Religion takes a pounding in England and Wales (2011 census)

Discussion in 'Spirituality & Religion' started by Gordon EF, Dec 11, 2012.

  1. Gordon EF

    Gordon EF Moderator Staff Member

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    Those who identified themselves as belonging to 'no religious affiliation' increased from 15% to 25% between 2001 and 2011 in England and Wales. Even more impressive when you consider that the population increased by 7%, with half of that due to immigration. The major countries being India, Poland and Pakistan, where immigrants are highly likely to identify with some religion.

    People who identify themselves as Christians now make up only 59.3% of the population, down from 71.7% in 2001. Islam is the second highest religion, with 4.8% of the population.

    The Scottish figures are out next week and I'm hopefull we'll see similar shifts here, although we were already less religious than the rest of the UK. In 2001, 27.6% of the population identified themselves as 'no religion'. 65.1% identified as Christian last time out with no other religion making it above the 1% mark, although Islam was 2nd on 0.8%. It'd be great if we could get up to 35% of no religion in Scotland.

    Of course, I'm sure the 'no religion' figures downplay the number of atheists, agnostics and 'lapsed' christains. I know people who would say they were 'protestant', 'catholic' or 'christain' but who don't believe any of it and never attend church. Quite a few people still hold on to the cultural or ethnic label.

    All in all, I find this incredibly encouraging. We're finally making significant steps in ridding ourselves or organised religion. Whilst I'm sure we won't see a continous shedding of religion i=at quite the same rate, there can be no doubt religion is on it's way out in the UK!


  2. Karloski

    Karloski Member+

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    Same here. I know family members\friends\colleagues etc who will say they are christian or CofE when asked, or on documents, but when I ask them if they believe in the God of the Bible, they say not really, or have just never thought about it. As you say, it's just a label from birth they've always stuck with. They absolutley do not follow the scriptures through life, and have no fear of retribution for not doing so. I'd say the reality is the relegious numbers are much lower than suggested on the census.
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  3. Gordon EF

    Gordon EF Moderator Staff Member

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    I'd guess that the number of people who 'aren't really religious' is greater than the numbers who are these days. Certainly, in my experience, I know only a handful of people who are actually religious and only two people I could name, off hand, below the age of 30.
  4. ratdog

    ratdog Member+

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    The same thing has been happening over here in the US:

    http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/story?id=7513343&page=1#.UMeA13eD-u4

    I don't know about the UK but I doubt that will be the case in the US. The "nones" are not atheists. They're just turned off by the fact that the Religious Right has taken over the public trapping of "religion" to such an extent that "religion" (especially the various forms of protestantism) has become almost exclusively associated with the Republican Party here. I assume something of the same thing has happened in Britain although I'd be interested in knowing how having an official church might make things different from the American experience.

    If this topic interests you, I highly recommend the book "American Grace" cited in the article I Posted. I suspect most of the things Putnam has to say about how and why this is happening here are also true in the UK or at least they'll provide food for thought on what is going on over there.

    That said, here in the US I predict that as the "nones" age, many of them will eventually drift into either a liberal religious denomination (they're tailor made for the Unitarian Universalists, for example) or the megachurches that offer all the social benefits of religion while soft pedalling the dogma. Sundays at a megachurch is more like a high school sports pep rally than traditional church service and the megachurches offer a wide range of social groups from parenting groups to drug recovery programs to "theology on tap sessions for guys who want to drink beer while they try to express their spiritual sides. If you ignore the rest of the website and skip the last section of this article, it pretty much sums up megachurches:

    http://realtruth.org/articles/418-trotm.html

    It is possible that formerly Christian "nones" in the UK will go the same way. There are already megachurches in Britain (the Renewal Christian Centre in the West Midlands, for example). Or they could drift back into established churches:

    http://www.religiontoday.com/news/return-religion-attendance-swells-britain-churches.html


  5. Gordon EF

    Gordon EF Moderator Staff Member

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    It's an interesting point and I've thought for a long time that the relationship between church and state is one of the main reasons why the UK is less religious (both in numbers and intensity) than the US.

    Religion isn't politicized to nearly the same extent in the UK as it is in America, either blatantly or covertly. I don't think any major party here (apart from Northern Ireland) could be said to be 'the religious party' or representative of any religious group in particular. Most leaders still give a sense of very vague and 'weak' theism but very few will talk about it openly. And the deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, is an atheist.

