‘No religion’ is the new norm, survey of White British finds

22 January 2016

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TO BE English is no longer synonymous with being a Christian, a new YouGov poll has confirmed.

In a survey of all races in the UK, carried out by researchers at Lancaster University last month, the majority of white British adults said that they have “no religion” at all. Just a quarter of those, however, were confident that there is no God.

The Professor of Sociology of Religion at Lancaster University, Linda Woodhead, who designed the poll, said that, although having no religion (nones) was the “new norm”, this did not mean that society in the UK is becoming secular.

Just 13 per cent of “nones” in the poll of 1668 adults called themselves atheists. One quarter said that they regularly took part in some “spiritual activity”, and 11 per cent called themselves “spiritual”.

Though some might identify with spirituality, it is not expressed within the Church: 99 per cent said that they did not take part in any religious group or form of collective worship. Many also expressed a “negative view” of religious leaders and institutions.

“It used to be quite common for people to identify as Church of England simply because they were English,” Professor Woodhead said.

“There is every indication that the majority share [of nones] will continue to grow.” This rise might be due to feeling generally less religious, she said, but might also be the fault of churches that were becoming “set apart from society”.

“In terms of upbringing, no religion is particularly sticky,” she said. The vast majority of those in the survey brought up without religion remained non-religious, and more than a third of those brought up as Christians lost their faith. The report also suggests that Christianity is an ageing identity, as the majority of Christians in the survey fell in to the over-60s category.

Professor Woodhead began surveying religion with YouGov in January 2013. Then, 37 per cent of the population of the UK reported having no religion. In February last year, that rose to 42 per cent, and in this most recent survey, the figure increased by a further four per cent.

The results are in keeping with those of the British Social Attitudes survey in 2013 which suggested that 51 per cent of people in the UK had no religion, compared with a lower proportion in the 2011 census.

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