Scrooging Christmas and Other News

Christmas has become such a secular festival in contemporary Britain that one might have thought that even non-religious people would have no difficulty in joining in, but our first story today shows a disproportionate dislike for Christmas on their part. The other nine brief items are not particularly seasonal but have all come to hand during the past week or so.

Scrooging Christmas

When it comes to Christmas, people who profess no religion are more likely to be saying ‘Bah! Humbug!’ this year than many people of faith, according to a YouGov poll published on 30 November 2013 for which 1,888 Britons were interviewed online on 26-27 November. Overall, 75% of Britons express a like for Christmas and 21% a dislike, but the figures are 67% and 29% respectively for people of no religion. Adherents of the two main Christian denominations, by contrast, are proportionately more disposed to like Christmas (80% of Anglicans and 82% of Catholics). Similarly, given the chance, 24% of the ‘nones’ would cancel Christmas, against 16% of all Britons, 14% of Anglicans, and 4% of Catholics. Results for other religious groups are based on too small numbers to be meaningful. The greater propensity of the ‘nones’ to dislike Christmas is not merely a function of their younger age profile, since 18-24s generally are less likely to dislike Christmas (13%) than the over-60s (27%). The data tables can be found at:

Gendering conference

Women may form the backbone of most congregations, but Christian Churches in the UK still have some considerable way to go before they achieve full gender equality in terms of governance and leadership. If further proof of this was required, it was published by Natalie Collins on 13 November 2013 on her God Loves Women blog. Responding to a similar exercise in the United States, she and Helen Austin analysed the gender of speakers and presenters at 26 Christian conferences in the UK, mostly during 2013 but with a few prospective ones for 2014. The majority of these events were evangelical in nature, including substantial festivals such as Spring Harvest and Greenbelt. Of 1,072 presentations (taking account of the fact that individuals often spoke more than once at the same event), only 26% overall were made by women, albeit this was better than in the United States (19%). The UK wooden spoon went to Keswick, which had 21 male but no female speakers, but the proportion of women at the podium was also notably low at the HTB Leadership Conference (13%) and New Horizon (14%). The post can be read at:

2011 census (1): aggregate data

The UK Data Service announced on 2 December 2013 that aggregate data (about households and individuals within areas) from the 2011 census are now available as Study Number 7427. They cover the full range of geographies employed in the census, from the smallest (output areas with an average of 150 persons) to the nation as a whole. At the moment, aggregate data are only provided for England and Wales, but those for Scotland and Northern Ireland will be added soon. Data (for the 2001 as well as 2011 census) can be accessed through the InFuse service at the University of Manchester, which is easy to manipulate. In the case of religion calculations can be made for 2011 at the broad (9 category) or detailed (49 category) levels. InFuse is available at:

2011 census (2): religion and the over-85s

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) published a new analysis of the ‘oldest old’ in the 2011 census of England and Wales on 6 December 2013. It revealed that there were 1.25 million people aged 85 and over on census day, 24% up on the 2001 level, and 45% in the case of men (although women continued to outnumber men by more than two to one in this age cohort). Doubtless reflecting their upbringing, the over-85s remained disproportionately Christian relative to under-65s in the population, 83% against 55%, the former figure being only 1% lower than in 2001 whereas the latter dropped by 14%. Judaism was the next most followed religion among the over-85s, with 11,000 adherents (much the same as a decade before), unlike in the country at large, where it was Islam. However, the number of over-85s affiliating to a religion other than Christianity or Judaism rose by 118% during the decade, with especially big absolute growth for Hindus and Muslims. Merely 71,000 over-85s stated that they had no religion. Non-response to the voluntary religion question was higher among the over-85s (9%) than the under-65s (7%), which ONS attributes to those living in communal establishments, such as care homes, where carers may have lacked the necessary information or time to complete this question on behalf of residents. The ONS briefing can be read at:

Faith schools (1)

More heat was injected into the debate on faith schools on 3 December 2013 when the Fair Admissions Campaign (FAC) published an interactive map and commentary in a bid to demonstrate the extent of religious and socio-economic selection in state-funded English secondary schools, and its effect on social and ethnic inclusion. The research features information on every mainstream state-funded English secondary school, including how religiously selective its admissions policies are, and how representative it is of the local area in terms of the number of pupils eligible for free school meals (FSMs) and pupils speaking English as an additional language. Data were derived from various central government statistics and local authority admissions directories.

On social inclusion, the key finding claimed by FAC is that comprehensive secondaries with no religious character admit 11% more pupils eligible for FSMs than would be expected given their areas, while faith secondary schools (which account for 19% of the total) admit fewer than expected (10% fewer in Anglican schools, 24% fewer in Catholic schools, 61% fewer in Jewish schools, and 25% fewer in Muslim schools). A clear correlation is asserted by FAC between religious selection and socio-economic segregation, with schools applying religious admissions criteria tending to perform least well on indicators of eligibility for FSMs and English as an additional language.

