Counting Religion in Britain, September 2017

Counting Religion in Britain, No. 24, September 2017 features 26 new sources. It can be read in full below. Alternatively, you can download the PDF version: No 24 September 2017


Harmfulness of religion

More than twice as many Britons (68%) feel the world has been damaged by religion as say it has benefited from it (30%), according to a Populus poll for the Legatum Institute think-tank, for which 2,004 adults were interviewed online on 4-6 August 2017. Respondents were shown a list of eight social, cultural, and economic trends and asked to rate their impact on a scale running from minus 100 (denoting severe damage) to plus 100 (great benefit), religion receiving the lowest mean score of all (even worse than immigration). The proportion with a negative view of religion peaked at 79% among UKIP voters. Full data tables are available at:

Saliency of religion

Asked to choose three of twenty facets of life which were of greatest importance to them ‘right now’, only 5% of a sample of 1,003 UK young adults aged 16-22 (Generation Z) selected religion, their top priorities being family (44%), education (32%), money (29%), and friends or boyfriend/girlfriend/partner (25% each). Religion was of most significance to Londoners (10%) and black and minority ethnic young persons (19%, six times the figure for white people). The survey was conducted online by Ipsos MORI for BBC’s Newsbeat programme between 24 August and 4 September 2017. For comparative purposes, a sample of adults aged 23-65 (Generation Y, Generation X, and Baby Boomers) was invited to speculate what they thought the immediate concerns of Generation Z were. Data tables are available at:

Airbrushing religious symbols

German supermarket chain Lidl has incurred some negative publicity recently with the discovery that, throughout Europe, it has airbrushed out the Christian cross at the top of the blue dome of the Anastasi Church on the island of Santorini, images of which feature on its Greek food range, in order to remain ‘religiously neutral’. Three-quarters of Britons interviewed by YouGov in an app-based poll released on 7 September 2017 disapproved of Lidl’s action, with only 13% endorsing it and 12% undecided. Topline results are available at:


The eleventh (2017) edition of SunLife’s Cost of Dying Report contains a range of information about funerals, mostly based upon two UK-wide surveys undertaken by Critical Research in May 2017 among (a) 1,524 adults who were responsible for planning a funeral and administering an estate during the past four years (online interviews) and (b) 100 funeral directors (by telephone). One-quarter of funerals now involve burials and three-quarters cremations, with an increasing number of the latter (10% according to the funeral directors) being direct cremations, generally involving no funeral service whatsoever (albeit a small minority have some sort of post-cremation service). Two-thirds of the funeral directors returned a decrease in religious funerals, one-half of funerals also featuring modern songs, music, or anthems. Just 11% of those who had organized a funeral for a loved-one described the tone of the service as ‘religious’ and no more than 36% even knew whether the deceased would have preferred a religious or non-religious service. The report is at:

Online radicalization

Attitudes to extremist content online and the regulation of the internet more generally have been thoroughly investigated in an online poll by ICM Unlimited among 2,051 adult Britons on 14-18 July 2017, on behalf of Policy Exchange. Results for all questions were disaggregated by religious affiliation, albeit only the sub-samples of professing Christians and religious nones were large enough to yield statistically robust breaks. On many issues, the latter tended to adopt more liberal positions than the former, although this was probably largely a function of their different age profiles. Additionally, a couple of questions were posed which specifically focused on religion. The first asked whether extremist or hate speech at places of worship influenced people to commit terrorist acts; 63% thought it did so a lot, 25% a little, and only 3% not at all. The second question enquired whether it was acceptable in certain situations to publish online content that encourages violence against religious groups; just 13% agreed overall (but including 31% of under-25s and 45% of the 50 Muslims interviewed) while 72% disagreed and 12% were neutral. Data tables can be found at:

