibit a markedly below average approval rating for May and a slightly above average one for Corbyn. An age effect may partly explain these divergences, Christians having a relatively elderly and nones a younger profile. Religious differences were less pronounced in the case of Nigel Farage (whose performance very few could assess, in any case) and Nicola Sturgeon (although there was a nine-point dissatisfaction gap between Christians and nones). Data tables can be found at:

% across

Satisfied Dissatisfied

Don’t know

Theresa May as Prime Minister
All voters








No religion




Jeremy Corbyn as Leader of the Opposition
All voters








No religion




Nigel Farage as interim UKIP leader
All voters








No religion




Nicola Sturgeon as Scottish National Party leader
All voters








No religion




London attractions

A slight majority (58%) of Londoners claim to have visited St Paul’s Cathedral, placing it ninth in a list of 20 leading attractions in the capital, while 48% say they have been to Westminster Abbey (in sixteenth position). However, young Londoners (aged 18-24) are significantly less likely than the over-65s to have visited either of these two religious landmarks, 38% less in the case of the cathedral and 37% less for the abbey. The survey was conducted online by YouGov and is reported at:



A press briefing by Christian Legacy (a partnership of various Christian charities) in the run-up to Christian Legacy Week (17-23 October 2016) provided a miscellany of information about the state of the Christian legacy market in the UK. It revealed that Christian women are more likely to have included a charitable gift in their will than Christian men, 65% versus 35%. Christians overall are likely to spread their gifts across almost twice as many charities as non-Christians. Of all charitable legacies made in the past three years, 16% have been given to Christian charities or places of worship, with legacies accounting for 3% of the income of these charities. The briefing has yet to appear on the Christian Legacy website, but some previous ‘latest statistics’ can be found at:

Christian Resources Exhibitions

The Christian Resources Exhibition held at Maidstone on 12-13 October 2016 seems set to be the last. Earlier this year, Bible Society – which acquired Christian Resources Exhibitions (CRE) in 2007 – announced that it was putting the enterprise up for sale. However, it has now admitted that no buyer has been found. CRE was founded by Christian businessman Gospatric Home in 1985 and incorporated as a private limited company in 1990. It has comprised an annual event (latterly known as CRE International) held in the South-East (most recently in London) in the late spring together with one or two smaller exhibitions each year at changing other venues. CRE was officially ranked as the country’s 47th largest consumer exhibition in 2007. Visitor numbers for the 1990s were published in UK Christian Handbook, Religious Trends, No. 2, 2000/01, p. 5.8, with around 10,000 attending CRE International, a figure still reached as late as 2011-12. However, there appears to have been some decline since, with 8,000 returned for the four-day event in 2015 and no figure seemingly published for 2016. CRE’s last reported annual turnover was £700,000 in 2005, since when the company has been dormant.

Baptist Assembly

The Baptist Assembly is the yearly gathering of delegates from the English and Welsh regional associations which constitute Baptists Together (Baptist Union of Great Britain).  It combines the transaction of the formal business of the Union (including its annual general meeting) with elements of a Christian conference. The future of the Assembly has been under review for some time, in the light of falling numbers and financial pressures, and different styles and formats have been trialled in recent years. To facilitate longer-term planning, an online survey was conducted after the one-day Assembly at Oxford in May 2016, and this was completed by a self-selecting sample of 1,000 Baptists, of whom 74% had attended Assembly at some point in the past and 53% were ministers. A preliminary report on the results of the survey, focusing especially on preferences for the length, timing, and financing of future Assemblies, has been published at:

Catholic Directory

The Universe Media Group has announced its intention to relaunch the print edition of the Catholic Directory of England and Wales in November 2017, four years after its discontinuation, since when an online only edition has been made available. According to the latest editor’s newsletter (No. 4, 2016), this 2018 edition of the Catholic Directory will be comprehensively overhauled in terms of design and content, with several new sections introduced. However, no explicit mention is made of any plans to bring back the former statistical section, which was the sole national public domain source of current data about the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales.

Convent schools

The significant historical contribution of convent schools to the education of Catholic and other pupils in England and Wales is celebrated in Tales out of School: Recollections of Ex-Convent Girls, edited by Anthony Spencer, Pat Pinsent, and Emma Shackle (Taunton: Russell-Spencer, 2016, [4] + v + 243p., ISBN 978-1-905270-74-3, paperback, £12.00 + £1.74 p&p, available from Russell-Spencer, Stone House, Hele, Taunton, Somerset, TA4 1AJ). The core of the book consists of the reminiscences of 40 women who attended convent schools between the 1930s and 1970s, submitted in response to Spencer’s appeal in The Tablet in 2012. Summative evaluation of the material and convent schools generally is provided by the editors, each of whom has written an essay from a particular perspective. Spencer’s chapter (pp. 197-215) is sociologically-focused and statistically informed by the research of the Newman Demographic Survey (NDS), which he directed. The volume as a whole is an initiative of the Pastoral Research Centre Trust, successor body to the NDS.


