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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege

British Social Attitudes Survey shows religion in rapid decline in Britain

The latest British Social Attitudes Survey paints a grim picture for the future of religion in this country. It shows that the number of people who do not have a religion has risen to 50% (65% for the 18–24 age group). In 1983 one in three did not have a religion, but by 2010 this has become one in two. Since 1983, the number of people who describe themselves as Anglicans has halved from 40% to 20%.

One in five people say they are CofE, one in ten say they are Catholic, slightly less than one in five say they belong to another Christian denomination and one in 20 belong to non-Christian religions. Fifty-six percent of those who say they have a religion never attend any services.

Analysis shows that people who are not religious in their youth do not embrace it as they get older. It follows that as the more religious older generations die out they will not be replaced with similar generations of religious older people.

The authors of the report conclude that this is not good news for the Government which seems more and more inclined to involve religion in public life. They write:

What does this decline mean for society and social policy more generally? On the one hand, we can expect to see a continued increase in liberal attitudes towards a range of issues such as abortion, homosexuality, same-sex marriage, and euthanasia, as the influence of considerations grounded in religion declines. Moreover, we may see an increased reluctance, particularly among the younger age groups, for matters of faith to enter the social and public spheres at all.

The recently expressed sentiment of the current coalition government to “do” and “get” God ([Baroness] Warsi, 2011) therefore may not sit well with, and could alienate, certain sections of the population.

The results beg other questions – such as why the Church of England, demonstrably dying on its feet, is permitted such huge political privileges and allowed to run a third of our education system. Why, indeed, does it continue to have a constitutional status that it does not deserve?

See also: Questioning the Queen’s religious role opens up a real can of worms

Published Fri, 09 Dec 2011