Research Finds Complexity Behind ‘Christianity’

UK residents who think of themselves as Christian show very low levels of Christian belief and practice, according to new research.

A poll carried out by Ipsos MORI for the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science (UK) in the week after the 2011 Census focused on the beliefs, attitudes and practices of UK adults who say they were recorded as Christian in the 2011 Census (or would have recorded themselves as Christian had they answered the question).

When asked why they think of themselves as Christian, the research found that fewer than three in ten (28%) say one of the reasons is that they believe in the teachings of Christianity.

People are much more likely to consider themselves to be Christian because they were christened or baptised into the religion (72%) or because their parents were members of the religion (38%) than because of personal belief.

As many as half (50%) do not think of themselves as religious and less than a third (30%) claim to have strong religious beliefs.

Indeed, many Christian practices, including regular reading of the Bible and prayer outside church services, appear to be unsupported amongst respondents self-identifying as Christian:

Asked why they had been recorded as Christian in the 2011 Census, only three in ten (31%) said it was because they genuinely try to follow the Christian religion, with four in ten (41%) saying it was because they try to be a good person and associate that with Christianity.

But when asked where they seek most guidance in questions of right and wrong, only one in ten (10%) said it was from religious teachings or beliefs, with over half (54%) preferring to draw on their own inner moral sense.

Overall, the findings suggest that the number of UK adults self-identifying as Christian has fallen significantly since the 2001 Census. This research found that at the time of the 2011 Census, just over half (54%) the public thought of themselves as Christian, compared with almost three-quarters (72%) in the 2001 Census.

Welcoming the findings of the research, Richard Dawkins said:

Richard-Dawkins“Despite the best efforts of church leaders and politicians to convince us that religion is still an important part of our national life, these results demonstrate that it is largely irrelevant, even to those who still label themselves Christian.

“In the past, there have often been attempts to use the Christian figure in the Census to justify basing policy on the claim that faith is important to the British people. This time, any attempt to do so will clearly be inexcusable.”

John Bishop, Executive Secretary of the Humanist Society Scotland, said,

John Bishop

“The research today is helpful in telling us more about people’s relationship with religion and how they identify themselves. What is more interesting is common ground between secular groups and Christians on how they approach belief.”

Over half of the Christians surveyed here looked to their own inner moral sense to decide right or wrong rather than religious teaching. This is a very humanist viewpoint, a book or supernatural power is not needed for people to live a good life.”

“There is also a wide variety of views within people calling themselves Christian on issues such as gay rights, assisted suicide and abortion. In this survey over half share our support of legalised assisted suicide, equal rights for homosexual couples and a woman’s right to choose.”

“We know from our own research that only 36% of Scots are religious however HSS believes that all parties are entitled to a voice in the current debate and welcome participation from secular and non-secular bodies.”

“Atheists can be accused of being over strident by religious bodies and individuals. However, this is partly in response to the historical and dominant influence of religion in society and public life which is not representative of modern Society’s views as a whole. It is about time we explored a fairer balance in public life that represents more fairly the views held in Scotland.”

“For HSS it is about equality of voice and ensuring that our public bodies, in particular schools and the Scottish parliament represent the full spectrum of views on religion and morality in Scotland.”

A full copy of the research can be downloaded from the Richard Dawkins Foundation Website or via this link



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