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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege

Religion: general attitudes

Importance of religion

  • 29% of people in Britain think that religion is important in their lives, while 68% think it is not important. Source: YouGov 2015
  • 53% agree that the place of religion in our society is too important in the UK. Source: Eurobarometer
  • 73% say religion is not important in their daily life in the UK. Source: Gallup


  • 36% of people in Britain claim to be a practicing member of a religion, while 62% claim they are not. Source: YouGov 2015
  • Over thirty years, religious affiliation amongst people in Britain dropped from 68% (in 1983) to 48% (in 2013). Source: BSA
  • Between 2001 and 2011 there was a decrease in people who identify as Christian (from 71.7% to 59.3%) and an increase in those reporting no religion (from 14.8% to 25.1%). There were increases in the other main religious group categories, with the number of Muslims increasing the most (from 3.0% to 4.8%). Source: 2011 Census
  • In 2011, 1.5 % of the population identified themselves as Hindu, 0.8% as Sikh, 0.5% as Jewish and 0.4% as Buddhist. Source: 2011 Census
  • 14.1 million people, around a quarter of the population in England and Wales, reported they have no religion in 2011. Source: 2011 Census
  • 85% of people aged 66+ say they were brought up in a religion, compared to 60% of 18-25 year olds. Source: BSA
  • 77% of people aged 66+ say they are religious compared to 35% of people aged 18-25. Source: BSA
  • 69% say that Christianity has had, or would have, no or not very much influence in their choice of marriage partner, and 81% say it has no or not very much influence on whom they socialise with. Source: Ipsos MORI
  • 78% say Christianity would have no, or not very much, influence on how they vote in General Elections, with 16% saying it would influence them a great deal (4%) or a fair amount (12%). Source: Ipsos MORI

Religion, ethnicity and geography

  • The likelihood of young people aged 16-25 being religious varies widely by ethnicity. Source: BSA
  • White British are the least likely to be religious (24% of White British aged between 16-25 describe themselves as religious). Source: BSA
  • Bangladeshis are the most likely to be religious (at 97%). Source: BSA
  • In descending percentage of religiosity: 95% Pakistani, 89% Black African and 87% Indian, and 58% Black Caribbean. Source: BSA
  • Muslims are the most likely group to think religion made a difference to their lives (68% of them). Self-defined Catholics are the least likely to think religion made a difference to their lives (12%). Source: BSA
  • In 2011, London was the most diverse region with the highest proportion of people identifying themselves as Muslim, Bhuddist, Hindu and Jewish. The North East and North West had the highest proportion of Christians and Wales had the highest proportion of people reporting no religion. Source: 2011 Census
  • Knowsley was the local authority with the highest proportion of people reporting to be Christians at 80.9% and Tower Hamlets had the highest proportion of Muslims at 34.5% (over 7 times the England and Wales figure). Norwich had the highest proportion of the population reporting no religion at 42.5%. Source:2011 Census

Role of age in attitude to religion

  • The number of people who told the BSA survey that they had no religion varied substantially by age, peaking among the 18-24s (65%) and falling steadily to 18% among the over-75s. Source: BSA
  • The top priority for 59% of 16-24 year olds is "looking after [their] family". 4% say that having a religious faith or belief was important for them. Source: TNS BMRB poll
  • 65% of those aged 18-24 do not belong to a religion, compared with 28% of those aged 65 and above. Source: BSA

Attendance of Religious Ceremonies

  • According to the Church of England's own attendance figures approximately one million participate each Sunday (out of a population of 65 million).
  • 58% of people say that they have never attended public worship (up from 53% in 1991). 13% of the irreligious sometimes attend religious services. Source: BSA
  • Anglicans have the highest total non-attendance at 56%, with Roman Catholics at 28%, other Christians at 39%, and non-Christians at 29%. Source: BSA