    I think having an official church has really had the effect of making religion pretty complacent here. It's always assumed an air of entitlement and has ended up looking very stale and 'unfashionable' to most people. Religion in the US has maybe had to fight a bit more to get attention (between themselves if nothing else) which has probably put them in a better position to keep numbers high and get their agenda listened to. Also, having religion forced on you from the age of 4 or 5 in primary school is a pretty sure-fire way of putting a lot of people off. Although, to be fair, it probably has had the effect of keeping the numbers higher than they would be otherwise, in the past at least.

    I wonder how much education has to do with it too. The UK (and particularly Scotland) has probably had a much stronger emphasis on universal education. In Scotland, I've been through primary school, high school, an undergraduate degree and a PhD and paid the grand total of £90 for it. I'd imagine the less equality and availability to education you have, the more religion is likely to persist.
  6. ratdog

    ratdog Member+

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    I don't know how it is in the UK but in the US, there is only the weakest correlation between education and "religiosity". Among black protestants and white evangelicals, the more educated you are, the more "religiosity" you have, although why that is so is open to debate.

    Also, oddly, it's the least educated Americans who are dropping out of organized religion and becoming "nones" faster than their more educated peers.

    There is a bigger correlation between income and religion here. Baldly stated, the more money you make the less religious you are - with one exception: the group smack dab in the middle ($40K -$50K/year) are just as religious as the poorest Americans. At income levels above that group, religiosity resumes it's downward trend.

    Like the UK, some of the religious trends in the US can be attributed to immigration. The American Catholic Church is a stark example. Native-born English-speaking Catholics -the Irish, Poles, Italians, etc. - are deserting the Catholic Church in droves, usually ending up as "nones" or at some non-denominational Christian megachurch. And yet the number of Catholics as a percentage of the population remains unchanged due to immigration from central and south America. The American Catholic Church increasingly speaks Spanish as its first language.

    I'm curious as to where former COE people end up when they leave. Obviously, a great masny end up as "nones" but I wonder if there is cross-denominational switching going on and which groups besides "none" are gaining ground that isn't due to immigration.
  7. Gordon EF

    Gordon EF Moderator Staff Member

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    I doubt there's much cross-denominational/religion movement in the UK. This is only for Scotland but the only religion, in 2001, which had a greater number of current followers than were brought up in that religion was Islam. Which had 0.7% brought up in the religion and 0.8% of the population following it.

    The greatest drop-offs in christian denominations in the UK, after being brought up in a certain religion is 'other christian'. Obviously that's people leaving psychotic sects like Jehovah's Witnesses. Protestants are next with catholics not far behind. Like the US, the majority of christian immigrants will be catholic so I don't think there's any significant switching going on.
  8. RichardL

    RichardL BigSoccer Supporter

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    That startling thing really is how low the "none" figure is.

    It is a country, after all, where openly religious people are regarded with bemusement.

    The contrast between the USA and the UK is interesting, where an atheist would struggle to get elected, certainly as president, whereas in the UK a staunchly religious political leader would be seen as detrimental to almost any political party.
  9. ceezmad

    ceezmad Member+

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  10. BocaFan

    BocaFan Member+

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    Yup. I still think Obama is an atheist but he has to fake it for another 4 years I guess since the USA isn't as advanced as the U.K. in this regard. He especially lays the religious BS on thick right before elections. It's hard to watch.

    I wonder how many in the Senate and other levels of Gov't are pretending to be Christian(?). Guess we can rule out those who spend their free-time cottaging. :whistling:
  11. benztown

    benztown Member

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    I find it the different development of religions among different peoples quite interesting. And I don't think that you can just break it down to there being a "state religion".
    All European countries did in fact have state religions and yet, developments are very different.

    I think what has happened in America has two main factors. First of all, early settlers were mostly religious nuts of all types who wanted to build their ideal societies on the "new" continent. So the importance of religion really was ingrained in the American culture from the very beginning, while in Europe, people still believed, but it wasn't central to their lives by and large.

    The other factor has to do with there not being a state church, but I think it goes deeper than that. The idea of "rugged individualism" is another foundational aspect of American culture. Americans to this day value "freedom" more highly than their European counterparts. In Europe, values like "equality" and "safety" play a more dominant role. That has lead to a more darwinian free market in the US which also pushed religions to become ever more competitive. That's why there are tons of splinter movements in the US and they've all evolved to be the fittest in regards to converting people. In Europe there never was that push, although today, evangelicals are trying to expand worldwide, so we'll might see similar developments here in the future. Evangelicals are still very much on the fringe in Europe, but if they succeed in adapting to European sensibilities, they might become a bigger factor here as well.

