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Women more likely to believe than men, survey finds

30 January 2015


WOMEN are more likely than men to believe in life after death, a survey carried out by the UCL Institute of Education (IOE) suggests.

The Mysteries of Religion and the Lifecourse, a survey of more than 9000 people from the Social Research Council's 1970 British Cohort Study, showed that 60 per cent of women held this belief compared with 35 per cent of men. A third of the women who took part in the survey (34 per cent) described themselves as atheists or agnostics; more than half of men (54 per cent) identified as such.

The study divided respondents into seven categories, based on their religious belief. The largest category, the "non-religious", comprised 28 per cent of the group that had no religion and no belief in God or life after death.

A further 21 per cent were described as "unorthodox non-religious" - these had no religion, but had a belief in God, or life after death.

The remaining 51 per cent had some form of religious belief; including 15 per cent who were "actively religious", and 14 per cent who were "non-practising religious."

The remaining three categories covered people who believe in God and life after death, but did not have a religion (ten per cent); those who identified with a religion but did not believe in God and life after death (seven per cent) and those who had a religion, attended services at least occasionally, and believed in God but not in life after death (five per cent).

Comparing the latest research with earlier surveys conducted with this same group, Professor David Voas, who analysed the survey results, said it could be seen that "a substantial proportion of teenagers who reported that religion was an important part of their lives at age 16 became relatively unreligious adults. There is some movement in the opposite direction, but not nearly enough to compensate for the losses to religion."

The Christian group with the largest proportion of people who said that "they knew God really exists, and had no doubts about it" was Evangelicals, with 71 per cent. That figure dropped to 33 for Roman Catholics, and just 16 per cent for what the survey termed "mainline Christian denominations", including Anglicans.

The survey is the eighth to be conducted among members of the 1970 British Cohort Study, which involves more than 17,000 people born in mainland Britain in a single week of 1970. Their lives are being followed by the IOE's Centre for Longitudinal Studies

The Mysteries of Religion and the Lifecourse is available online at www.cls.ioe.ac.uk.

Poll backs Christianity. A Comres survey for ITV News on Tuesday suggested that more people believe that Christianity is "a force for good in the world" than religion in general.

The poll suggested that 24 per cent of the respondents agreed that religion was a force for good in the world, compared with 39 per cent who said that Christianity is a force for good.

There was support (63 per cent) for the Archbishops' statement that Britain "has become dominated by consumerism and selfishness". And, although 44 per cent of those surveyed said that religious leaders should keep out of politics, half of them agreed that "religious leaders in Britain should speak out about economic inequality."

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