British Social Attitudes Survey highlights public perception of religion and the church

Earlier this month the latest British Social Attitudes Survey was published at a London press conference.  This survey is one of the longest running assessments of public opinion, having first started in 1983.

One of the sections on Religion and Belief made for difficult and challenging reading if you’re a church go-er or wanting to see people make church part of their ongoing lives.

According to the survey “the number of people who don’t believe in God has doubled in the past two decades.”  According to the survey:

  • 26% of Britains don’t believe in God (up for 10% in 1998)
  • 18% are agnostic
  • Only 19% of the population are certain of God’s existence (down from 21% in 1998)

Furthermore, religious attendance is also continuing to change and decline according to the survey.  52% of those asked said they didn’t belong to any religion (up from 31% in 1983.). When analysing these figures, some religions outside of Christian denominations have slightly increased but rapid drops in others, especially the Church of England have contributed to the picture of decline.

  • Only 12% of Britains describe themselves as followers of the Church of England (down from 22% in 2008 and 40% in 1983.)
  • Only 1% of young people 18-24 say the are part of the Church of England.
  • Those over 75 are most likely to attend (33%.)

One other striking statistic is the journey men are taking away from the church and religion.  In every age group men are less likely to identify with a religion or believe in God than women.    In the 18-34 age bracket, 29% of men express belief in God against 38% of women of the same age.

The survey does note that Britains have “become more tolerant of those with different religious views” but expresses the view that those with strong religious beliefs would tend to be less tolerant of others.

Nancy Kelly, Deputy Chief Executive for the National Centre of Social Research explained:

“This long-term decline in religious identity, practice and belief is one of the most profound social changes we have measured as part of the British Social Attitudes Survey.”

Fresh Expressions exists to re-imagine church for changing culture.  As these changes in religious affiliation and belief continue what are you doing to address these new social phenomena?  We’d love to hear what you think and your stories.

You can find the press release and full survey through these links.

Photo by Oğuzhan Dönmez on Unsplash

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