Workplace discrimination

The experience during the past five years of specific types of work-related discrimination or disadvantage by 1,003 black and minority ethnic (BME) workers in Britain was measured in an online poll by ICM Unlimited for the Trades Union Congress in January 2017. Breaks for several questions were given by religious affiliation, including for statistically viable sub-samples of Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and religious nones. Race/ethnicity or gender were more likely than religion/belief to be cited as the perceived cause of cases of harassment, verbal abuse, physical violence, or unfair treatment. Prejudice against wearing visible markers of religious identity was reported as having increased since the vote in 2016 on the UK’s membership of the European Union, 23% of BME respondents having experienced or witnessed it post-Brexit. Data tables are available at:

Trust in professions

Three-fifths of 2,612 secondary school pupils aged 11-16 in England and Wales trust clergy and priests to tell the truth, and just 14% distrust them, according to the 2017 Ipsos MORI Young People Omnibus, undertaken by self-completion questionnaire between 6 February and 17 May. With a net trust figure of +46%, clergy and priests were ranked fifth of eighteen professional groups for trustworthiness, after doctors (+83%), the police (+71%), judges (+64%), and scientists (+53%). This was about the same net trust figure for clergy and priests as in the 2016 Ipsos MORI Veracity Index for British adults (+43%), albeit the latter expressed both higher levels of trust (69%) and distrust (26%) for clergy and priests to tell the truth, mainly because there were fewer don’t knows than in the school pupil sample. Data tables for the Young People Omnibus are available at:

Viewing the Arab world

The Arab News has published a series of articles on British attitudes to the Arab world, derived from a YouGov poll which it commissioned in partnership with the Council for Arab-British Understanding, for which 2,142 adults were interviewed online on 16-17 August 2017. The full report and data tables have yet to be released, but the articles reveal a few findings which will be of interest to BRIN readers. Although 72% of respondents acknowledged that anti-Muslim hatred is a growing problem in the UK, 55% supported racial profiling of Arabs/Muslims for security reasons (with 24% disapproving). The majority (53%) endorsed the UK’s continued military operations against Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria, with 29% opposed and 19% neutral. On the Israel-Palestine question, 53% agreed that the UK should recognize Palestine as a state, and only 32% regarded the Balfour Declaration of 1917 (in favour of a Jewish national homeland in Palestine) as something to be proud of (albeit a plurality of 41% was undecided). At the same time, most (55%) did not feel the UK should take responsibility for sorting out the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Arab News coverage can be found at:


Mapping Christians

ComRes has completed a so-called ‘mapping’ study for the Church of England’s Evangelism Task Force, interviewing 8,150 adult Britons online between 17 and 31 March 2017, and identifying that 50% professed to be Christians, 7% non-Christians, and 42% religious nones (peaking at 57% of 18-24s). Christians (n = 4,190, 56% of them Anglican) and former Christians (n = 84) were then asked a series of questions to measure their commitment to the faith. Among Christians, just 28% regarded themselves as ‘an active Christian who follows Jesus’, 63% not, with 9% unsure. More specifically, 40% of Christians claimed to pray at least monthly and 29% never; 19% to attend church at least monthly and 33% never; and 18% to read or listen to the Bible at least monthly and 55% never. Across the whole sample, 6% of adults were categorized by ComRes as ‘practising Christians’, defined as people who satisfied the triple test of reading the Bible and praying at least weekly and attending church at least monthly. Almost certainly, these claims to religious practice were overstated by respondents. Full data tables, extending to 155 pages, can be found at:

Food poverty

The Church Urban Fund has recently released the results of an online poll about food poverty, which it commissioned ComRes to undertake among a sample of 2,048 adult Britons on 4-5 January 2017. The survey covered the incidence of particular financial and food anxieties and deprivations during the previous twelve months, which were generally found to be higher among non-Christians than for Christians or religious nones. Data tables are available at:

Church of England ministry statistics

The Church of England has released the latest annual reports on the number of its clergy and ordinands. The 25-page Ministry Statistics, 2016 shows a total of 19,550 active ordained ministers, 2% fewer than in 2015, 29% of whom are women and 40% stipendiary. The single-slide report on ordinands records 544 entering training in 2017, the highest figure for ten years; this represents an overall increase of 14% on 2015 but 19% more women and 39% more young ordinands. The documents can be accessed via links in the press release at:

Living Ministry

The Church of England’s Ministry Division has published the first results from its Living Ministry project: Liz Graveling and Olga Cara, Mapping the Wellbeing of Church of England Clergy and Ordinands: Panel Survey Wave 1 Report. The project is a longitudinal panel study involving a large-scale quantitative online survey every two years among four cohorts of clergy (those ordained deacon in 2006, 2011, and 2015 and those who commenced training in 2016) together with smaller-scale qualitative research. It will run from 2016 to 2026. There were 761 respondents to wave 1, equivalent to 38% of the cohort population. Overall, levels of wellbeing were found to be positive for each domain (financial and material; physical and mental; relationships; and ministerial). Gender was a less significant factor than age in explaining differences. The report is available at:

Coincidentally, King’s Business School at King’s College London has published a summative report on the Experiences of Ministry project, the forerunner of Living Ministry: Mike Clinton and Tim Ling, Effective Ministerial Presence and What It Looks Like in Practice: Insights from the Experiences of Ministry Project, 2011-17. This earlier project captured the views of 6,000 Church of England clergy through a series of national surveys, as well as conducting in-depth interviews and collecting week-long daily diaries. Like Living Ministry, it also addressed clergy wellbeing, revealing that it compared favourably with other occupational groups. A full-length book on the findings of Experiences of Ministry is promised for 2018. Meanwhile, the summative report is available at:

Church in Wales statistics

At its meeting in Lampeter on 14 September 2017, the Church in Wales Governing Body received the annual report on membership and finances for 2016. The overall picture was more negative than positive, with particular decline from 2015 in Easter communicants (down 6%), baptisms (down 8%), and confirmations (down 21%), as well as a fall (for the fifth year in succession) in planned direct giving (the principal source of parochial income). In terms of membership indicators, growth was confined to Christmas communicants (up 2%), average under-18 worship attendance (up 3%), and average over-18 weekday attendance (up 5%). Congregations at ‘additional services’ also rose (by 4%). There was a continuing surplus of income over expenditure, notwithstanding increased outlay in 2016 as new projects were started, which was said to reflect growing confidence at the grass roots. In the Governing Body’s debate on the report, Revd Richard Wood of Bangor observed his plea in 2016 for the Church to cut out its dead wood had been met with ‘a stony silence’, and he urged it to ‘stop giving time, effort, energy, and money to that which has failed’. The report is available at:

Faith schools

The Fair Admissions Campaign (FAC), which wants all state-funded schools in England and Wales to be open to all children regardless of religion or belief, has updated its digest of research about faith schools and religious selection of pupils. Sources date from 2001 to the present and are arranged in reverse chronological order. They comprise a mixture of official reports, academic studies, investigations by faith bodies, and opinion polls. The digest is preceded by an overview (pp. 2-9) from FAC, which concludes: ‘religious selection is not popular. High-performing schools are popular. And the socio-economic selection brought about by religious selection often leads religiously selective schools to be high-performing schools.’ The 100-page document can be accessed at:

Religious education

The National Association of Teachers of Religious Education (NATRE), the Religious Education Council of England and Wales (REC), and RE Today Services have published The State of the Nation: A Report on Religious Education Provision within Secondary Schools in England. It is based on three datasets: an online survey of 790 schools; the Department for Education’s School Workforce Census for 2010-15; and entries for GCSE Religious Studies for 2014-16. The headline-grabbing finding (from the School Workforce Census) is that 28% of schools give no dedicated curriculum time to religious education in Year 11, in contravention of their statutory duties, and affecting 800,000 pupils. Two shorter supplementary reports by NATRE were issued at the same time: GCSE Religious Studies, 2014-2016 and Levels of Provision of Religious Education in Schools where Different Legal Requirements Apply. All three documents can be accessed via the links in the press release at:

The REC has separately published the interim report of the Commission on Religious Education (CORE), entitled Religious Education for All, which offers a comparable overview of provision, drawing upon the written and oral evidence presented to it, including statistics. CORE was initiated by REC but is independent and has recommended that religious education should encompass the teaching of non-religious as well as religious worldviews. Its report can be found at:

Scottish religiosity

An online poll of 1,016 Scottish adults aged 16 and over, conducted by Survation on behalf of the Humanist Society Scotland (HSS) between 8 and 12 September 2017, has revealed that just 24% of Scots regard themselves as religious, 72% saying they are not, with 4% declining to answer. This represents a reduction in the number of avowedly religious people in Scotland since 2011, when a study by Progressive/YouGov returned it as 35% (against 56% not religious). Based on this evidence, HSS is questioning the ways in which the population census and other religious surveys are being carried out, arriving at higher figures of Scottish religious adherence. Data tables from the Survation poll can be found at:

Scottish social capital

The contribution of faith communities in Scotland to its national life was celebrated in a debate of a motion tabled by Kate Forbes MSP in the Scottish Parliament on 12 September 2017, commending the achievements of the Serve Scotland coalition of community organizations. The debate was informed by an estimate that voluntary work by Scottish faith groups through social projects produces an economic impact of almost £100 million each year in terms of time and resources. For a transcript of the debate, see:

For a press release from the Evangelical Alliance Scotland summarizing the background data, which derive from the Cinnamon Network, see:


What is claimed to be ‘the largest and most detailed survey of attitudes towards Jews and Israel ever conducted in Great Britain’ is reported in Daniel Staetsky, Antisemitism in Contemporary Great Britain: A Study of Attitudes towards Jews and Israel, published by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR). In partnership with the Community Security Trust, JPR commissioned Ipsos MORI to poll 5,466 Britons aged 16 and over by a combination of face-to-face and online interview between 28 October 2016 and 24 February 2017. The sample included boosts for Muslims, the far-left, and the far-right. Staetsky proposes an ‘elastic view’ of the extent of anti-Semitism in Britain, differentiating the counting of serious anti-Semites on the one hand (who number no more than 5% of the population) from the measurement of the diffusion of anti-Semitic ideas and attitudes (held to some extent by a further 25% of Britons) on the other, the latter not necessarily translating into open dislike of Jews. Hard-core negativity towards Israel was demonstrated by 12% of the population, with an additional 21% exhibiting softer negativity and a total of 56% holding at least one anti-Israel attitude (and 62% at least one anti-Israel and/or one anti-Semitic attitude). As a general rule, anti-Israel sentiments were not found to be anti-Semitic, but the stronger a person’s anti-Israel views, the more likely they were to hold anti-Semitic attitudes. Both anti-Semitic and anti-Israel attitudes were substantially higher among Muslims than in society at large. Somewhat counter-intuitively, despite current political discourses, this was not the case for left-wingers with regard to anti-Semitism (although it was for anti-Israelism). The 82-page report, incorporating a 16-page methodological section, is available at:

Jews and home help

Nine-tenths (91%) of 1,028 self-identifying British Jewish adults employ some kind of help around the home, according to a telephone poll by Survation in July 2017 on behalf of World Jewish Relief (WJR). The commonest form of domestic assistance was the cleaner, engaged by 65% of Jews, including 54% who have a cleaner in at least once a week and 20% several times a week. Other widespread types of help during the course of the year were window cleaners (59%), gardeners (51%), and handymen (41%). Least called on were chefs, au pairs, and carers. The majority (57%) of respondents said they would struggle without help in the home, lack of time being the principal reason given, especially by under-35s. Full data tables are not available, but WJR’s press release is at:


Sikh ethnicity and the 2021 census

The Times for 12 September 2017 (p. 19) ran a short news story about a Sikh campaign to secure recognition of ‘Sikh’ as an ethnic, as well as a religious, group at the 2021 census of the UK, noting that 113 MPs had signed a letter to the chief executive of the UK Statistics Authority requesting the change. At the 2011 census, more than 83,000 Sikhs refused to choose one of the listed options in the question on ethnicity, preferring to write in ‘Sikh’ in the space for ‘any other ethnic group’.

