Religious Equality

Pat Thane has edited a new book exploring seven aspects of inequality in Britain since the Second World War, including religious. Entitled Unequal Britain: Equalities in Britain since 1945 (London: Continuum, 2010, ISBN 978-1-84706-298-7), its contributors are all associated with the Centre for Contemporary British History, Institute of Historical Research, University of London.

The chapter on religion and belief (pp. 53-70, 196-7, 214) is by Liza Filby, currently completing her PhD at the Department of History, University of Warwick on ‘God and Thatcher: Religion and Politics in 1980s’ Britain’. In her essay she provides a broadly chronological account (including timeline) of the development of multi-faith Britain since the nineteenth century, documenting linkages with immigration and ethnicity and recent legislative changes designed to accommodate religious diversity.

As with the other six chapters, there is a brief statistical appendix (pp. 69-70) which, frankly, is quite disappointing. It comprises three tables of a) membership of the five main Christian denominations in 1945, 1955, 1965, 1975 and 1985; b) estimates (by Peter Brierley) of affiliates to non-Christian faiths in 1970, 1975, 1980 and 1985 (these figures are especially problematical); and c) religious profession for the United Kingdom and separately for Scotland in the 2001 population census.

The opportunity is thus missed to provide truly contemporary data about religious inequality in modern Britain. For instance, the extensive literature on religious disadvantage in the census (such as Serena Hussain, Muslims on the Map, London: Tauris Academic, 2008) is not mined. There is likewise no consideration of survey data, including the Citizenship Survey and opinion polls which touch on Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and perceived discrimination against Christians.

BRIN readers interested in exploring religious equality issues further might well start with the relevant section of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)’s website at:

This includes a link to EHRC Research Services’ newly-established religion or belief network, which issues an occasional e-bulletin, and to Research Report No. 48 (2009) by Linda Woodhead with Rebecca Catto on ‘Religion or Belief’: Identifying Issues and Priorities. The EHRC’s research team is currently preparing a statistical briefing on religion and belief issues. To join the religion or belief network, contact

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

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