Humanist Marriages and Other News

Herewith eight more religious statistical news stories which have come to hand during the past week.

Humanist marriages

Humanist marriages have been legal in Scotland since 2005, and in 2011 (the latest year for which data are available) they were the second most common form of ‘religious’ wedding ceremony in Scotland, after the Church of Scotland. Humanist marriages are not yet legally recognized in England and Wales, but a majority of Britons (53%) and of English and Welsh (51%) think they should be, according to a YouGov poll for the British Humanist Association which was published on 18 June 2013. Online fieldwork was undertaken between 31 May and 3 June 2013 among 2,385 adults aged 18 and over. Support for change is greatest among the never married (60%), those aged 25-34 years (60%), Scots (64%), and full-time students (66%). Outright opposition to the legal recognition of humanist marriages is relatively small (12%), albeit rising to 16% in North-East England, 17% for the married or in a civil partnership, 18% for the over-55s, 19% among the retired, and 26% of widowed. The remainder of the public either expresses no opinion (10%) or takes a neutral stance (25%). Full data tables are available at:

Another post-Woolwich poll

Survation have recently posted the full data tables from an online poll on public attitudes to counter-terrorism and the economy which they carried out on 30 May 2013 on behalf of The Sun on Sunday among 1,007 adult Britons. They include results from a couple of questions about hate preachers in the wake of the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby at the hands of Islamists. One question asked whether, in general, Muslim communities had been doing all they could to combat the threat of hate preachers and extremism; only 26% of Britons thought they had against 60% who deemed these communities to have been complacent and insufficiently proactive in addressing the problem. The second question asked respondents to anticipate the likely outcome of the long-running case involving Abu Qatada, the radical Muslim cleric; 24% expected him to be forcibly extradited to his native Jordan, 20% to return to Jordan voluntarily, and 38% to remain in the UK indefinitely, with 17% uncertain what would happen. In fact, a treaty which would facilitate Abu Qatada’s extradition and trial in Jordan has now been approved by the Jordanian and UK Parliaments, so the poll has been overtaken by events. The data tables are at:

Religious education (RE) in primary schools

‘The lack of time allocated to RE during initial teacher training courses leaves primary school teachers feeling under-prepared to teach the subject when they arrive in the classroom … This, compounded by a lack of curriculum time in many schools and the high turnover of RE subject leaders, is leaving RE teaching in a perilous state in many primary schools.’ So concludes the National Association of Teachers of Religious Education (NATRE) in a report published on 20 June 2013 and based upon online questionnaires completed by a self-selecting (and thus potentially unrepresentative) sample of 679 English primary schools over a six-week period during the Spring Term 2013. In three-quarters of cases the respondent was the subject leader for RE. The report, comprising a brief textual analysis and 13 tables, can be found at:

Overall, the resources available for RE were judged to be adequate in 61% of schools and more than adequate in 24%. That left 15% of schools where resources were considered to be less than adequate, rising slightly to 17% for academy and community schools without a religious character (but still 12% even in schools with a religious character). Most schools (82%) devoted less than an hour a week to RE, including 6% who allocated less than half an hour (10% in schools without a religious character). However, this timetabling was not seriously out of line with that for history and geography. One-quarter (24%) of informants claimed to have received no initial teacher training in RE (compared with 16% who said the same about history and 7% about English), and this was even 15% for those who had pursued the three- or four-year bachelor’s degree in education. As a consequence, 17% recalled that they had not been confident at all about teaching RE when they began their careers, albeit 93% assessed themselves as now being very or reasonably confident. The most regularly used resources for teaching RE were the locally agreed syllabus (78%) and the internet (67%).

NATRE is currently fielding an equivalent online survey in English secondary schools. It was launched on 30 May and runs until 26 July 2013. BRIN expects to cover the results in due course.

St Paul’s the tops!