Hate crimes

Home Office Statistical Bulletin 11/16, by Hannah Corcoran and Kevin Smith, reports on Hate Crime, England and Wales, 2015/16, as recorded by the police. There were 62,518 offences in which one or more hate crime strands were deemed to be a motivating factor, of which 4,400 (7%) were categorized as religious hate crimes, 34% more than in 2014/15 (almost double the 19% average rise for all forms of hate crime), although the increase may partly reflect improved notification and documentation of incidents. A good deal of the data and analysis combines, unhelpfully from our perspective, racially and religiously motivated offences, including in Annex A which examines the trends in hate crime before and after the referendum on 23 June 2016 on the UK’s membership of the European Union. The report and associated data tables can be accessed at:

Religion of prisoners

A snapshot of the prison population of England and Wales as at 30 September 2016 has revealed that 48.6% of prisoners professed to be Christian, 20.5% non-Christian, and 30.8% to have no religion. The number of Christians was 2.0% down on the figure for 30 September 2015 while religious nones increased by 0.8% during the year. There was also a 2.3% rise in Muslim prisoners over the twelve months; they now account for 15.1% of all prisoners. The overwhelming majority (95.3%) of prisoners without religion is male, although there are actually proportionately fewer nones among men (30.7%) than women (32.5%). Full details can be found in table 1.5 of the spreadsheet ‘Prison Population, 30 September 2016’ at:


Antisemitism in the UK is the tenth report of the 2016-17 session of the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee. It considers alternative definitions of anti-Semitism (pp. 8-15) and reviews the evidence base for its prevalence in the UK – among the general public (pp. 16-26), on university campuses (pp. 33-7), and in political discourse and parties (pp. 38-49, with special reference to the Labour Party) – as well as the response of Government and the justice system (pp. 27-32). An annex (pp. 58-61) presents details of police-recorded anti-Semitic crimes. The statistical evidence is neatly summarized in a ‘key facts’ section (pp. 3-4), which incorporates links to the original sources. Most of these have already featured on the British Religion in Numbers website, but mention should be made of one which has not, a survey in May 2016 of 2,026 Labour Party members who joined after the 2015 General Election, carried out on behalf of the ESRC Party Members Project. The Committee concludes, inter alia, that, although the UK remains one of the least anti-Semitic countries in Europe, recent trends in incidents and attitudes show it to be moving ‘in the wrong direction’ (p. 51). Its report is available at:

Results concerning anti-Semitism and the Labour Party from the ESRC Party Members Project will be found in its submission to the Labour Party’s own enquiry chaired by the now Baroness Chakrabarti at:


Research in the Social Scientific Study of Religion

Volume 27 (2016) of Research in the Social Scientific Study of Religion is sub-divided into a miscellany of five articles and a special section of seven contributions on prayer guest-edited by Kevin Ladd. Each section contains one article of United Kingdom quantitative interest. The miscellany includes Leslie Francis, Patrick Laycock, and Gemma Penny, ‘Distinguishing between Spirituality and Religion: Accessing the Worldview Correlates of 13- to 15-Year-Old Students in England and Wales’ (pp. 43-67), based on 2,728 respondents to the Young People’s Values Survey, and employing discriminant function analysis to isolate the specific combinations of attitudes and values which distinguished young people who described themselves as religious but not spiritual from those who saw themselves as spiritual but not religious. Among the papers in the prayer section is Leslie Francis and Gemma Penny, ‘Prayer, Personality, and Purpose in Life: An Empirical Enquiry among Adolescents in the UK’ (pp. 192-209), drawing upon questionnaires completed by 10,792 participants in the Young People’s Attitudes to Religious Diversity project (see, also, next item), and demonstrating that prayer frequency adds additional prediction of enhanced levels of purpose in life after taking all other variables into account. The volume’s webpage can be found at:

Religious diversity

The 16 chapters in Young People’s Attitudes to Religious Diversity, edited by Elisabeth Arweck (London: Routledge, 2017, xi + 303 pp., ISBN 978-1-4724-4430-1, £95.00, hardback) substantially report the findings of the AHRC/ESRC-funded project of the same name which was undertaken at the University of Warwick’s Religions and Education Research Unit in 2009-12. The research involved both qualitative and quantitative strands, each represented by six contributions in the book, the qualitative essays written by Arweck or Julia Ipgrave and the quantitative ones by Leslie Francis and Gemma Penny together with another co-author in five instances. For the quantitative strand, questionnaires were completed in 2011-12 by 11,725 13- to 15-year-old students attending state-maintained schools with and without a religious character in five geographical areas (London, England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland). The results for each area are analysed in a separate chapter, positioned as a response to a research question suggested by previous scholarly research and debate in that particular area. The final section of the volume is given over to three international case studies, from Canada, the United States, and Germany. The book’s webpage is at:


Clive Field was recently invited to speak about ‘Measuring Secularization in Britain’ as one of the series of Sunday evening talks on ‘Religion and Conflict’ at Somerville College Chapel, Oxford. His presentation slides have been made available at:



If, as is often claimed, no religion is the fastest-growing religion in the western world, then the study of non-religion can equally be observed to be the fastest-growing area in religious scholarship. One of the latest monographs in the field is Phil Zuckerman, Luke Galen, and Frank Pasquale, The Nonreligious: Understanding Secular People and Societies (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016, v + 327 pp., ISBN 978-0-19-992494-1, £16.99, paperback). The volume provides a guide to the English-language social scientific literature about non-religion, as listed in its substantial bibliography (pp. 261-309). Although the focus of the book is international, the arrangement is largely thematic, so there is no systematic discussion of the situation, nor collation of the statistical evidence, for particular countries. There are some scattered references to the United Kingdom, the most substantive of which is on pp. 75-6. The title’s webpage is at:

Ministry and history

The extent, nature, and practical implications of the engagement of Christian ministers with both general and religious history are explored by John Tomlinson in ‘Ministry and History: A Survey of Over 300 Religious Practitioners’, Theology and Ministry, Vol. 4, 2016, pp. 2.1-15. Data derive from a postal questionnaire completed in 2013-15 by 49% of 610 ordained clergy and ministers in five denominations working in parts of the East and West Midlands. The article is available on an open access basis at:

Anglican identities

Abby Day has edited an interesting interdisciplinary collection of 14 chapters on global Anglicanism: Contemporary Issues in the Worldwide Anglican Communion: Powers and Pieties (Farnham: Ashgate, 2016, xviii + 270 pp., ISBN 978-1-4724-4413-4, £65.00, hardback). Although there is a fair amount of specifically Britain-related content, the volume’s approach is overwhelmingly qualitative. Indeed, it is highly revealing (and not a little unusual) that its editor has prevailed upon the authors of the only substantial quantitative research article to write up their findings in a narrative rather than numerical form. This essay is by Leslie Francis and Gemma Penny, ‘Belonging without Practising: Exploring the Religious, Social, and Personal Significance of Anglican Identities among Adolescent Males’ (pp. 55-71). The chapter profiles the worldviews (across 10 themes) of two groups of 13- to 15-year-old students from secondary schools in England and Wales, 1,800 religiously unaffiliated and 1,488 professing Anglicans (further sub-divided by frequency of churchgoing into four sub-groups). The book’s webpage is at:

Methodism and social inclusion

Despite its avowed preferential option for the poor, there is no evidence that the Methodist Church in Britain is targeting its resources towards the most deprived communities, according to new research by Michael Hirst. He has analysed cross-sectional and longitudinal data for the distribution of Methodist personnel (ministers, members, and connexional lay appointees), churches, and schools against a widely accepted 38-item index of neighbourhood deprivation for both Lower Layer Super Output Areas and Middle Layer Super Output Areas in England. He found that the immediate surroundings of most Methodist churches typify areas in the middle of the deprivation spectrum while few Methodist schools serve areas of significant deprivation. Moreover, ministers and lay appointees live predominantly in the least deprived neighbourhoods and increasingly so. Hirst’s ‘Poverty, Place, and Presence: Positioning Methodism in England, 2001 to 2011’ is published in the open access journal Theology and Ministry, Vol. 4, 2016, pp. 4.1-25 at:

British and Australian Quakers

A comparison of the beliefs and practices of British and Australian Quakers is offered by Peter Williams and Jennifer Hampton in ‘Results from the First National Survey of Quaker Belief and Practice in Australia and Comparison with the 2013 British Survey’, Quaker Studies, Vol. 21, No. 1, June 2016, pp. 95-119. The 2014 Australian study replicated 42 questions from the 2013 British enquiry (whose results were reported by Hampton in Quaker Studies, Vol. 19, 2014-15, pp. 7-136). Answers to half of these questions were remarkably similar in both surveys, but Australian respondents were found to be more likely than their British peers to describe prayer and their activities in meetings for worship as meditation; to describe the Quaker business method as finding a consensus; to believe Quakers can be helped by hearing about the religious experiences of other groups; and to be involved with other social or religious organizations or issues. Access options to the article are outlined at:

Catholic churchgoing

Ben Clements illuminates ‘Weekly Churchgoing amongst Roman Catholics in Britain: Long-Term Trends and Contemporary Analysis’ for the online first edition of Journal of Beliefs and Values. In the first half of the paper, four recurrent sources (British Election Studies, British Social Attitudes Surveys, European Values Studies, and European Social Surveys) are used to document a clear over-time decline in self-reported weekly church attendance by Catholic adults. In the second half, an online survey of British Catholics by YouGov in 2010 is analysed to isolate the socio-demographic correlates of regular churchgoing, weekly attenders being shown to be disproportionately older, of higher socio-economic status, and to have children in the household. Somewhat contrary to generic expectation, however, the effects of gender and ethnicity were not found to be significant. The investigation did not extend to an examination of trends in actual Mass-going by Catholics, which has been recorded by the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales for more than half a century and also in the ecumenical English Church Censuses between 1979 and 2005. Access options to the article are outlined at:


A cross-national study, undertaken in 15 European countries (including the United Kingdom) belonging to the Dublin System (which coordinates asylum policy in Europe), has revealed a marked anti-Muslim bias (and a corresponding pro-Christian bias) in attitudes to hypothetical asylum seekers. Data were collected by Respondi from internet panels in February-March 2016, a total of 18,030 adults being questioned online, among them 1,201 in the United Kingdom. Using a seven-point scale, where 1 denoted sending the applicant back to their country of origin and 7 granting permission to stay, each respondent was asked to rate the profiles of five pairs of asylum seekers according to nine different attributes, one of which was their religion (Christian, Muslim, or agnostic). Results are reported in an 11-page article and 121 pages of supplementary materials (mainly figures and regression tables) published in the First Release edition of Science on 22 September 2016: Kirk Bansak, Jens Hainmueller, and Dominik Hangartner, ‘How Economic, Humanitarian, and Religious Concerns Shape European Attitudes toward Asylum Seekers’. Access options to the article are outlined at:

Yearbook of Muslims in Europe

Yearbook of Muslims in Europe, Volume 7 (Leiden: Brill, 2016, xx + 620 pp., ISSN 1877-1432, €179.00, hardback) has been compiled by a team of five editors led by Oliver Scharbrodt. It comprises an introductory essay by Jonathan Laurence (pp. 1-10) and 44 country overviews, including one on the United Kingdom by Asma Mustafa (pp. 607-20). Commencing with this volume, statistical and demographic data have been relegated to an appendix for each chapter, which, in the case of the United Kingdom (pp. 616-17), is mainly drawn from the 2011 population census. The text of each country report otherwise focuses on developments affecting Islam and Muslims during 2014. The British Religion in Numbers source database records 53 relevant surveys for 2014, including those relating to the ‘Trojan Horse’ affair in Birmingham schools and the rise of Islamic State, but none of these is mentioned by Mustafa whose contribution runs to only half the length allotted to Belgium. The volume’s webpage is at:

Muslim labour market penalty

In the latest paper in his series based on UK Labour Force data for 2002-13, Nabil Khattab uses descriptive and multivariate analysis to illuminate ‘The Ethno-Religious Wage Gap within the British Salariat Class: How Severe is the Penalty?’ Although he discovered substantial differences in gross hourly pay between different ethno-religious groups, he contends that they cannot be attributed to pure ethnic or religious discrimination. Nor did he find evidence for an overarching ‘Muslim penalty’, as suggested by some other scholars, notwithstanding two Muslim groups (Muslim-Bangladeshi and Muslim-Pakistani) experienced greater disadvantage than many of the ten other ethno-religious groups included in the study. The article was published in the August 2016 issue of Sociology (Vol. 50, No. 4, pp. 813-24), and the full text is freely available at:

Halal meat

Animals slaughtered for Muslim consumption must meet specific requirements laid down in the Koran and the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed. In particular, animals must be alive at the point of ritual cut, with many Muslims traditionally believing pre-stunning prior to slaughter to be non-reversible and contrary to Halal principles. To assess current views, Awal Fuseini, Steve Wotton, Phil Hadley, and Toby Knowles surveyed 66 Islamic scholars and a non-random and disproportionately male sample of 314 consumers of Halal meat in the UK between October 2015 and March 2016. The study was funded by the Halal Food Foundation. The majority of both scholars (95%) and consumers (53%) agreed that, if an animal is stunned and then slaughtered by a Muslim and the method of stunning does not result in death, cause physical injury, or obstruct bleed-out, then the meat could be considered Halal-compliant. ‘The Perception and Acceptability of Pre-Slaughter and Post-Slaughter Stunning for Halal Production: The Views of UK Islamic Scholars and Halal Consumers’ is published in Meat Science, Vol. 123, January 2017, pp. 143-50. Access options to the article are outlined 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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