    Regarding the different developments in Europe, my hypothesis is that it has to do with protestantism vs. catholicism. I think that protestantism is much more prone to lose out vs. secularism. This might sound like a contradiction, given that the most religious country, the US, is also a historically protestant nation. But I think I can reconcile that.
    If you look at the origins of protestantism, you'll see that from the beginning, it was a fundamentalist movement. People like Luther or Calvin were radicals who didn't like the modern religious interpretations of their time. Back then, catholicism was extremely liberal. I'm currently reading "The Swerve" by Stephen Greenblatt which deals with the pre-reformation era and the beginning of the Renaissance and it's fascinating, just how liberal those times were. That kinda changed with the counter-reformation, but the catholic church remains to this day a rather liberal religious organization (which may sound surprising to some, but I'll get to that).
    Anyway, the radicalism of people like Luther and Calvin was of course exponentiated by some, let's say unique, religious interpretations, that didn't jive well with christian orthodoxy, which ultimately led to the schism between catholicism and protestantism. But in that, you already see the foundational properties of protestantism:
    1) The fundamentalism
    2) The tendency to fracture into splinter movements
    In protestantism, every religious nut can found his own church and gather his own following, he doesn't need to be well educated in theology or latin or greek, all he needs to have is charisma.

    The catholic church on the other hand understands itself as The One Church for all of christendom, which also means that it has to incapsulate all kinds of different beliefs. That's why the catholic church is inherently more liberal. While it does have lots of dogmas and rules and regulations, probably more so than any protestant church since they're the result of millennia of theology, they're more like "guidelines". The individual catholic is free to deviate greatly from centralized dogma (and this btw is a point that I think many Americans don't understand, including catholics, because they've all grown up in a religious culture where this isn't really an option).
    In Europe, to this day protestant regions are usually much more uptight than their catholic counterpart, though in the wake of secularism this is slowly changing.
    But just to show how liberal the catholic church really is, look at Hans Küng from Switzerland. He used to be a buddy of the current Pope as they both studied theology together. But eventually, they went into very different directions. Benedict went the traditional dogmatic route, while Küng went rebellious. He openly denies central dogmas like the virgin birth or even Jesus' divinity and he has written tons of books attacking the holy see. In the German speaking areas, he's very well known for being an outspoken critic of the Pope and the Vatican in general. Yet he's still technically a catholic priest in good standing. He's not allowed to teach new priests anymore because his teachings are deemed heretical, but he hasn't been excommunicated or even lost his title.

    So, where am I heading with this, well the thing is, even though the catholic church is like a large tanker and not very prone to change, it also offers enough flexibility to accommodate all kinds of different beliefs. Protestantism on the other hand is more fundamentalist and historically has an all or nothing approach. If you're not fully on board, you found your own splinter group. So when your belief clashes with reality, you either ditch your religious belief, or you deny reality. In the US, the fundamentalist churches can - for various reason - better shield themselves from the world, that's why they are doing so well. They basically doubled down on their fundamentalism. In Europe on the other hand, that never was as easy, plus with the state church setup, you didn't have charismatic leaders, but scholars at the top who knew very well what reality looked like. So european protestantism tried to adjust their beliefs to reality and became ever more liberal. But unlike catholics, individual protestants seem to have a harder time accepting that. Unlike catholicism, protestantism is wholly based on the Bible, so the more clergy tried to weasel out of contradictions by reading ever more of the Bible figuratively, the more protestants wondered what the point of all this was, since the only source they have can be interpreted in all different kinds of ways and subsequently dropped out.
    Catholics on the other hand just wave their hand at this and say "so what". For them it's more about tradition than the Bible and if the Bible can't be taken literally, that's no big deal for the individual catholic, because they "know" how to belief from other sources as well.

    Anyway, that's my hypothesis why for example East Germany is predominantly atheistic (I think somewhere around 60%), while neighboring Poland is highly religious, despite them sharing a very similar recent history. Of course Germany's Nazi past probably also played a role, as communist anti-Christian propaganda was easier to succeed in an environment where christianity was in bed with those who committed these horrible crimes, whereas in Poland is was linked with the resistance. Still, I think it's mostly due to East Germany being traditionally protestant and Poland traditionally catholic.
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  12. Colm

    Colm Member

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    I am one who falls into that category. I think the chances of there being a god is highly Unlikly yet I put Catholic down as my religion in the 2011 UK census due to the fact that I was baptised catholic and being of Irish heritage, even though I never attend church and yet on a scale of 0-100 of the chances of god existing (100= certain god is true, 0= certain god is not true) I would be at 1.

    There is no way 59% of the population of England and Wales are christians since last time I checked only about 35 of people in England and Wales (i believe it is similar in Scotland) believed in god and the % of people who attend church regularly is in single digits.
  13. BocaFan

    BocaFan Member+

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    Really all depends how the question is asked. Should go something like this:

    Q1: Do you believe in God?
    Q1b: If yes, what religion are you most connected with? a) .... b).... c) ...

