A trailer for some research being published in January was released this morning by the National Centre for Social Research. It's a comparison of religious attitudes in the UK and US, and leads with the finding that people defining themselves as Christian has declined from 66% to 50% since 1983. Telegraph report here.
Some of the findings.
· Seven in ten (70%) Americans are religious, in that they identify with a particular religion, believe in God and attend religious services. This compares with just a quarter (26%) of people in Britain.
· Three in ten people (31%) in Britain are not religious: they do not identify with a religion, don’t believe in God and don’t attend religious services. This compares with just four in every hundred (4%) Americans.
· Just over a third (36%) of people in Britain and a quarter (24%) of Americans have practices and beliefs that lie somewhere in between. These people – the ‘fuzzy faithful’ – identify with a religion, believe in God or attend services, but not all three.
There's also some bullet points on church and society:
· In Britain, four in five (79%) people think it provides comfort in times of trouble, as do 95% of Americans.
· The majority of people in both countries are keen to maintain a separation of religion and state. For example two thirds (67% in Britain and 66% in the US) think religious leaders should not try to influence government decision-making.
· Nearly three quarters (73%) of people in Britain and two thirds (66%) of Americans think people with strong religious beliefs are often too intolerant of others.
The paper is based on the 2008 Social Attitudes survey in the UK, but those results don't appear to be online, unless anyone is better on Google than me?
George Pitcher has responded in the Telegraph
Nick Baines, who likes the reporting (shock! horror!) and wonders if the NSS would have said the same thing whatever the figures were. The answer is possibly yes.
Church Times report, with a nice table summing things up. Statistical table, as opposed to a talking piece of furniture.
1. This sounds about right: the three groups of faithful, fuzzy and agnostic/atheist is quite a good way to characterise it. I think about 15-20% of children are currently baptised in a church, which if you exclude the churches which don't practice infant baptism, looks fairly close to these findings.
2. Identification is lagging behind reality, which continues to pose the question of Christendom institutions (established church, bishops in the Lords, etc.) and their place in a post-Christendom society. At the same time there are quite a few people who want a church that they don't go to.
3. That last bullet point needs heeding, though one suspects that an intolerant religious person makes a better news story than a loving one, just as an actual crime makes a better story than a night when everyone keeps the law. Sadly the bigoted Christian is a staple news story, and this is not all the medias doing, it wouldn't be a story if they didn't actually exist.
4. 26% of people who believe in God, attend religious services and identify with a particular faith is a fairly sizeable chunk of society. That doesn't entitle it to privileges, but I'm struggling to think of another voluntary activity which comes close to that, no doubt commenters will enlighten me.
5. There's a challenge for parents, and churches equipping parents to pass on their faith to their children (who, of course, will make their own decision anyway...)
“Two non-religious parents successfully transmit their lack of religion. Two religious parents have roughly a 50/50 chance of passing on the faith. One religious parent does only half as well as two together.” It also means that any strategy for the future of the church which is simply based on sitting there and waiting for stuff to happen is doomed to failure. The question is not whether to change, but how.