Overall, FAC calculates that 16% of secondary schools religiously select pupils to some degree, affecting 72% of all places at faith secondary schools (and 13% of all secondary places in the state sector). The proportion of places affected by religious selection rises to 50% in Anglican and virtually 100% in Catholic secondaries. FAC further estimates that 17% of places at state primary schools are also subject to religious admissions criteria, giving a combined figure of 1,200,000 places at primary and secondary levels in England.

The map can be found at:

and key findings and explanation of methodology at:

Faith schools (2)

Meanwhile, the Catholic Education Service (CES) for England and Wales has just released the results of its 2013 annual census of Catholic schools and colleges with, for the first time, separate digests for England and Wales, plus a key facts card for England. At an initial glance, the story-line for England might seem hard to square with FAC calculations, above, the CES claiming (on the basis of its census, which achieved a 98% response, and Department for Education data) that Catholic schools recruit pupils disproportionately from the most deprived areas and from ethnic minority backgrounds. It should be noted that the CES deprivation comparisons draw on the official Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index (IDACI), rather than on eligibility for FSMs (the measure used by FAC, and on which, by CES’s own admission, Catholic schools certainly fall somewhat below the national average). Catholic schools are also said to outperform schools generally by 5% in terms of SATs scores for English and mathematics at age 11 and GCSE passes. In England, excluding 136 Catholic independent schools, there are 2,027 Catholic schools and colleges (equivalent to 10% of the maintained sector), attended by 770,083 students (of whom 70% are Catholic), and employing 46,664 teachers (of whom 55% are Catholic). In Wales there are 87 Catholic schools in the maintained sector, with 28,604 pupils and 1,570 teachers. The two digests can be found at:

London church growth

Further to our coverage of last year’s Greater London church census in our most recent post (30 November 2013), some BRIN readers may like to know of a colloquium planned for 2 May 2014 on the theme of ‘Church Growth and Decline in a Global City: London, 1980 to the Present’. The event is being organized by the Centre for Church Growth Research at Cranmer Hall, St John’s College, Durham University and the Institute of Historical Research, University of London. It will be held in Room 349, Senate House, University of London between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Confirmed speakers include: Professor David Martin (LSE), Professor John Wolffe (Open University), Dr Peter Brierley (Brierley Consultancy, which conducted the census), Dr Lois Lee (University College London), Dr Alana Harris (Lincoln College, Oxford), Dr Andrew Rogers (University of Roehampton), and Rev Dr Babatunde Adedibu (Redeemed Christian Church of God). The cost is £50 (£35 for students). For more detailed information, and to book a place, visit:

Trust in professionals

Ipsos MORI updated its trust in professions (veracity) index on 3 December 2013. It covers 16 professions, including clergy (column headed ‘cle’ in the table). It will be seen that the proportion of the British public trusting clergy to tell the truth has fallen from 85% in 1983 to 66% today, with a corresponding rise in those distrusting the clergy (from 11% to 27%). The trend cannot be attributed to a generic decline in the perceived truthfulness of all professions because most of the other columns are fairly static or even show some improvement in public standing over time (especially for civil servants and trade union officials). The index can be seen at:

Academic confession

Professor David Martin, FBA is the elder statesman of British sociology of religion, particularly known for his writings on secularization and Pentecostalism. Now in his eighties, he has recently published a fascinating retrospect of his intellectual journey: The Education of David Martin: The Making of an Unlikely Sociologist (SPCK, pp. xi + 251, paperback, £25.00, ISBN: 978-0-281-07118-0). In it (p. 131) he reflects thus on his first major book, A Sociology of English Religion, which was published in 1967 at the height of what has since been termed the ‘religious crisis’ of the 1960s: ‘Perhaps its flaws were understandable, but I am embarrassed to have missed the decline in the second half of the sixties. I insouciantly ignored what the statistical experts in the Church of England were telling me, for example, about declines in rates of confirmation. I was dubious about using church statistics, even when, as in the case of Methodism, they were very good. If I had looked at the statistics of Methodist decline as a proportion of total population, as Robert Currie did somewhat later, I would have seen them marching steadily downwatd year by year.’

BRIN not in a spin

Scanning this weekend’s religious press, as we normally do, it was hard to avoid pausing over the headline ‘BRIN’S MISLEADING SPIN’ atop one of the letters in the Jewish Chronicle for 6 December 2013 (p. 37). BRIN caught out spinning? Surely not, when we strive so hard to be impartial! In fact, the letter was written by Rabbi Naftali Schiff in response to David Brin’s attempt ‘to put a positive spin on the figures regarding [Jewish] intermarriage’. Schiff contends that there is a serious problem of Jewish out-marriage, with less than one-third of Jews marrying in, except for the Charedi (Strictly Orthodox) community. So BRIN stands acquitted, even if (David) Brin does not.


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

This entry was posted in church attendance, News from religious organisations, Official data, People news, Religion in public debate, Religion in the Press, Religious Census, Survey news, visualisation and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.