Doctor-Assisted Suicide and Other News

Our second post of the day features four miscellaneous items of religious news.

Doctor-assisted suicide

Legalization of doctor-assisted suicide for terminally-ill people of sound mind, with appropriate safeguards, is endorsed by 62% of Britons aged 18 and over who profess to belong to a religion (n = 1,247), according to an online poll conducted by YouGov for Dignity in Dying between 22 and 24 April 2013, and published on 20 May. The proportion among self-identifying Christians was 63% but dropped to 49% for Catholics (29% of whom were opposed). Support for a change in the law also tended to fall away with greater regularity of attendance at religious services, being highest for less than monthly worshippers, whereas among those who worship more than once a week 49% rejected doctor-assisted suicide and just 38% favoured it. Full data tables can be found at:

Proxy religious affiliation

One of the drawbacks of the census of population as a source of data about religious affiliation is that, unlike a sample survey, it incorporates a large measure of proxy responses, as opposed to being based entirely on self-designation. This is because the household form will generally be completed by one person, often the ‘head of the household’, who may or may not consult other members of the household about the answers to be given. Since heads of household are disproportionately male and older than other individuals, two demographic characteristics known to relate to religious identity, there is at least the potential for proxy responses to skew the results.

Among adults we know from an Ipsos MORI poll conducted immediately after the 2011 census that at least 18% claimed they had the religion question in the census answered on their behalf by somebody else, not all of whom were asked how they wished to be described. However, children were probably even less likely to be consulted about the recording of their religious identity, and thus it is instructive to analyse the 2011 census of religion for England and Wales separately for children (aged 0-15 years) and adults (aged 16 years and above). Percentages in each religious group, calculated from the newly-released Table DC2107EW, are shown below:





























Any other




No religion




Not stated




The table demonstrates that children are six points more likely than adults to be recorded as without any religion and one point more likely to be entered as religion not stated. This may suggest that some heads of household/parents are actually erring on the side of caution by not assigning a religion to their children until they are old enough to make up their own minds. On the other hand, the much higher proportion of children with no religion and the much smaller number described as Christians (11% fewer than among adults) may reveal a genuine movement of the religious tide, which will add to the depressing interpretation of the census so far as the future of Christianity in this country is concerned. The fact that more than twice the proportion of children as adults are registered as Muslims doubtless reflects the youthful profile of the Muslim community but may also imply that any child of a Muslim parent will automatically have been deemed to be a Muslim by the person completing the schedule.

Religious education quizzes

Education Quizzes is a learning and revision website for Key Stages 2-4 (including GCSE), which has been running for just over a year. In return for a fairly modest parental subscription of £5 a month, pupils can test their knowledge in a vast range of curriculum subjects. Some of the multiple-choice quiz results in religious education (RE) were featured in The Times and Daily Express on 24 May 2013, which led BRIN to investigate. In response, Education Quizzes has generously supplied BRIN with all the RE quiz results for Key Stages 2 (aged 7-10) and 3 (aged 11-13) to 15 March 2013.

While the nature of the enterprise, and its early days, probably means that those who complete the quizzes cannot be assumed to be statistically representative of the child population, the results still have illustrative value. The table below summarizes the mean number of correct and incorrect answers per quiz for the various Key Stage 3 quizzes which have been answered most numerously to date:


% correct

% incorrect







Christianity – place of worship



Christianity – Easter






In the two Christianity quizzes the questions with most incorrect answers were about the appearance of Jesus on the road to Emmaus (72% incorrect) and the part of a church in which the congregation sits (55% incorrect). Most ignorance on the Islam quiz was displayed in relation to the question about the name of the book prescribing how Muslims should live; 31% did not know this was the Sunnah. Education Quizzes can be found at:

Faith and social capital in Wandsworth

Faith-based organizations were responsible for two-fifths of all voluntary sector welfare projects in the London Borough of Wandsworth in 2010, according to a report belatedly published by the London Churches Group for Social Action on 9 May 2013. Additionally, a minority of secular welfare projects had some faith connection; for example, 7% had been founded by a faith body and 8% operated out of faith-owned premises. However, on average faith-based projects were significantly smaller than those run by secular agencies, in terms of expenditure, number of users, and employees. This partly reflected the fact that they were also much less likely to be in receipt of public-sector funding. Elizabeth Simon, Better Off Without Them? Report of a Pilot Study into the Proportion of Voluntary Sector Welfare Projects Organised by Churches and Other Faiths is available at:


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