New Poll: “76% Britons say they are ‘not religious'”

YouGov, the international internet-based market research firm, has a new poll out. Here is a quick summary of the findings that they published yesterday

76% Britons say they are ‘not religious’, but 56% say Britain is Christian, & 61% agree it should be

Most Britons say that they do not belong to any particular religion and are not religious, our poll shows, with just 5% of Britons saying that they are ‘very religious’.

However, most say that Britain is a Christian country anyway, and almost three in five Britons feel that Britain should be a Christian country in any case. Just one in five people says that Britain should not be a Christian nation.

Yep. its an odd result. A large chunk of the population are not religious, yet quite a few of them feel that the UK should be a “Christian country”. As an aside, what the heck does the term “Christian” country actually mean, how does a country convert and proclaim its faith? I find it weird that a country can be considered “Christian” while most people living there are not actually religious at all.

OK, lets take a look at the poll.

They interviewed 1828 people. It appears to be a good spread across both the political and geographical arena, but I have no idea how they selected them, hence I do ponder the following:

  • It’s a very tiny data sample, can the views of 1,828 truly represent what is going on in a population of over 62 million people?

When asked if they belonged to any particular religion, 50% said no, 43% yes, now that is about the same as the long-term trend found in the British Social Attitude survey, so it does appear to be credible … but I still suggest (even when you see statistics you like) that tiny data samples should still cause you to pause and question such numbers.

  • Since I have no idea how they selected the 1,828 how can I be sure that it was a truly representative sample?

YouGov has been in the polling business for some time, they are also impartial and have no specific religious or non-religious agenda, nor are they funded in a manner that might skew the results, so I feel comfortable with imparting a degree of trust that they got it right. I’m prepared to cut them a bit of slack here, but I’d still love to know the answer.

So what were they asked and why did the non-religious think the UK should be “Christian”? The question asked was as follows….

Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: ‘Britain should be a Christian country’

With just three option, (Yes, No, Don’t know) 61% agreed, but what exactly were they agreeing to? It is such a vague question that it will mean a lot of different things to different people. Hearing such a question they might interpret it as follows

  • Would you prefer Britain to adopt  Islam, Hinduism or some other belief?
  • Should we ban religion?

In other words, I’m suggesting the question had flaws. I’d have been a lot more interested to see the following questions asked:

  • Do you think Britain should give preference to one specific belief as a formally established belief? (Which is what we have now)
  • Should Britain become a truly secular nation with complete freedom of religion for all, and give no preference to any?
  • Should Bishops from a minority belief be permitted to takes seats in the house of lords?

I’m also sure that people really do not understand what they are signing up for when they state that they want the UK to be a “Christian” nation. Should we then base our laws on the bible (Yes to Slavery and Genocide, and death for being gay). Such thinking is of course nonsense, only individuals can hold beliefs, countries don’t, so lets take all beliefs out of politics.

Martin Robbins, (in the Guardian), writes that “Christians should unite with atheists to defend secularism“. …

If atheists are bemused by the latest attacks on secularism, spare a thought for Britain’s Christians. Most agree with equality for homosexuals, support the separation of church and state, and share the basic principles of humanism. Many of the comments supposedly made on their behalf must be as alien to them as they are to the rest of us.

The ‘war on secularism’ is a battle over privilege. On one side, secularists – whether Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, atheist or other – believe in freedom of (and from) religion; that faith is a personal choice and the state should be neutral in such matters. Opposing them, an elitist minority of Christians believe that one group – themselves – should enjoy privileges that others do not share.

Now that nails all this for me, for this enshrines fairness for all, and truly represents the ideals of the enlightenment – Freedom of Thought

Without freedom of thought there can be no such thing as wisdom & no such thing as publick liberty without freedom of speechBenjamin Franklin, 1722

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