Secularization Restated and Other News

Seven statistical news stories about religion in Britain feature in today’s post, including a summative article from Steve Bruce in reaffirmation of the secularization thesis.

Secularization restated

In Britain ‘there is no evidential warrant for describing individual beliefs and behaviour as post-secular or de-secularising’, concludes Professor Steve Bruce in a characteristically robust and entertaining restatement of the secularization paradigm: ‘Post-Secularity and Religion in Britain: An Empirical Assessment’, Journal of Contemporary Religion, Vol. 28, No. 3, 2013, pp. 369-84 (published on 2 October 2013). ‘Religion has become more contentious; it has not become more popular’ is his principal argument, supported by a high-level overview of statistics of religious membership, attendance, rites of passage, institutions, and beliefs. Nor, Bruce suggests, has the overall picture of (largely Christian) decline been offset by the undoubted growth of non-Christians (unfortunately, the paper was finalized before publication of the results of the 2011 census) and the emergence of alternative forms of spirituality. Nor, in a tantalizingly brief section, does Bruce find evidence of any compensating increased presence of religion in public life; indeed, he claims, there has been ongoing privatization. The article’s arguments and sources are essentially familiar (and perhaps still best read in full in their original incarnations), but relative newcomers to the secularization debate may benefit from it as an introductory discourse and compilation of data. Unfortunately, it is hidden behind a publisher’s pay-wall; for access options, go to:

Westminster Faith Debates

Professor Linda Woodhead released on 8 October 2013 the full data tables from the second YouGov poll she commissioned for the 2013 Westminster Faith Debates, in which 4,018 adult Britons were interviewed online between 5 and 13 June 2013. The data can be found at:

The tables are a substantial resource for secondary research. They extend to 65 pages and include breaks of all questions by the following variables: current voting intention, 2010 vote, gender, age, social grade, region, education, ethnicity, religious affiliation, religious meeting/service attendance, and self-assessed religiosity/spirituality.

The questions cover the following religious topics: self-assessed religiosity/spirituality, religious/spiritual influences, private and public religious practices, belief in God/higher power, and sources of guidance in life. Respondents were then asked about their attitudes to: abortion, same-sex marriage, euthanasia, faith schools, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, protests against perceived insults of faiths, immigration, the European Union, changes in British society, the welfare system, Islamist terrorism, the Church of England, Roman Catholic Church, and Margaret Thatcher versus Tony Blair as best Prime Minister.

The findings for faith schools – a discrete and substantial module in the survey – have previously been released and summarized by BRIN at:

It would be impossible here to record the results for the full range of other subjects covered in the poll, but the final question might be worth a note. Asked which Prime Minister did more good for Britain, 39% said Thatcher, 18% Blair, 6% both equally, 28% neither, with 9% undecided. Thatcher commanded above average support from Anglicans (47%), Presbyterians (49%), and Methodists (47%). Blair was disproportionately popular with Roman Catholics (27%) and churchgoers. Muslims (42%) were most likely to say neither.

BRIN was also struck by the couple of questions surrounding Jerry Springer: the Opera, the British musical staged in London in 2003-05 before touring the UK in 2006, and which attracted strong protests from Christians on the grounds of its irreverence and profanity. Notwithstanding, the production excited little interest from pollsters at the time, so it is good to have the furore covered here, albeit almost a decade late. Reminded of the context, 52% of YouGov’s respondents felt that peaceful protests against the musical were understandable and 42% that they were justified (36% not). Catholics (54%), the historic Free Churches, Muslims (66%), and weekly attenders at services (76%) were most likely to consider the protests justified.