The story was followed up in several letters to the editor. On 13 September (p. 28), Malathy Sitaram, a retired schoolteacher from Swindon, wrote to express surprise that some UK Sikhs declined to be recognized as Indians, arguing that Hindu Punjabis and Sikh Punjabis speak the same language and frequently intermarry. In similar vein, on 14 September (p. 32), Randhir Singh Bains wrote from Gants Hill to deny that Sikhs were an ethnic group, as opposed to being Punjabis, and to suggest that the leaders of the campaign to designate Sikhs as such a group were Sikh separatists who wanted to carve a Sikh state out of India. But on 18 September (p. 28), Surinder Singh Bakhshi of Birmingham reminded the readers of The Times of Lord Templeton’s judgement in the House of Lords in the case of Mandla v. Dowell Lee in 1983, that Sikhs were an ethnic group and, indeed, almost a nation.

In the background, the Office for National Statistics ran a census test in Hounslow and Wolverhampton in 2017 on Sikhs as an ethnic group, the interim report on which suggested: ‘There is no indication from the findings that the religious affiliation and ethnic group questions are capturing different Sikh populations. All respondents who stated they were ethnically Sikh also stated their religious affiliation was Sikh.’ The report is available at:

Religious slaughter

The number of animals killed without pre-stunning has risen sharply since 2013, when European Union and UK legislation allowing an exemption from humane slaughter on religious grounds (to meet the requirements of Jews and Muslims) came into force. This is according to an analysis by the British Veterinary Association (BVA) of the Food Standards Agency’s report on animal welfare for the quarter April-June 2017, which revealed that 18% of poultry and 24% of sheep and goats are now slaughtered without pre-stunning. The BVA’s press release, including a link to the Agency’s report, is at:


Science and religion (1)

New data on public attitudes to evolution in the UK and Canada were released by the Science and Religion: Exploring the Spectrum project at the 2017 British Science Festival in Brighton. The UK fieldwork was conducted online by YouGov on behalf of Newman University among 2,129 adults aged 16 and over between 12 May and 6 June 2017.

The majority (71%) of all UK respondents, and even 62% of those identifying as religious or spiritual, accepted evolutionary (natural selection) or theistic (divinely guided) evolutionary accounts of the origin of species, including humans. Only 9% of the whole sample, and 16% of religious or spiritual, selected the creationist statement that ‘humans and other living things were created by God and have always existed in their current form’. Similarly, just 12% in the UK found it difficult to accept evolutionary science in relation to their personal beliefs, and no more than 19% of the religious or spiritual. Paradoxically, though, a bigger proportion (28%) in the UK agreed with the proposition that ‘animals evolve over time but evolutionary science cannot explain the origin of human beings’, suggesting a degree of confusion on the subject in some minds.

Various other facets of religion were illuminated by the study. Approximately half the UK interviewees were not religiously disposed: 52% professed to be neither religious nor spiritual (atheist, non-religious, agnostic, and freethinker being the commonest self-descriptions, in that order of priority); 50% expressed no real interest in religion or spirituality; and for 54% religion did not play an important part in shaping their identity and worldview. When it came to experts, theologians were perceived as reliable by 38% of the entire population and 49% of the religious or spiritual; they actually ranked bottom out of 15 professions in terms of reliability and were well beaten by evolutionary scientists (72%). A press release, with links to a (rather ‘busy’) summary report and full data tables, can be found at:

Science and religion (2)