    But its probably not structured like that.
  14. Colm

    Colm Member

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    The funny thing is, is that some of the least religious countries in the world have a state Religion (Sweden, UK, Denmark, Germany which I
    think funds both Catholic and Protestants churchs) yet the US was the worlds first secular state yet is far far more religious that the countries listed above and nearly of all Europe.

    Here are few interesting finds.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
  15. Dr. Wankler

    Dr. Wankler Member+

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    About 20 years ago, Garry Wills, a practicing Catholic who has become more and more liberal since his days as a William F. Buckley acolyte in the Nixon White House, wrote a book on religion and American politics. He argued that the separation of church and state wasn't designed to keep religion out of politics, it was designed to keep the politics out if the church. As a result, the churches won't be tempted and corrupted by political power. While it hasn't been foolproof (nothing is in the US: if anything gets close to foolproof, we just invent new and improved fools), it has prevented the wide-ranging collapse of official religions like we've seen in Ireland and Spain. That's why I've argued for a long time that a secular public culture is healthier for religions in he long run.

    Edit: the book is called "Under God: Religion and American Politics."
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  16. Justin Z

    Justin Z Member

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    His view comports with that of Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island, who called religion a "garden" and civic society a "wilderness." He actually coined the phrase "wall of separation" before Jefferson used it in the Letter to the Danbury Baptists. But I think it's clear that Jefferson, Madison, and most other religious freedom advocates who were actually responsible for drafting the Constitution (and in Madison's case, the Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments, a document aimed at ending the practice of levying church taxes) felt that the situation was reversed. Civic society is the garden--with laws determined by debate and reason, while religion is the wilderness, a "just-so" approach incompatible with republican democracy.
  17. REALfootballRulez

    REALfootballRulez Member

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    Great news Gordon! 100 years from now England should be 95% free of religion!

    And don't forget Jesus is simply part of the Judeo Christian MYTH!
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  18. Chesco United

    Chesco United Member

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    One of the reasons the US is very religious is because European countries shipped their very religious folk over here. Thanks, assholes.:)
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  19. argentine soccer fan

    argentine soccer fan Moderator Staff Member

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    Nice to see Argentina beats the US by one. Ownage as usual. :D
  20. Gordon EF

    Gordon EF Moderator Staff Member

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    Actually, they beat you by one.;)

    I'd imagine a maker of the education of the populace would show ridiculously strong trend across the board.
  21. Colm

    Colm Member

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    I think GDP of the country would play a big role too. Look at the table I posted above, The worlds most religous countries tend to be some of the poorest in the world, yet some of the worlds most developed countries Sweden, Denmark, UK, Japan, France and other very developed countries not on the table like Norway and Iceland are the least religous.

    But yes you are right the more educated the person is he less likely he believes in god.
  22. argentine soccer fan

    argentine soccer fan Moderator Staff Member

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    So you're saying it's more like golf, lower score wins? :D

    Perhaps, but it's hard to quantify.

    For example, when it comes to education, I'd say that high school is much more demanding and the curriculum is broader and more advanced in Argentina, so a high school graduate probably has more "education" than his American equivalent. On the other hand, American education, particularly after high school, is more practical in terms of getting you ready for specific careers and jobs. My thinking is the average Argentine is "better educated" if we mean in terms of a broad liberal arts type education, but an American is "better educated" in a practical sense, in terms of job skills and technology.

    As far as religion, I feel we are comparing apples and oranges, as each country's culture and religion differs significantly. For example, an Argentine is more likely to say that religion is important in the sense that the Catholic rituals tend to be a part of people's life, part of the fabric of society. I think in the US there is a more mystical aspect to religion, seeking "the will of God" in prayer and the like. Although Evangelicals are growing in Argentina, it's still a minority that looks at religion in that sense.
  23. Colm

    Colm Member

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    Speaking of Education and Religion

    [​IMG]

    This is a graph on the acceptance of Evolution. It seems to me the more religious a country is the less likely they are to accept it and the less religious the country is the more likley they are to accept Evolution. Education plays a big part here too since I can't honestly believe that anyone who has studied Biology at high school could still think that Evolution isn't true.
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  24. Justin Z

    Justin Z Member

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    Presumably, we have one such person here on the forum. He'll show up sooner or later, I'm sure.
  25. Chesco United

    Chesco United Member

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    I was a creationist, as my church believed in creationism. The evolution classes shook my faith. Eventually, I believed in evolution and became an agnostic.

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