UK Data Service

The UK Data Service (UKDS) has recently announced the release of two historic datasets which will be of interest to BRIN users:

  • SN 4394: a first release of English Church Attendance Survey, 1998, undertaken by Peter Brierley, and joining the dataset for the 1989 church census, which is already held by UKDS
  • SN 1988: what appears to be a new edition of Conventional Religion and Common Religion in Leeds, 1982, undertaken by the University of Leeds, and based on interviews with electors and university students

More information about both studies can be found in the UKDS catalogue at:

The UKDS JISCmail list provides regular free (mostly weekly) email alerts about the release of new datasets. To join the list, go to:

Religious education

A mainly qualitative assessment of the state of religious education (RE) in English primary and secondary schools is contained in a new report, Religious Education: Realising the Potential, released by Ofsted on 6 October 2013. Data mostly derive from inspections carried out in 185 schools between September 2009 and July 2012, 659 RE lessons being observed. The sample did not include voluntary aided schools or academies with a religious designation, for which alternative inspection arrangements exist. It also excluded schools judged to require special measures or given notice to improve. The overall message in the report is ‘could do better’, with eight areas of concern identified about RE. A tabular summary of the inspection data under seven headings, shown separately for primary and secondary schools, appears on p. 38. In terms of overall RE effectiveness, 42% of primary and 48% of secondary schools were considered outstanding or good, 56% and 41% respectively satisfactory, and 2% and 11% inadequate. Subject training was deemed the worst single facet of provision, with 29% of primaries and 35% of secondaries judged inadequate in this regard. The report is available at:

Evangelicals at work

Published on 7 October 2013, Working Faithfully? is the latest report from the 21st Century Evangelicals project, developed by the Evangelical Alliance and the six other partner organizations in its research club. It derives from an online survey in May 2013 of 1,511 members of the Alliance’s self-selecting (and thus potentially unrepresentative) panel of UK evangelicals. Respondents were overwhelmingly (91%) in manual employment and had a strong sense of calling in their job (69%). They mostly (84%) felt valued for the work they did, although 39% experienced work-related stress, 37% endured a working week of more than 40 hours, and 35% of men and 27% of women regularly brought work home with them. Almost half (44%) perceived Christians to suffer discrimination in employment often or sometimes, and 53% thought that Christians getting into trouble at work is a significant problem. However, no more than 12% claimed they had personally been discriminated against in employment for any reason, and just 2% because of a faith-related issue. Somewhat more (14%) said they had encountered hostility, exclusion or mocking from work colleagues on account of their faith, while 9% reported difficulties with their management because they were known as a Christian or had spoken up for Christian values. The report is at:

Nobel peace laureates

Religious figures feature prominently in a list of past recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize considered to have been most deserving, according to a YouGov poll published on 9 October 2013, 1,879 adult Britons having been interviewed online on 7 and 8 October. The data table is at:

The top six places in the list of most deserving recipients included:

  • 1st (37%) – Mother Teresa of Calcutta, founder of the Missionaries of Charity, awarded the Prize in 1979 for her work in overcoming poverty and distress
  • 2nd (33%) – Martin Luther King Jr, Baptist minister and American civil rights leader, awarded the Prize in 1964 for combating racial inequality through non-violence
  • 5th (13%) – Desmond Tutu, Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, awarded the Prize in 1984 for his leadership of the campaign against apartheid in South Africa
  • 6th (12%) – 14th Dalai Lama, awarded the Prize in 1989 for his non-violent struggle for the liberation of Tibet

Noteworthy among variations by demographic sub-groups was the disproportionately strong support for Martin Luther King and the Dalai Lama among the 18-24s (43% and 24% respectively).

Emigration to Israel

On 30 September 2013 the Institute for Jewish Policy Research published Immigration from the United Kingdom to Israel, by Laura Staetsky, Marina Sheps, and Jonathan Boyd, and based upon both Israeli and UK statistical sources. The report showed that 32,600 UK-born Jews or people of Jewish ancestry emigrated to Israel (a process known as making aliyah) between 1948 (when the Jewish state was founded) and the end of 2011, constituting about 1% of all immigrants to Israel during that period. Peak UK immigration to Israel occurred between the 1960s and 1980s, since when the numbers have mostly tailed off, albeit with a spike in the late 2000s. UK-born immigrants to Israel are disproportionately young, with a median age in the late 20s. Their departure for Israel has therefore pushed up the mean age of the Jewish community remaining in the UK and reduced the number of Jewish women of reproductive age in the UK, adversely affecting the community’s potential for growth. Nor is there a compensatory flow in the other direction, the number of UK-born Jews living permanently in Israel in the 2000s being, at 19,000, greater than the 15,000 Israeli Jews permanently living in the UK. For the full data and analysis, go to:


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