‘Is a faithless society a better society?’ LBC phone-in fails to excite.

‘Is a faithless society a better society?’ LBC phone-in fails to excite. July 11, 2019

I imagined – I really, REALLY did – that the question above would send flocks of True Christians™ frantically phoning-in to lament the findings of a new report that indicates just how quickly Christianity is sinking into obscurity in the UK, and that tempers would flare.

They usually do on London’s LBC Radio phone-ins but it just didn’t happen. More people listening to the segment were interested in guessing who the presenter (I didn’t catch his name) saw on an Underground train today. Turned out it was Prince Edward (yawn).

Image via YouTube

By far the most intelligent caller was Stephen Evans, above, of the National Secular Society, who welcomed the findings of the British Social Attitudes survey and briefly pointed out that freedom and tolerance tends to flourish best in secular societies.

There was one lame call from a Christian who thought Britain would fare better if it were to “return to its religious roots”, but offered no convincing evidence – nor any evidence at all – that this would be the case. There was a Jewish man who said religion bound his family together, and a Sikh who thought society would improve if people were to engage more fully with “holy books”.

And for this I gave up an afternoon that would have been better spent reading a Ruth Rendell novel by the side of our pool.

The report released today says there has been a “dramatic decline” in Britain’s Christian identity over the last 35 years – with a “substantial increase” in atheism.

Almost two-thirds (63 percent) or Britons polled agreed that religions bring more conflict than peace, while 13 percent disagreed.

Slightly over one-third (38 percent) of the 3,879 people polled for the study described themselves as Christian, down from one-half (50 percent) in 2008, and nearly two-thirds (66 percent) in 1983.
Conversely, those identifying as Muslim increased exponentially – up from 1 percent in 1983, rising to 3 percent in 2008, and 6 percent in 2018.

The findings show for the first time that the percentage of those describing themselves as Christian has dropped below 40 percent since the survey began in 1983, although those identifying as no denomination Christian increased from 3 percent in 1983 to 13 percent in 2018.

More than half of all people polled (52 percent) said they do not belong to any religion, up from nearly one-in-three (31 percent) in 1983.

The report said:

The past two decades have seen international conflict involving religion and domestic religious organisations, putting themselves at odds with mainstream values. We find a dramatic decline in identification with Christian denominations, particularly the Church of England, a substantial increase in atheism …

Half (50 percent) of those polled said they never pray, up from 41 percent in 2008 and 30 percent in 1998, although those who pray “several times a day” is up from 5 percent two decades ago to 8 percent in 2018, the data shows.

The data also showed 51 percent of those polled “feel positive” towards Christians, compared with 30 percent) for Muslims.

The report added data offered:

Compelling evidence that the process of secularisation continues unabated. Britain is becoming more secular, not because adults are losing their religion but because older people with an attachment to the Church of England and other Christian denominations are gradually being replaced in the population by unaffiliated younger people.

To put it another way, religious decline in Britain is generational – people tend to be less religious than their parents, and on average their children are even less religious that they are.

Responding to the findings, Andrew Copson, above, Chief Executive of Humanists UK, said:

For the third year in a row, the British Social Attitudes survey – the gold standard in reliable data on our society – has shown a majority of Brits are non-religious. With these trends set to continue, policy-makers in every field, from education to constitutional law, to health and social care need to wake up to such dramatic social changes, particularly the rise of the non-religious and the decline of Christianity.

Stephen Evans said the figures showed:

The need for a serious rethink of the privileges granted to religion in Britain. Britain’s constitutional settlement and public policies should catch up with the opinions of its population.

But in a desperate attempt to put a positive gloss on the survey, Dave Male, the Church of England’s Director of Evangelism and Discipleship, said:

Times have changed and for many people ticking a box marked ‘Church of England’ or ‘Anglican’ is now an active choice and no longer an automatic response.

In spite of this, the Church of England remains at the heart of communities with millions of people reached in their daily lives through our ministry and our message of the Good News of the Gospel.