St Paul’s Cathedral and Big Ben tied in first place (with 19% each) in a recent YouGov poll (for Warburtons) in which 2,050 Britons were invited to select their favourite London skyline image from a list of thirteen landmark buildings. Online fieldwork was undertaken between 31 May and 3 June 2013, although results were not released until 19 June. St Paul’s was the undisputed leader over Big Ben among women (21%), the over-55s (27%), retired people (28%), non-manual workers (22%), married persons (22%), separated or divorced (27%), widowed (33%), Londoners (22%), Welsh (18%), and Scots (22%). St Paul’s was the only religious building on the list, with Tower Bridge in third position (12%) and the other ten landmarks all scoring below 10%. One can only speculate as to the reason(s) for St Paul’s popularity: its outstanding architecture, its symbolism of the divine, its epitome of national unity and defiance in that famous wartime photograph from the London blitz, and so forth. Tables can be found at:

Diocese of Leicester mission statistics

A rich statistical profile of the Church of England Diocese of Leicester is contained in its statistics for mission returns for 2012, published (with comparisons for previous years) on 16 June 2013 as a summary report (in PDF format) and raw data (in Excel format) at:

Not only are the figures more up-to-date than the last Church of England national return (for 2011, published on 7 May), but they also relate to some matters which have not hitherto been reported on nationally. Two especially caught BRIN’s attention. First, there is the revelation that 38% of adults in Anglican worshipping communities in the diocese are now aged 70 or above. Second, we get insights into the dynamics of joining and leaving these worshipping communities, unpacking the net figures (‘stocks’) to reveal the underlying and partially offsetting inward and outward ‘flows’. The table below summarizes the position in the diocese for adults, children and young people combined for the four-year period 2009-12:

Joining worshipping community

For first time


Transfer from another church


Returning after break from church




Leaving worshipping community

Death or ill-health


Relocation or joining another church


No longer part of any church




Scottish Episcopal Church statistics

Decline in the Scottish Episcopal Church appears to have bottomed out somewhat, according to the annual report and accounts for the year ended 31 December 2012 which were presented to the Church’s General Synod meeting in Edinburgh on 6-8 June 2013. The number of members was down just 0.3% on 2011, of communicants by 0.7%, and of attenders on a Sunday before Advent by 0.7%. The Diocese of Edinburgh even registered modest growth on all three indicators. Of course, the longer-term trend remains downwards. Church attendance is said to have reduced by 15% over five years, and the current totals of members (34,804) and communicants (24,480) are well down on the high points of, respectively, 147,518 in 1921 and 62,375 in 1938. However, Mark Strange, Bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness, highlighted to General Synod the existence of many ‘adherents’ of the Scottish Episcopal Church who were neither members nor communicants. The 2012 diocesan statistics can be found on pp. 61-8 of the annual report at:

Making sense of the census

The British Sociological Association’s Sociology of Religion (SocRel) Study Group held a study day at Friends House, London on 18 June 2013 on the theme of ‘Making Sense of the Census: The SocRel Response’. Various aspects of the religion question in the 2011 population census of England and Wales were explored. Keynotes were given by Abby Day (organizer of the event, with Lois Lee), Clive Field, and Grace Davie, and there were also two round tables involving nine shorter presentations. A summation of the day will be available on the SocRel website in due course, and it is hoped that selected papers will eventually appear in a peer-reviewed academic journal. Meanwhile, BRIN readers may be interested to see a sub-set of slides from Field’s presentation on the historical and methodological contexts of the census in terms of religious identity. These illustrate how, at least in the British context, different question-wording can apparently lead to marked variations in outcomes. You can view these slides by clicking on the link below:

SocRel sub-set

1851 religious census in the North-East

The Religious Census of 1851: Northumberland and County Durham, edited by Alan Munden, was published by the Boydell Press on 18 April 2013 (Publications of the Surtees Society, Vol. 216, lxxxv + 581p., ISBN 978-0-85444-071-9, £50 hardback). It offers a transcript of the original schedules from the 1851 census of religious accommodation and attendance (in general congregations and at Sunday schools) for the twelve registration districts in these two counties (including places of worship in Yorkshire) as well as for that part of the Alston registration district in Cumberland which was then in the Diocese of Durham. There is an extensive introduction, notes (derived from other primary or secondary sources), appendices, and indexes. Unusually for such editions, and some may feel unhelpfully (notwithstanding the cross-referencing between the two systems on pp. lix-lxxxv), the arrangement of the entries for the 1,175 individual churches and chapels is not in accordance with the numbering of the original documents in the Home Office Papers at The National Archives. Instead, Munden has chosen to rearrange the entries according to his own numbering, first by registration district alphabetically ordered within each county, and then by denomination within each district, thereby losing the topographical unity deriving from organization by sub-districts and parish/places in the census. This volume brings to twenty-two the total of English counties for which editions of the 1851 religious census have now been published, which leaves seventeen to do (of which at least two are being worked on).


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