Young Religion and Other News

Today’s authoritative post by BRIN associate Dr Ben Clements on survey trends in religious attitudes to euthanasia will be a hard act to follow, but hopefully these eight items of religious statistical news will still be of interest to some of the BRIN readership.

Youth on religion

The first major output from the AHRC/ESRC Religion and Society Programme’s Youth on Religion (YOR) project was published by Routledge on 9 January 2014: Nicola Madge, Peter Hemming, and Kevin Stenson, Youth on Religion: The Development, Negotiation, and Impact of Faith and Non-Faith Identity (xii + 240p., ISBN 978-0-415-69670-8, £29.99, paperback, also available in hardback and as an e-book).

The book is based upon research undertaken in 2010 in three ethnically and culturally diverse and multi-faith areas of England, with relative social deprivation: the London boroughs of Hillingdon and Newham and Bradford in West Yorkshire. The quantitative phase of investigation comprised online questionnaires completed during lessons in February-April 2010 by 10,376 students in years 8, 10, and 12 (and thus mostly aged 13-18) at 39 secondary schools or colleges in the study areas (4,160 in Hillingdon, 3,361 in Newham, and 2,855 in Bradford). The qualitative phase involved group discussions and paired interviews with 157 students in year 12 (aged 17-18).

It goes without saying that the study areas are not typical of the country as a whole, and, moreover, respondents were not even fully representative of the relevant age group in those areas, thereby creating ‘limitations to the degree of generalisability possible from the study’ (pp. 42, 215). Care should therefore be taken in citing the statistical results because they will not necessarily exemplify the religious views of English young people overall. Commercial online youth panels exist which could have been used as the vehicle for an approximation of a national cross-section, but that is not what is on offer here. In particular, in reflection of the locations (and also differential response), the majority of participants were drawn from ethnic minorities: 40% Asian, 13% black, 10% other ethnicities, and just 37% white. As a consequence, ‘especially high levels of religious belief and practice’ are manifest (p. 215). Muslims formed the largest sub-group in the sample (35%), followed by Christians (31%), no religionists (20%), Sikhs (6%), and Hindus (5%). The numbers interviewed from other religious faiths were too small to be meaningful, even in this specific geographical context.

All that said, the volume contains a fascinating wealth of detail, with chapters on: constructions of religion; religious journeys; religious identity and expression; religion and everyday life; family and its influence; friends and schools; and religion and the community. Especially illuminated is ‘how young people in multi-faith areas get on together and how they live with difference’ (p. 17). Particular interest is likely to attach to the fourfold typology of religiosity introduced on pp. 72-88, sub-dividing the young people into Strict Adherents (24%), Flexible Adherents (32%), Pragmatists (21%), and Bystanders (23%). Unsurprisingly, the majority of Muslims were Strict Adherents, with most of the rest Flexible Adherents who ‘have negotiated ways of accommodating their religiosity within Western lifestyles’ (p. 207). Less than one-tenth of Christians were Strict Adherents, with one-fifth being Bystanders, having no real interest in religion. While four-fifths of the no religionists naturally also fell into the Bystander category, the remaining fifth were Pragmatists, taking a somewhat fluid view of their religious journey. Across the entire sample, there was ‘a tendency toward greater flexibility in religious expression’ (p. 216) as the young people evolved ‘their own personal religious identities within a prevailing ideology of liberal individualism’ (p. 217).

Although the book contains 39 figures and 12 tables, the qualitative evidence features as prominently as the quantitative, and BRIN readers will often find themselves thirsty for more numbers and also questioning some of the researchers’ decisions (for example, to use household ownership of books as some kind of ‘surrogate’ for socio-economic status, p. 35). It is to be hoped that the dataset will eventually be made available for secondary analysis, alongside the questionnaire and more details of methodology (unfortunately, the questionnaire is omitted from its customary place at the end of the book, nor is it available on the project website). Likewise, despite copious references to existing literature, much of the concern is apparently to inform theoretical debates (p. 1), and there are only incidental attempts to compare the project’s own findings with those of previous large-scale surveys, such as, from the 1990s, Leslie Francis’s Teenage Religion and Values project or Alan Smith’s investigation of adolescents in multi-faith Walsall (indeed, the latter’s 2007 book does not even appear in the bibliography of Youth on Religion).

