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Poll finds majority Christian in name but not in practice

21 September 2011

by a staff reporter

RESULTS of an online poll paint a bleak picture of Christianity in Britain as a faith in decline.

Many of those who say that they are Christian also say that they do not believe in a personal God, or pray, or attend services regularly. And a large majority of those surveyed thought that religion was the cause of much of the world’s conflict, and led to intolerance.

The survey, by the pollsters YouGov and the University of Cambridge’s Department of Politics and Inter­national Studies, was con­ducted earlier this year. It involved online interviews with 64,303, and many of the questions were also addressed to small sample groups.

When asked, 55 per cent of adults said that they were Christian, and five per cent claimed allegiance to other faiths. More over-55s said that they had personal faith than 18- to 34-year-olds.

Of those surveyed, 70 per cent had been brought up as Christians; when the results were broken down by age, however, 39 per cent of under-34s had not been brought up in any faith.

Nevertheless, although more than half of those surveyed said that they had a faith, however, only 34 per cent believed in a personal God or gods, and only 11 per cent attended a religious service at least once a month.

Among under-34s, although only 47 per cent professed a religion, more of those who did said that they prayed regularly: 41 per cent of 18- to 34-year-olds said that they prayed once a month, and nearly 70 per cent prayed at some point.

Religion was believed to be in terminal decline in the UK by 61 per cent, and more than three quarters — 78 per cent — believed that religion should have no place in politics and should remain a private affair. Just 16 per cent thought that Christians and the Church should have more influence over politics in the country.

And when asked whether the decline of organised religions had made Britain a worse place, respondents were equally split: 40 per cent agreed and 40 per cent disagreed.

Yet, despite their bleak view of religion, nearly half — 49 per cent of respondents — said that it was good for children to be brought up within a religion.

A spokesman for the British Religion in Numbers project, based at the University of Manchester, said: “All in all, these data point to a society in which religion is increasingly in retreat and nominal.” A consultant specialising in Christian research, Benita Hewitt, said, however, that the figures showed active religious practice among younger people, who “are far less nominal than the older. Is there a case here for stating that younger religious people are far less nominal than those over 55? And that we will see nominalism decline in future?”

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