The Practice of Christianity in the UK

This week I’d like to take a quick look at the results of two surveys (ComRes and British Social Attitudes (BSA) Survey) publicized by the National Secular Society (in the UK). The more recent of the two, from ComRes (article published today) finds that only 6% of British adults are practicing Christians, and of them, only around 5% converted as adults (though it’s not clear whether they converted from non-belief or a different religion). The BSA Survey (article released last week) suggests that 53% of people are explicitly non-religious.

As always, there are slight differences in methodologies, and the wording of the questions, and the slight variances in the results may be down to these differences, or it might be down to vagaries of the samples used (the former used 8150 participants, the latter just under 3,000). The results, overall, however, point broadly to the same conclusion.

From the ComRes survey, we again find this concept of “Cultural Christians”. The British Humanist Association (Now simply Humanists UK) ran a Census-related campaign back in 2011 to encourage people to actually say that they were non-religious. The problem being that the ONS (Office of National Statistics), in the census, asks about a person’s perceived affiliations, rather than their practices. To consider oneself Christian, when not actually engaging in any Christian practices, makes the word meaningless. Belief leads to action, and as I have noted previously, belief is but one of four classes of behaviour that denote religiosity – the others being bonding, behaving, and belonging (Saroglou, 2011[1]) – two of these are seriously hampered if you do not attend church regularly.

Only 42% of Christians who took part said they ever read the Bible; 26% went to Church more than once or twice a year; and 28% called themselves ‘an active Christian who follows Jesus’.

So, it may be that Church authorities might claim a (moral?) victory if people’s “behaving” is affected by church teaching. Unfortunately for the church, the people who continue to claim that Britain is a Christian country, and claim to be Christian, are also those who show little compassion for people with disabilities, as the repeated failure of the Work Capability Assessments show, for example. Additionally, one of the key markers of voting for Brexit was Anglicanism. (Of course, it now seems that many of these voters were Anglican in name only.) The parochialism is palpable.

This is also why there were protests against the Pope’s four-day (£12 million) state-funded tour of the UK came from. Spending that much money on a visit by a dignitary who has negligible impact on the lives of those in the UK is obscene. That sum – albeit small in the scheme of the broader budget – could have made the lives of several people forced into destitution by ridiculous Work Capability Assessments measurably better. Maybe £100/week spent on the 2400 individuals that died after being found fit for work would be a better use of those funds.

It seems clear that, as with the US, it is those who derive their power from Christianity, whether directly (the church) or indirectly (conservative politicians) that continue to prop the church up, whether through grand gestures (such as the papal visit), or the retention of obscene tax breaks for bodies whose income is predicated on helping the poor and the infirm, but whose actions do not seem to be in line with this claim.


 

References

[1] Saroglou, V. (2011). Believing, bonding, behaving, and belonging: The big four religious dimensions and cultural variation. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology42(8), 1320-1340.

https://alingavreliuc.files.wordpress.com/2016/10/journal-of-cross-cultural-psychology-2011-saroglou-1320-40.pdf

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