Expectations of God

People now expect more of government than they do of God, according to an Ipsos MORI poll for King’s College London which was published on 14 January 2014, and for which 1,011 adult Britons were interviewed by telephone on 7-9 December 2013. Almost three-fifths (59%) of the public agreed with this statement, against only 29% disagreeing and 12% undecided. By contrast, many fewer (41%) thought that expectations of politicians were greater than those of God, the dissentient voice being 48%, with 11% uncertain. This doubtless reflects, less a vote of confidence in God, than cynicism about politicians, whose reputations have been tarnished by sleaze and other circumstances. Those putting greater expectations on God were especially likely to be found among the over-35s, non-manual workers, and owner-occupiers (54% in each case). For more information, see tables 63-66 at:

Same-sex marriage

The UK Data Service released on 22 January 2014 two datasets based on online, email, and postal responses to the Government’s public consultation in March-June 2012 on its Equal Civil Marriage (ECM) proposals for England and Wales. As with all such consultations, respondents were entirely self-selecting and almost certainly unrepresentative, demographically and/or attitudinally, of the population as a whole. One dataset comprises the 136,968 replies to the specific questions posed in the consultation, the other contains all 228,066 responses with coding of the more open-ended and free-text content. The coding framework developed by the Government Equalities Office includes the following codes:


  • Y4 Religious argument that supports ECM
  • Y5 Religious bodies ought to be allowed to marry same-sex couples if they wish to


  • N4 Religious argument on nature of marriage and against ECM
  • N5 Religious bodies feel they will be forced to marry same-sex couples, even if they do not want to


  • O5 All religious organizations should/must/will conduct religious marriage for same-sex couples


  • IS9 Ability of religious organizations to preach and teach their beliefs on the definition of marriage

For further information and documentation about these datasets, consult the UK Data Service catalogue record for Study Number 7394 at:

Church of England health check

The current issue of the Church Times (31 January 2014, pp. 23-9) includes the first of a four-part series entitled ‘The Church Health Check’, and examining the current state of the Church of England. The first three parts will be devoted to ‘a diagnostic investigation of the patient’, while the fourth will ask ‘what remedial treatment may be required’. The theme of the first part is churches and congregations, and its contributors include Professor Linda Woodhead and Dr Peter Brierley. Woodhead (pp. 23-4) draws on her profile of Anglicans from the 2013 Westminster Faith Debates/YouGov research, arguing that it is ‘Time to Get Serious’ for ‘Anglicans are dying out’, with ‘Anglican identity … not being transmitted from one generation to the next’ and a striking disconnect between the Church’s official teachings and grass-roots social values. Brierley (pp. 24-5) examines Anglican attendances since 2000, forecasting continuing rapid decline to 2030, within three broad age bands, while also noting some pockets of church growth (such as ‘messy church’).

Elsewhere in the same issue of the newspaper (p. 3) are featured some initial findings from the online and postal survey of a self-selecting (and thus potentially unrepresentative) sample of 4,500 clerical and lay readers of the Church Times in July and October 2013. The study was undertaken in conjunction with Professor Leslie Francis and Dr Andrew Village, and the questionnaire extended to eight pages. This first glimpse reveals an excessive degree of confidence on the part of laity (40%) that their own churches would grow over the next 12 months, notwithstanding that just 27% agreed that they often invited other people to come to church, and 19% acknowledged that newcomers would not find it easy in their church.

