UK: All religions combined = a minority

Its official … the majority of the UK population is non religious and secular. If you take the folks who have any religious belief and combine then up … you still have a minority of the population … there is an article in the Guardian today about this … apparently in 1985 (only 25 years ago) it was quite a different story …

Every year, researchers from the British Social Attitudes survey ask a representative sample of British people whether they regard themselves as belonging to any particular religion and, if so, to which one? When the survey first asked these questions in 1985, 63% of the respondents answered that they were Christians, compared with 34% who said they had no religion (the rest belonged to non-Christian religions).

But that has dramatically changed …

Today, a quarter of a century on, there has been a steady and remarkable turnaround. In the latest 2010 BSA report, published earlier this month, only 42% said they were Christians while 51% now say they have no religion…

… This Christmas, for perhaps the first time ever, Britain is a majority non-religious nation. Most of us have probably seen this moment coming, but it is a substantial event nonetheless. It is undoubtedly a development that would have astonished our ancestors who built a Britain on the basis that we were and would remain a predominantly Protestant people. The victory of secularism would have flabbergasted them almost as much as the pope appearing on the BBC with his Thought for the Day.

You can perhaps take the precise number with a pinch of salt, its just a survey and is not an official census … however, what is of interest is that in a very short period an dramatic change has happened. This is even reflected in our politics where our three political parties are led by two open atheists, and a prime minister who admits his faith comes and goes, a development impossible to imagine in other parts of a world.

The UK of 100 or even 50 years ago is gone … as the Guardian notes …

What is more striking about the survey is how quickly the change has come – just a generation. It is not that long since everything shut on Sundays, since a majority went regularly to church of some sort, since all schoolchildren knew and sang hymns and studied the Bible even if they did not believe in it, and since the idea that public figures could be anything other than observantly Christian would have seemed unthinkable. It would be hard to say, by most yardsticks, that those were better times. They were certainly different ones. The direction of change is likely to continue. We must all get used to it.

Finally what is truly truly bizarre and highly ironic about all this are the following two observations of mine …

  • The official head of state, the queen, is also head of the the church of England
  • The house of Lords, those who rule over us and make the law, is stuffed with bishops

So here we are, the most secular population on the planet being ruled over by clerics. In stark contrast, you have the US, the most secular republic on the planet ending up with the most bizarre collection of religious nutters distributed across its population.

To read the Guardian article, click here.

As for the actual BSA 2010 report, you can read it here.

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