Thinking Anglicans

Religious and Social Attitudes of some British Christians

There was a great deal of comment in the media on Tuesday about a poll undertaken by Ipsos MORI for the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science.

You can read the survey results for yourself. Here is the Ipsos MORI summary:

A poll carried out by Ipsos MORI for the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science (UK) in the week after the 2011 Census focused on the beliefs, attitudes and practices of UK adults who say they were recorded as Christian in the 2011 Census (or would have recorded themselves as Christian had they answered the question).

Attitudes

UK Christians are overwhelmingly secular in their attitudes on a range of issues from gay rights to religion in public life, according to new research.

Religion and government

Three quarters (74%) strongly agree or tend to agree that religion should not have special influence on public policy, with only one in eight (12%) thinking that it should.
More oppose than support the idea of the UK having an official state religion, with nearly half (46%) against and only a third (32%) in favour. The same pattern is repeated with the question of seats being reserved for Church of England bishops in the House of Lords: 32% of respondents oppose, with only 25% in favour.
There is overwhelming support for religion being a private, not public, matter. Asked how strongly they support the statement that governments should not interfere in religion, 79% strongly agree or tend to agree, with only 8% strongly disagreeing or tending to disagree…

For full details, see the survey topline, and the full computer tables (both PDF).

Some informed comment about all this comes from Linda Woodhead in Richard Dawkins has uncovered a very British form of Christianity.

There’s nothing new in Richard Dawkins’s findings about the British way of being religious. But it’s always good to be reminded of the findings of a poll commissioned by his Foundation for Reason and Science: that most of us are not “true believers” in either religion or in secularism, and that Britain is neither a religious country nor a secular one, but an interesting mix of both. That doesn’t make us muddled, or woolly, or confused – it just makes us British.

We have always been instinctively wary of the bright-eyed, fanatical enthusiast, of whatever hue. We don’t really do big ideologies or revolutions – and when we do, we never see them through to their conclusion. We prefer modest proposals, pragmatic solutions, and a bit of muddle – so long as it works. As Kate Fox rightly observes in Watching the English, our natural response to anyone who believes in their own propaganda too much is: “Oh come off it.”

And see also Ekklesia ‘Census Christians’ not very committed, opinion research suggests.

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John RochJohn BowlesFather Ron SmithMartin ReynoldsDavid Wilson Recent comment authors
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baber
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This isn’t a peculiarly British way of being religious and it doesn’t represent “overwhelmingly secular” views about gay rights or any other issues. The idea that it does assumes that conservative evangelical Christianity is the norm, so that religion is a matter of adhering to socially conservative values about gay rights and other hot button issues. The rejection of these doctrines is not secularity: religion is not a matter of holding socially conservative views about sexuality or anything else and rejecting these views is not secularity. Construing religion this way is letting the Evangelicals, OUR ENEMIES, our detestable enemies who… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
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If Richard Dawkins is the Sponsor of this work, no wonder it’s biased against spirituality. What else could one expect?

rjb
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rjb

Er… are the Evangelicals our enemies, baber? I’d even go so far as to say I count some of them as my friends. Many are misguided and some hold detestable views, but I’m not sure I’d say any are “our detestable enemies who we should work to destroy.” Or even “*whom* we should work to destroy.” I’m starting to think that a tolerant and gently ironic attitude to religion might indeed be something distinctly British. We have been (mostly) spared the culture wars that make Christians and secularists alike so rabid in the US. Unlike Western Europeans, we don’t have… Read more »

Charlie
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Charlie

Baber, I don’t know you so I can’t guess what’s been said and done to you to make you feel this way but it’s gut wrenching to hear you feel I’m your enemy and detestable and need destroying. I’m sure you can find evangelicals who have said equally angry things so please don’t hear that as a cheap criticism, just an observation on what a sad place the church is in. The good thing about this site is the chance to hear how people you disagree with think and feel about you. I find that humbling, saddening, and useful in… Read more »

A Detestable Evangelical
Guest

“Construing religion this way is letting the Evangelicals, OUR ENEMIES, our detestable enemies who we should work to destroy, set the agenda.”

I am so feeling the Christian love in the room right now.

