Religious Irreligious and Other News


Religious irreligious

New research from OnePoll has found that 76% of people in the UK do not regard themselves as religious but many of them still exhibit signs of religiosity. The study was conducted online among 1,000 adults aged 18 and over and published in headline in Iona Hartshorn’s blog post of 29 April 2014, which can be found at:

Through the kindness of OnePoll, I have had access to the detailed computer tables and been given permission to draw upon them for this note. The data are obviously the copyright of OnePoll.

There are the standard breaks by age, gender, and region. Below we present a tabular summary of a slightly less usual break, by self-assessed religiosity:





Believe in God




Ever attend religious services




Had a religious marriage




Want a religious funeral




Had been christened




Had own children christened




Attended a religious school




Own children attended a religious school




Ever pray




Ever say grace at mealtimes




There is also a break by belief in God, which reveals the sort of anomalies first surfaced in Mass-Observation’s classic 1947 study of Puzzled People. For example, OnePoll discovered that, of the believers in God, 53% did not consider themselves religious, 37% never went to church, 15% did not want a religious funeral, and 13% never prayed. Of disbelievers in God, 20% wanted a religious funeral, 8% prayed monthly or more, and 4% attended church monthly or more.

Doing God in politics

A high level of support for the sentiments expressed by Prime Minister David Cameron in his recent article in the Church Times is evident from the replies of almost 800 self-identifying members of the Conservative Party to a poll which went online on the Conservative Home website on 2 May 2014. Respondents were entirely self-selecting and cannot be assumed to be representative; indeed, some have already criticized the survey as a ‘voodoo poll’. Conservative members agreed overwhelmingly that Britain is a Christian country (85%) and should be a Christian country (86%). The majority (61%) also thought that politicians should ‘do God’, which seems to have been interpreted as meaning that they should speak about their faith in public, if they have one; 29% were opposed, with 10% uncertain. However, opinion was more divided about whether the role of faith-based organizations should be expanded, with 48% in favour and 42% against. Questions were also posed about the politics of the Church of England and its possible disestablishment, but results have not been reported yet. For analysis of the other questions, see Paul Goodman’s blog of 4 May 2014 at:

Role models

Asked by Opinium Research to nominate the people whom they looked upon as their personal role models, relatively few UK citizens (6%) chose a religious figure, ranging by demographic sub-group between 2% in Wales and 12% in London. Overall, religious figures ranked eighth out of fourteen options, the list being headed (unsurprisingly) by parents (35%) and friends (19%). Online interviews were conducted with 2,001 adults aged 18 and over from 28 February to 3 March 2014. Data tables were published on 24 April and can be found at:


Talking of role models, the third (and final) series of the BBC2 sitcom Rev concluded on 28 April 2014. It starred Tom Hollander as Rev. Adam Smallbone, vicar of St Saviour in the Marshes in inner-city London. Among its audience were large numbers of practising Christians, according to an online survey of 1,943 adult members of Christian Research’s Resonate panel (1,188 churchgoing laity and 755 clergy) interviewed on 25 April 2014 for the upcoming Christian Resources Exhibition. Two-thirds of this sample (including 76% of clergy) had watched some of the third series, 71% of whom had seen more than three of the six episodes. Moreover, four-fifths of the viewers agreed with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who recently said of the programme that it was ‘great viewing’ and ‘doesn’t depress me quite as much as you might think’.

Seven in ten of these practising Christians who had watched Rev found Smallbone a believable character, 63% indicated they would be willing to attend a church led by him (with or without reservations), and 62% anticipated he would have a positive effect on non-churchgoers’ perceptions of ministers. Respondents who had seen Rev were also sympathetic to the plight of financially struggling churches which St Saviour’s exemplified, with 86% agreeing that wealthier places of worship should use part of their income to support poorer ones, and 53% disagreeing that churches which are unable to pay their way should be closed. Many clergy in the sample likewise empathized with Smallbone’s predicament, arguing more strongly than the laity (29% versus 22%) that their own church provided inadequate social and pastoral support, and listing a good number of sources of frustration in their work.

