The proportion of Brits who identify as Christian has hit its lowest point in over three decades as more than half of respondents said they no longer affiliate with a religion, a new study suggests. The National Centre for Social Research, which claims to be Britain’s largest independent social research agency, has released its 36th annual British Social Attitudes report based on a survey of 3,879 people. The report confirmed the continued trend seen in the U.K. and the United States of people not affiliating with any religion as 52% of respondents to the survey said they do not belong to any religion.
“Of these, most were simply not brought up with a religion, with a smaller minority having lost a childhood faith,” the report states. “Those who do not regard themselves as belonging to a religion are increasingly secular and likely to say they are ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ unreligious.” The study finds that only 38% of the respondents identify as Christian, a far cry from the 66% of respondents in the organization’s 1998 survey who identified as Christian and a 2-percentage-point drop from 2017. In 2008, 50% of respondents identified as Christian. The proportion of respondents who identified as belonging to the Church of England fell 40% in 1983 to 12% in 2018.
As for people aged 18 through 24, just 1% identify as Anglican compared to the 33% of people older than 75. The proportion of the population that declares themselves to be Muslims was 5%. Respondents who said they were nondenominational Christians increased from 3% of the population in 1998 to 13% in 2018. The finding shows that the proportion of nondenominational Christians in the United Kingdom is now “equivalent to” the proportion that identifies with the Church of England, the report explained. “The exact nature of this group is unclear: some of those people will be active members of independent nondenominational churches.
Indeed a third (34%) of them attend services at least monthly,” the report states. “Some may feel alienated from institutionalised religion. Others may be making a claim not so much about religious faith as ethnic identity.” The report also found that the proportion of Brits who consider themselves to be Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist or Baptist totals 10%, down from 20% in 1998. The report was written by University College London social science professor David Voas and University of Aberdeen professor Steve Bruce. They pinpoint the decline in church membership in the U.K. to have begun somewhere around 1851.
“In 1900 church membership was around 25%; it is now less than 10%,” the report reads. “In 1900 more than half the child population attended Sunday schools; now it is less than 4%.” In 1998, 11% of people with no religion were brought up in some sort of religious tradition. In 2018, that figure rose to 23%. The new study also found that 66% of respondents “never attend religious services, apart from weddings, funerals and baptisms.” There has been a noticeable decrease in the number of people who attend religious services on a monthly basis, however the proportion of people who report attending services weekly has remained stable at 11%.
About 66% of respondents believe that religion brings more conflict than peace. 21% of respondents said they have “no confidence” in religious organizations and only 46% said that have “some” confidence in such organizations. “Research suggests that Britain is becoming more secular not because people are losing their inclination to practice but because old people with an attachment to the Church are being replaced in the population by unaffiliated younger people,” the report reasons. “Put another way, religious decline in Britain is generational; people tend to be less religious than their parents, and on average their children are even less religious than they are.”
While fewer people in the U.K. are identifying with a religion, 26% say they don’t believe in God. By comparison, just 10% said the same in 1998. The proportion of people who say they “believe in God” has dropped from 48% in 1998 to 35% in 2018. While the study shows the continued trend away from religion in the U.K., it also found that the proportion of respondents who consider same-sex relationships to be “not wrong” dropped from 68% in 2017 to 66% in 2018. Even though that might not seem like much, it represents the first time there has been a decline in that figure since the question was first asked in 1987. Over the last 3 years attitudes seem to have stabilized.”
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