British Poll: Only 16% are Atheists, but 42% Say Religion is Harmful

A new poll by YouGov in Britain has some surprising results (emphases mine):

Only 16% of those polled called themselves atheists; 28% believed in God; 26% believed in “something” but were not sure what; and 9% regarded themselves as agnostics – like [poll commissioner John] Humphrys himself, who had a religious upbringing in Wales but calls himself a “doubter”.

He writes: “Even though the dominant faith – by a massive margin – is Christianity, only 17% thought the influence of religion was beneficial. That is even fewer than those who claim that they believe in a personal God.

There was one more interesting result, too:

In the survey 43% said they never prayed, 31% hardly prayed, and 10% prayed every night. “More than half of those who say they believe in a personal God cannot be bothered to pray to him every night,” writes Humphrys.

Humphrys is the author of the forthcoming book In God We Doubt: Confessions of an Angry Agnostic.


[tags]atheist, atheism, John Humphrys[/tags]

  • Roger Garcia-Marenco

    No doubt about, English people is colectively amongst the most enlightened members of our species. First trashed nutty catlick masses, its obnoxious popes and depraved priests and now in the verge of trash the salfsame gOD. WOW! What an accomplishment. Cheers.

  • http://atheistrevolution.blogspot.com/ vjack

    This raises the question of whether many of these self-professed Christians really believe much of what they claim to believe. I’ve long had doubts about this. Could it be that identifying oneself as a Christian is little more than saying, “I want to be part of the club” regardless of what one actually believes?

  • Ben

    Could it be that identifying oneself as a Christian is little more than saying, “I want to be part of the club” regardless of what one actually believes?

    Absolutely.
    One of the stranger forum threads I’ve ever seen

  • JoshH

    Irrelevant really, but the picture at Amazon says the book is called Confessions of a Failed Atheist, not …Angry Agnostic. Hmm…odd.

  • miller

    As a former apathetic Catholic, it doesn’t at all surprise me that most people who believe in a personal god don’t pray much. Some may be semi-agnostic, but it is a mistake to think that this accounts for everyone, or that they are disguised atheists, only in it to be “part of the club.” Perhaps they just don’t think it’s particularly important; they have lives outside of religion. Praying every night is just ridiculous–do you really have that many problems? Some have reasoned to themselves (yes, internet, Christians often think for themselves!) that praying simply isn’t as important as tradition says. God can, after all, see what’s going on with or without prayer.

    I often think people in the atheist blogosphere severely underestimate the apathy among Christians. There is a selection bias going on–the only Christians you see on the internet or in the news are those who care enough to show themselves.

    I wonder how much the same selection bias operates on atheists.

  • llewelly

    A ‘personal god’ watches one’s every move, knows when you’re sleeping, knows when you’re awake, etc – and thinks all of this is important. So why pray? It’s not as if such a god would need a special message in order to know whether a believer needs help, is thankful, needs forgiveness, etc.
    But I’m an atheist, so maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about. :-)

  • http://youmademesayit.blogspot.com PhillyChief

    It just shows they’re all more pragmatic. They don’t get into the dogma, they just accept the god bit to quickly solve those nagging metaphysical questions and I guess as an insurance plane or safety blanket in case they die.

    I’m cool with people subscribing to this. This kind of thinking doesn’t make people ruin kids’ science educations with nonsense or say no to stem cells because there’s no dogma. We should hope all theists could at least evolve to this stage of development.

  • http://olvlzl.blogspot.com/ olvlzl, no ism, no ist

    “be part of the club”

    Isn’t that what the entire neo-atheist fad is about?

    So, you’re looking to find truth in public opinion polling? You really want that to be the deciding factor? I hate have to point it out but even in this poll, that would mean you lose. And that’s in Britain where the anti-religious propaganda is unrelenting. I’d reconsider, if I was you.

    Have fun till next week.

  • ash

    that’s in Britain where the anti-religious propaganda is unrelenting.

    say what with the who in the where now?

  • Aj

    They’re not good questions at all. The definitions of Atheist and Agnostic are not useful at all. There are far more approaches to Agnosticism, the only thing connecting them is not knowing whether these is or isn’t. I’ve never met an Atheism that hasn’t been an Agnostic, and it’s unbelief, not a declaration of “nonsense” about something. There’s an option for people who would want to but can’t believe, that would mean they were an Agnostic or Atheist. Surely the people unsure/haven’t thought about it are Agnostics.

    What does “I believe in ‘something’” mean anyway? Unicorns? Fairies? An amazing 26% selected “I believe in something”! I guess they’re also non-Theists. So that’s 66% non-Theists. 6% Don’t Know/Other. 28% Theists.

    John Humphrys has written an article. In it he proves his inability to understand The God Delusion, he seems to have read parts in very simple-minded ways, misinterpreting them completely. He defends faith on grounds of comfort, as he doesn’t believe. Complains that religion isn’t that bad. Accuses Atheists of a lot of things we don’t all do, and many don’t do, calls us fanatics, all from anacdotal evidence. Nothing you haven’t read from Atheists months ago complaining about Dawkins and Harris.

  • JD

    Religion is just a tool to control the populations…
    And a scam to get their $$$ “in the name of god”.
    Agnosticism rule!

  • Maria

    It just shows they’re all more pragmatic. They don’t get into the dogma, they just accept the god bit to quickly solve those nagging metaphysical questions and I guess as an insurance plane or safety blanket in case they die.

    that’s pretty much it in a nutshell. Miller’s description also matched most theists up here that I know.

    I’m cool with people subscribing to this. This kind of thinking doesn’t make people ruin kids’ science educations with nonsense or say no to stem cells because there’s no dogma. We should hope all theists could at least evolve to this stage of development.

    I agree

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