Monday, 13 April 2015

How religious is the United Kingdom?

The WIN/Gallup International market research association has published the results of a recent survey taken in 65 countries. This shows that the UK is one of the least religious countries as measured by what people say about themselves.

The full press release is available here. It starts out:

Losing our religion? Two thirds of people still claim to be religious

  • 63% of people polled say they are religious
  • China is the least religious country with twice the amount of convinced atheists than any
    other nation (61%) followed by Hong Kong (34%), Japan (31%), Czech Republic (30%), and
    Spain (20%).
  • Thailand is the most religious country globally (94%), followed by Armenia (93%),
    Bangladesh (93%), Georgia (93%), and Morocco (93%)…

The wording of the question was this:

“Irrespective of whether you attend a place of worship or not would you say you are: a. a religious Person, b. not a religious person, c. a convinced atheist, d. do not know/no response.”

Press coverage of this has been varied:

Guardian UK one of world’s least religious countries, survey finds

Telegraph Britain one of the ‘world’s least religious countries’, says poll and Mapped: These are the world’s most religious countries

Christian Today Two thirds of people worldwide are religious (but less than one third of Brits)

Daily Mail Brits among the least religious in the world: UK comes 59th in poll of 65 countries after only 30% of population say they have a faith

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 13 April 2015 at 10:15pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

"China is the least religious country with twice the amount of convinced atheists than any
other nation (61%)"

If I were going to be snarky, I might inquire how many of those Chinese "convinced atheists" nevertheless believe that *tiger testicles* (etc) would make them...well, y'know. Not all gods are called "God" (which applies world-wide---even to "convinced theists"!).

Posted by: JCF on Tuesday, 14 April 2015 at 5:30am BST

Institutional conservatism is probably the biggest reason for the eruption of a growing agnosticism on the part of inhabitantys of the U.K.

Fundamentalist religion - whether Christian, Muslim, Hindu, or whatever faith system - that majors on a stern unloving deity, seems bound, in this enlightened age, to incur profound disbelief.

And yet, Gospel Christianity has so much going for it with a Saviour God, who shared our human fragility - and yet took time and effort to deliver us from the worst excesses of our self-indulgences, by an act of incomparable generosity.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 14 April 2015 at 10:23am BST

The use of the question 'Are you a religious person' falls straight into a trap. I'm constantly knocking my head against people who say they are spiritual but not religious or that they believe in God but are not religious or that they are sure there is 'something' but are not religious. 'Being religious' can mean everything to many of them from 'being holier than thou' to 'feeling that faith has to be expressed in particular unappealing forms of church activity' via 'having suspect views about everything from evolution to sexuality'. The research doesn't show that we are not one of the least countries - it shows we are a country in which the specific word 'religious' has a particularly low appeal.

Posted by: Peter Mullins on Tuesday, 14 April 2015 at 12:57pm BST

Great posts by Peter Mullins and Fr. Ron Smith.

I consider myself loosely religious. I ascribe to Judaism's central beliefs, while ignoring the dietary, clothing, and Sabbath codes, and I've attended, off and on, services at the local Episcopal Church cathedral for over two decades.
I've also called myself "agnostic". I do believe in something I call God, but I have no knowledge (a gnosis) of the nature of God.
But, the stridency of fundamentalist believers, especially Christian believers in the USA, is driving me further and further away from respect for organized religion. The latest stridency comes in the form of bakers and florists in the USA who feel their Christian values are so superior that they ought to be able to discriminate against gay and lesbian couples -- and no one else -- because it violates their Christian beliefs not to associate with sinners! They don’t ask prospective heterosexual couples about their sex habits before getting married, or whether the couple gambles, or drinks to excess. That would be intrusive – and lose them customers in a hurry. But, two men or two women? Be gone with you!
Well, excuuuse me that you are SO holy, so pure, that the mere presence of gay and lesbian couples in your establishment threatens your chance of a date with God in the Hereafter!
Not to mention, these same florists and bakers would be the first in line in court if someone discriminated against them for being Christian.
That kind of smug hypocrisy drives me nuts. They are there to sell flowers or cakes.

Posted by: peterpi - Peter Gross on Tuesday, 14 April 2015 at 8:58pm BST

Father Ron, however powerful the Gospel message, for many people there's insufficient evidence for its God, and the notion that we need to be saved by an external power. As John Shelby Spong put it, "The biblical story of the perfect and finished creation from which human beings fell into sin is pre-Darwinian mythology and post-Darwinian nonsense."

It's striking that many religious conservatives just can't process the notion that people disbelieve on evidential grounds. "Atheism offers no hope, no savior!" they cry, as if "is" can be dictated by "ought." If the God of the Bible doesn't exist, he doesn't exist, period.

Since the church ostracizes the theological liberalism that can address this disenchantment, the disenchanted ostracize the church. Liberals can help by stating liberal beliefs as boldly as conservatives state theirs. Moderates, by standing shoulder-to-shoulder.

Posted by: James Byron on Wednesday, 15 April 2015 at 11:47am BST

I was looking at the icon of the Coptic New Martyrs of Libya, and thinking about the fate of those 21 men given the choice of converting or dying for their faith. Their saying the name of Jesus as they died is enough for me to say there is God, and I'm proud to be a Christian. What does matter if you are a liberal or conservative; baker or florist; agnostic or disenchanted. Would we have the same belief as these martyrs. Have a look at the Icon

Posted by: Henry Dee on Wednesday, 15 April 2015 at 1:49pm BST

" for many people there's insufficient evidence for its God" - James Byron -

The only answer I can think of James, is that Christianity is an experience - rather than just an intellectual contsruct. Faith cannot be limited to intellectual constructs; it is a gift from God, only to be accessed by those who are open to its blessings. I suspect that the lack of Baptismal experience - in which the Spirit of God is gifted - may be the real problem at the heart of today's 'inability' to believe.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 15 April 2015 at 10:35pm BST

ITA, Fr Ron.

Indeed, in response to the declaration that "is" does NOT dictate by "ought"; "If the God of the Bible doesn't exist, he doesn't exist, period." (quoted by J Byron), I respond w/ "Sebastian's Confession" from 'Brideshead Revisited':

[dialogue between Sebastian and Charles]

C: “… I suppose they try to make you believe an awful lot of nonsense?”
S: “Is it nonsense? I wish it were. It sometimes sounds terribly sensible to me.”
C: “But my dear Sebastian, you can’t seriously believe it all.”
S: “Can’t I?”
C: “I mean about Christmas and the star and the three kings and the ox and the ass.”
S: “Oh yes. I believe that. It’s a lovely idea.”
C: “But you can’t believe things because they’re a lovely idea.”
S: “But I do. That’s how I believe.” (pp. 81–83)


[Re the icon of the Coptic New Martyrs of Libya, here are *3* I found:

All holy martyrs, pray for us!]

Posted by: JCF on Thursday, 16 April 2015 at 2:56am BST

As you know, Father Ron, feelings can mislead, and mislead ruinously. There's no conflict between head and heart: one complements the other. If Christianity must play reason off against experience, something's gone wrong.

Posted by: James Byron on Thursday, 16 April 2015 at 5:21am BST

Dear James; having acquired 'the gift of faith', I find my experience perfectly congruent with my own understanding of logic. If I were resistant to what the experience of the Holy Spirit is telling me; then I understand that no amount of reasoning would help.

The elements of the mystical in religion do, however, require an openness to belief. Without that, there is no possibility of Faith.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 16 April 2015 at 10:23am BST
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