Lord Williams of Oystermouth’s Sharia moment

When Rowan Williams, as the then Archbishop of Canterbury, suggested in February 2008 that the absorption of aspects of Islamic Sharia law into the British legal framework was inevitable, he was condemned by over two-thirds of the public and churchgoers, with two-fifths of adults calling for him to step down. A further indication of the intense interest generated by his comments, and their broader implications for the Church of England, can be found in the dramatic increase in the number of unique UK web hosts linking to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s official website. The figure for 2008 was nearly 50% higher than for 2007 and almost 25% higher than the previous peak of 2004, although it quickly fell back to trend in 2009 and 2010. The discovery has been made by Dr Peter Webster through interrogation of the Internet Archive’s collection of .uk websites for 1996-2010, a copy of which is held by The British Library. For more details, including about methodology, see Webster’s blog post of 28 January 2014 at:

Methodists and deprivation

Methodism once cultivated the reputation of being a movement for the poor and marginalized, but that no longer appears to be the case if research published by Michael Hirst in the current issue of the Methodist Recorder (31 January 2014, p. 8) is anything to go by. He has mapped the postcodes of Methodist ministers in England in 2001 and 2011 to an index of multiple deprivation for each neighbourhood, revealing that they live disproportionately and increasingly (65% in 2001, 68% in 2011) in the less deprived half of the country. Indeed, the more deprived an area, the less likely Methodist ministers were to live there and the greater the decline over the decade, from a drop of 36% in the fifth most deprived areas to 10% in the fifth least deprived areas. Around 900 active ministers changed addresses between 2001 and 2011, of whom 33% moved to more deprived areas, 41% to less deprived areas, with 26% moving to areas with a similar level of deprivation. Of 700 ministers retiring between 2001 and 2011, 74% went to live in the less deprived half of England compared with the 64% who had worked there in 2001.

Methodists on the internet

The same issue of the Methodist Recorder (31 January 2014, p. 3) also included a somewhat garbled news story about research undertaken in the Cumbria District of the Methodist Church into Methodist use of the internet. BRIN has followed this up and located the original four-page report on the survey by Martyn Evans, which is also no model of clarity. The survey was conducted in October-November 2013 and obtained responses from 100 Methodist congregations in Cumbria (or 93%). Results are mostly disaggregated in the report by circuits, or groups of Methodist churches. Overall, 58% of Methodists reported having access to the internet, which is below average, in reflection, it is suggested, of the disproportionately elderly profile of Methodists and of variable broadband provision in the county. Methodist access to the internet is mostly via a home desktop (38%) or laptop (38%), with 12% using a smartphone and 10% a tablet. Internet Explorer (53%) and Chrome (27%) are the commonest browsers for Methodists. The report is currently available at:

National Jewish Community Survey

On 29 January 2014 the Institute for Jewish Policy Research published its latest 45-page report on Jews in the United Kingdom in 2013: Preliminary Findings from the National Jewish Community Survey, written by David Graham, Laura Staetsky, and Jonathan Boyd. Designed to complement statistics available from the 2011 census, and funded by the Pears Foundation and a consortium of Jewish organizations, the data-gathering was managed by Ipsos MORI by means of an online survey completed by a self-selecting and thus non-probability sample of 3,736 unique UK Jewish households (containing 9,895 individuals) between 6 June and 15 July 2013. The sample was principally recruited by ‘snowballing’ techniques through a large number of ‘seed’ agencies in the Jewish community. There was some under-representation of Jewish adults aged 16-39 and 80 and over, and of Jews unaffiliated to a synagogue and of the Strictly Orthodox. Weights were applied to help correct for such sampling bias.

The report presents initial results for six principal areas: generational differences between Jews; denominational switching (within Judaism); intermarriage (with non-Jews); Jewish education; charitable giving; and health, care, and welfare. A major finding is that the observance of Jewish religious rituals (such as dietary laws, Sabbath and festivals, and synagogue attendance) actually decreases with age, being lowest among Jewish over-65s and highest for Jews under 40. The likely explanation advanced for this counter-secularizing tendency is the replenishment of younger cohorts by high birth rates among Haredi and Orthodox Jews. Across the entire sample, ethno-cultural elements (such as remembering the Holocaust and combating anti-Semitism) featured strongly in defining Jewish identity, far more so than religious beliefs and even supporting Israel (although 69% of respondents still considered the latter to be important). One of the key tenets of Judaism is to help less advantaged people, and 77% viewed donating funds to charity as an important component of Jewish identity, with 93% having made a charitable donation during the previous year (three-fifths of whom had given more than £100). All these areas, and more, covered by the preliminary findings will be explored in far more detail in subsequent thematic reports. Meanwhile, you can read the initial document at:



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