We are living in an era of rapid social change – but people are still searching for meaning and answers to life. Only this weekend, the General Synod heard that as many as 5,000 new congregations, mission communities and outreach initiatives have been set up in the past 15 years attracting a majority of people – 60 percent – who have not been churchgoers before.

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  • Michael Neville

    What Dave Male is doing is often called, “whistling past the graveyard.”

  • WallofSleep

    “Turned out it was Prince Edward (yawn).”

    Heh, I knew there was a reason I liked you Mr. Duke.

  • Broga

    “the Church of England remains at the heart of communities with millions of people reached in their daily lives through our ministry and our message of the Good News of the Gospel.”

    Where are these millions? Africa?

  • “There was one lame call from a Christian who thought Britain would fare better if it were to “return to its religious roots”, but offered noconvincing evidence – nor any evidence – that this would be the case.”

    Now would those roots be the worship of Woden, Thunor and Tiw, or would it reach further back to Druidism?

  • rubaxter

    The question is, what takes the place of the church in the way of teaching the morals that people feel are worth of retaining?

    Is that a school duty? Will there be societies like the Mason who spring up sustaining a baseline set of morals and ethics?

    What takes the place of the church as a social organization? Are political movements or some other group-based movements a replacement for solitary people having a way to find their fit in society? Or, will people be consumed by their work and have their life revolve around that, which is a setting I’m sure the corporate boards and stockholders would love.

    I’d hate to see the future resembling the ‘citizens’ in 1984.

  • It’s a pity Druidism was either destroyed or embraced and extinguished by Christianism.

  • I would argue that at our current level of technology, a faithless (actually, a low faith) society is a requirement for the survival of our species. Is that better? I guess that depends upon values.

  • Raging Bee

    You really can’t see anything between established-church society and “1984?” Oh, those good ‘ole days when George Will preached about how Communism was bad because people need religion, and people actually took him seriously…

  • Anri

    Odd that when religious indoctrination stops being required, it also stops being common.

    One would think that such a Joyous Message of Perfect Hope and Salvation would be widely embraced on its own.
    Maybe it’s not quite as Joyous as it’s cracked up to be.

  • Jennny

    Yup, local vicar has 8 or 10 parishes, can’t remember exactly. So she thinks she’s done a hard day’s work by rushing round a few of them on Sunday mornings to rattle off the liturgy and perform the eucharist. There’s less than 20 in the biggest of these churches and not infrequently she gets a call to say not to bother to come to a particular church as no one’s turned up.

  • Jennny

    This post shows the difference between the UK and USA, based on my regular reading of P/NR. I suggest if one was to ask any random brits on the street about their faith or lack of it, they’d not nail their colours to the mast and reply that they were definitely an atheist/humanist etc….they’d just shrug their shoulders and say something like ‘Dunno really, haven’t thought about it much, I’m not religious.’ Hence the poor response to the programme. We’re not so much secular as apathetic and see x-tianity as totally, totally irrelevant to life in this century.

  • Eric Jameson

    It’s the sovereingty of God; people will not believe in Jesus as their Lord and Saviour unless they have been “ordained to eternal life” – Acts 13 v 48.

  • Sophotroph

    Oh goody, the Calvinists have arrived!

  • al kimeea

    what takes the place of the church in the way of teaching the morals that people feel are worth of retaining?


  • Brian Shanahan

    Lugh worship clearly.

  • Brian Shanahan

    Society. Which does a better job of it.

  • Eric Jameson

    Calvinism is the Gospel, my dear friend.

  • Thanks4AllTheFish

    Imagine spending eternity with Calvinists.

  • Jim Jones

    Do the British still write in “Jedi Knight” under religion?

  • Jim Jones

    Religion is spread by 4 basic methods:
    1. Deceit
    2. Fear
    3. Torture
    4. Murder
    It is always thus.

  • Phil Rimmer