John Bowles
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John Bowles

Trust the demon sex in a deviant form to raise its pretty little head in the first comments to this post. Forget it. The unavoidable truth of Dawkins’s comments on Christianity in England are uncontrovertedly accurate, mores the pity. We live in a biblically, doctrinally, historically, theoogically illiterate society where, for some, Christianity means, if anything, being nice, or thought to be nice. Many no longer read the scriptures, know the order of the books of the New Testament, the creeds, the hierarchical order of the Church, Christian history in these islands, or prayer beyond petition. The reasons for this… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
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Martin Reynolds

Hmmm …. but surely the Pope has been making “the hot button issues” THE test of Christian Europe – and as we see in the thread above he has some qualified support.

JCF
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JCF

OCICBW, but I’m sensing Impersonation Trollery in the first post on this thread.

Personally, I believe there are bigoted *aspects* of the religion that calls itself “conservative Evangelicalism” which are at enmity w/ the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

But persons—beloved Imago Dei—are not “detestable enemies”, ever. They should be loved beyond/out of their errors, not (God forbid!) “destroyed.”

Father Ron Smith
Guest

John Bowles. Do I detect a certain sense of isolation on your part here? Do you feel unprotected from the big bad world? Or are you just out of touch with the real world of Gospel values of justice, mercy and truth. Christians were not promised an easy way. Lord Carey’s cries of ‘persecution’ would be silly if not understood to be fundamentally partisan and untrue. Those coming forward for ordination today are not people without a real desire to be part of the Gospel Mission – whether evangelical or catholic. Seminary will inevitably sort the ‘free-loaders’ from the rest.… Read more »

Rosemary Hannah
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Rosemary Hannah

Well if knowing Matthew is the first book of the Bible is the mark of a Christian, St Paul really was not one …

I think the survey is totally wrong-headed and does try to force normal liberal Christians into a corner.

Amanda Goody
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Amanda Goody

What interests me is the gap between the 17-18% who go to church regularly and the 30% who pray, say they have strong beliefs and strongly identify as Christian. This seems to indicate that church has lost 50% of ‘active Christians’. My experience as a woman in her 50s is that many of the people I know who once went to church no longer do so, or only rarely, though their faith is intact. Between fundamentalism, traditionalism and well-meaning social clubs for the retired, churches are apparently not offering what we are looking for. (Though many individual saints are to… Read more »

David Wilson
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David Wilson

The results dont necessarily confirm that the nation has little Christian faith, merely that it does not have much love for Jesus – in terms of who He is, what He has done, or how He asks us to respond to His love – i.e love Him by following His Father’s commands.

John Bowles
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John Bowles

Reply to Fr Smith You live, I believe, in New Zealand, far from the British Isles. Doubtless you have your own local problems, but the situation in Britain could not be more different. Professor Dawkins was addressing the reality of Christianity here and the skin-deep superficiality of identification with it. For those of us who live here, it is experienced all round and has resulted in Christianity as something deemed to being nice. The hard words of Jesus would be deemed deeply unchristian if quoted on their own terms. His nastiness on occasions denied. I dislike Dawkins who in his… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
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Martin Reynolds

“Well if knowing Matthew is the first book of the Bible …..”

I didn’t know that ……

Father Ron Smith
Guest

“love Him by following His Father’s commands.”

– David Wilson –

Precisely: “Love God, and your neighbour as yourself” – that’s what Jesus tells us!

If you don’t love yourself – warts and all, how can you love you neighbour?

The Church ought to be in the business of teaching us how to love God first, then to accept God’s love for ourselves – which will be the clue (knowing god’s love for us) as to how we should learn to love our neighbour.

I’ve always like the Gospel paradigm of ‘Mr Do as you would be done by’.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

“When were you last in Britain? The calibre of the episcopate and clergy would surprise you in comparision with the past.” – John Bowles –

In direct response to J.B.: I was born and lived in the UK for 21 years. I have 2 clergy family members living and working in the UK. I was last there 7 months ago, and am constantly in touch with Church affairs in the U.K. C.of E. was my alma mater.

John Bowles
Guest
John Bowles

Martin Reynolds

rosemary Hannah’s confusion of the Bible with the New Testament is a classic illustration of Dawkins’s point and, if she is an ordained minister of religion, mine.

John Roch
Guest
John Roch

Question 23 in the survey asks about the first book of the New Testament.