The interaction between science and religion was further illuminated in another multinational survey by Ipsos MORI on behalf of the Scientific and Medical Network, and funded by the Salvia Foundation. Online interviews were conducted in November-December 2016 with samples of 1,000 science, engineering, medical, or technical research professionals in each of three countries – France, Germany, and the UK. In the UK, 45% of respondents were categorized as religious or spiritual, comprising 13% practising religious, 18% non-practising religious, and 14% self-describing as spiritual but not belonging to a religion; an equivalent number (46%) were atheist or agnostic. The proportion for whom religion or spirituality was important to the way they led their lives was smaller (35%) than the total of professing religious or spiritual, 14% saying very important and 21% fairly important. Religious observance was relatively low, attendance at religious services at least monthly being reported by 13% and prayer at least weekly by 17%. Asked about the relationship between science and religion, 44% of UK scientists thought the two fields were independent and could not be compared; 21% saw science and religion as complementary; and 25% viewed them as mutually exclusive, contradicting each other. The pattern of replies for the relationship between science and spirituality was not dissimilar, albeit the figure for mutually exclusive dropped to 16%. Partial data tables (with breaks within country by gender, age, marital status, and highest educational qualification) are available at:

British religion and the Second World War

Mass Observation, the independent social research organization established in 1937 to investigate the anthropology of everyday life in Britain, consciously set out to create an archive of life on the home front during the Second World War. Religion was not neglected, and its outputs in this area have been surveyed in a recent presentation by Clive Field: ‘British Religion and the Second World War: An Audit of Sources in the Mass Observation Archive’. Although best known for its qualitative and ethnographic research methods, Mass Observation did also deploy statistical techniques, especially to analyse replies from its self-selecting and demographically unrepresentative national panel of observers and from direct and indirect interviews with samples of the general population. The presentation is available at:


SN 8244: Annual Population Survey Three-Year Pooled Dataset, January 2014-December 2016

The Annual Population Survey is compiled by the Office for National Statistics in partnership with the devolved administrations in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. It incorporates a sub-set of key variables from the several Labour Force Surveys and is designed to be sufficiently robust and large-scale to produce reliable estimates at local authority level. The three-year merged dataset for 2014-16 is based on 543,298 face-to-face and telephone interviews with adults and young persons living away from the parental home. A question on religious affiliation is included: ‘what is your religion?’ in Britain and ‘what is your religious denomination?’ in Northern Ireland. A catalogue description of the dataset is available at:

SN 8252: British Social Attitudes Survey, 2016

The British Social Attitudes (BSA) Survey, 2016 was conducted between July and November of that year by NatCen Social Research on behalf of a consortium of Government departments and charitable funders. There were 2,942 respondents, who were interviewed face-to-face and by self-completion questionnaire. The standard background questions about religious affiliation (current and by upbringing) and attendance at religious services were included, which can be used as variables to analyse replies to all elements of the main questionnaire (covering politics, welfare, health, education, transport, official statistics, employment, trade unions, and retirement and pensions). An analysis by religion of the replies to the morality-related questions inserted by NatCen (especially attitudes to voluntary euthanasia, abortion, and capital punishment) is likely to prove rewarding. The only other specifically religious content will be found in the self-completion questionnaires for sub-samples A and C, which were asked about the influence of religious organizations and other bodies on government actions and their role in the provision of public services. A catalogue description of the dataset is available at:

Just before the release of this dataset at UKDA, NatCen published a press release about the religious affiliation question, showing that a record number of Britons (53%) professed to belong to no religion in 2016, rising to 71% among 18-24-year-olds (contrasting with just 27% of over-75s). The decline in religious affiliation has been relentless since BSA began in 1983, the Church of England having been particularly badly affected, with the Anglican market share now reduced to 15%, half the number in 2000. The press release, with a link to trend data tables, can be found at:

Please note: Counting Religion in Britain is © Clive D. Field, 2017


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