As a personal member of Christian Research, I have been able to see the organization’s draft report on the survey. Non-members can read the Christian Research news release at:

More generally, Christian Research has published the 2014 tariff and panel demographics for Resonate, giving some idea of its profile and potential skews, at:

Faith schools

Attitudes to faith schools within the broader context of school choice are explored in the FirstView of an article in Journal of Social Policy which was published online on 15 April 2014: Stratos Patrikios and John Curtice, ‘Attitudes Towards School Choice and Faith Schools in the UK: A Question of Individual Preference or Collective Interest?’ Data derive from a module on perspectives on public services which was included in surveys fielded in 2007 in all four constituent territories of the UK: British Social Attitudes Survey, Scottish Social Attitudes Survey, Wales Life and Times Survey, and Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey.

Drawing on social identity theory, the authors suggest that, in general, attitudes towards faith-based schools owe more to religious identities and group interests associated with those identities rather than opinions about the merits of school choice informed by an individualistic utilitarian rationale. Although the abstract principle of school choice was very popular in these 2007 studies, and the concept of specialist schools was also backed by a majority, there was much greater public wariness about faith schools. However, the extent to which attitudes towards faith schools reflect religious identities is shown to vary between the four territories in line with the local landscapes of religion and educational provision.

The tables include breaks by religious affiliation (Catholic, Protestant, no religion) within each home nation. In all four countries support for faith schools was strongest among Catholics, and it was lowest in Scotland and Northern Ireland where the provision of faith schools is almost exclusively Catholic. It should be noted that the pattern of replies may have been influenced by a potential limitation in the question in that, while it sought views about faith schools overall, it also specifically referenced Roman Catholic schools. For access options to the article, go to:

Anglican and Methodist church growth

Anglican and Methodist experiences of church growth and decline from the eighteenth century to today are contrasted, with special reference to case studies of Yorkshire and London, in John Wolffe, ‘Past and Present: Taking the Long View of Methodist and Anglican History’, Proceedings of the Wesley Historical Society, Vol. 59, No. 5, May 2014, pp. 161-77. Dipping into a range of quantitative sources, from the 1851 religious census to Peter Brierley’s contemporary church statistics, Wolffe explores the extent to which Methodism and Anglicanism have been partners or competitors at various stages of their development. In the eighteenth and nineteenth century, it is argued, ‘Methodism … complemented the inherent inertia of the established Church of England by a capacity for swift and sometimes radical response to changing circumstances’. Subsequently, however, ‘the Anglican tortoise has often overtaken the Methodist hare, even as both are being pursued by the secular cheetah’. Wolffe also draws upon insights from the ‘Building on History’ project to demonstrate how history can be a resource to inform strategic thinking about present-day mission and ministry.

Violent anti-Semitism

The number of major violent incidents of anti-Semitism in the UK in 2013 was, at 95 or 17% of the global total of 554, second only to France (116), even though the UK is ranked but fifth in the world in terms of the size of its Jewish population. Outside of Israel, Jews are most numerous in the United States which recorded just 55 violent incidents of anti-Semitism in 2013, significantly fewer than the 83 in its less populous neighbour, Canada. Full details are contained in Antisemitism Worldwide, 2013, which was published by the Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry at Tel Aviv University on 28 April 2014. The report, which also includes (pp. 55-8) a summary by Mike White of all anti-Semitic incidents in the UK notified to the Community Security Trust in 2013, can be found at:

BRIN website usage

The latest management information statistics about use of the BRIN website reveal continued steady growth in traffic. In the twelve months to 1 May 2014, 155,000 pages were viewed by 63,000 unique users in 77,000 sessions. The majority of sessions (70%) were UK-based, with 10% from the USA, and the remaining fifth from 180 different countries and territories. In the just over four years since traffic measurement began in March 2010 there have been 576,000 pageviews by 204,000 users in 263,000 sessions. We currently also have 335 followers on Twitter and would welcome more. A link to each new blog post (approximately weekly) or other substantive addition to the BRIN site is tweeted. So do join us @BritRelNumbers


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