Thursday, 19 September 2013

BRIN comments on the British Social Attitudes Survey

We reported previously on this major survey here.

British Religion in Numbers has now published its analysis at British Social Attitudes Survey, 2012.

In addition to discussion of the specifically religious questions asked, BRIN notes that

responses to all questions in the survey can be quickly analysed by religion, through the BSA Information System website at (prior registration is required)

And BRIN reports the following example analysis, taken from the chapter on personal relationships in the survey report:

  • All religious groups apart from non-Christians have become more accepting of premarital sex over the past three decades, the number of Anglicans and Catholics describing it as always or mostly wrong now being reduced to one in ten (much the same as in the population as a whole), compared with almost one in three in 1983. Most tolerant of all are people of no religion, only 2% of whom in 2012 considered premarital sex to be wrong (11% in 1983). Frequency of attending religious services also has an impact; whereas 71% of non-attenders said in 2012 that premarital sex is not at all wrong, this was true of only 23% of weekly attenders at worship.
  • Despite a similar process of liberalization of attitudes over time, people of faith are still appreciably more disapproving of homosexuality than society at large. Indeed, the gap between the religious and non-religious on this issue is now far wider than in the past. Overall, 28% of Britons in 2012 deemed sexual relations between two adults of the same sex to be always or mostly wrong, but the proportion fell to 16% among the irreligious and climbed to 61% of non-Christians (with 35% for Catholics and 40% for Anglicans).
  • Religion continues to be closely associated with attitudes to abortion. Catholics are the least accepting, with only 39% supporting a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy if she wishes to, against 56% of Anglicans. Those professing no religion are most supportive of all (73%, compared with 62% of all Britons). However, acceptance of abortion has increased among all faith communities since 1983; in the case of Anglicans, for example, just 34% endorsed abortion in these circumstances thirty years ago.
Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 19 September 2013 at 9:03am BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | statistics

Two generations ago, Christianity defined the centre of gravity of personal morality. People either followed the precepts of the Church of England (homosexuality, abortion and pre-marital sex _bad_) or felt they should at least feel guilty about it. There was significant social opprobrium for people that did not follow these rules, even if they were not

Now, for each of those topics, even Christianity itself can't raise a majority against (and there's good reason to suspect that self-declared Christians will over-estimate their moral conservatism when being questioned). Even Catholicism can't raise a majority against abortion, the very definition of what should be an issue. And in the UK population at large they are completely dead issues. Whatever various fringe groups think, those issues are not only never going to be condemned, they are never even going to be discussed.

So if these issues don't even have a majority opposing them _within_ Christian denominations, why is it that to the outsider, they're the only thing Christianity is talking about? Given all the other things churches would like to discuss --- poverty, injustice, discrimination --- wouldn't shutting up about sex be a damned good idea?

Posted by: Interested Observer on Thursday, 19 September 2013 at 7:56pm BST

"Given all the other things churches would like to discuss --- poverty, injustice, discrimination --- wouldn't shutting up about sex be a damned good idea?"

Indeed. But talking about sex is a great distraction from tackling really hard problems, such as poverty, etc.

Posted by: Cynthia on Friday, 20 September 2013 at 6:16am BST

Interesting to see that while I was typing that, the Pope was apparently being quoted saying roughly the same thing. When the Pope (the Pope!) thinks it's time to shut up about sexual morality, there really is a sea change afoot.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Friday, 20 September 2013 at 9:16am BST

IO, Poverty, injustice, etc. are seen as the work of the government, unions, the health services, etc. Secular enterprises. In the US, religious folk are expected to keep their noses out of it or they're regulating morality for everyone else. Religion is what you're supposed to do at home, away from the public. Freedom of religion is now freedom from religion. Christians let it become that way; they fell silent, just as they became more accepting of secular opinions of abortion, etc.

Posted by: Chris H on Friday, 20 September 2013 at 3:19pm BST

"talking about sex is a great distraction from tackling really hard problems, such as poverty"

Futile to attempt to separate the issues like that, seeing that misuse of sex is a big contributory cause of poverty.

Posted by: Dan on Friday, 20 September 2013 at 5:12pm BST

How very true, Dan.

Posted by: Chris H on Saturday, 21 September 2013 at 11:49pm BST
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