'Sharp decline' in faith as number of Christians in Britain falls to half

A ‘sharp decline’ in religious belief has seen the number of people who consider themselves Christian drop to half.

According to a new academic study, an increasing majority are described as the ‘fuzzy faithful’ who have only a vague belief in God. These do not belong to a particular denomination or attend services.

Nearly 4,500 people were questioned for the 2008 British Social Attitudes survey, which revealed 37 per cent of Britons do not believe in God – compared to 35 per cent who do.

While 50 per cent of respondents now call themselves Christian, down from 66 per cent in 1983.

Forty-three per cent of Britons say they have ‘no religion’ – an increase from 31 per cent in 1983.

And the number of non-Christians, including Muslims and Jews, has risen from 2 per cent 25 years ago to 7 per cent.

However, the study showed most people believe the lack of belief is having a negative impact on modern society.

Analysis of the data – by Professor David Voas - will be published in January by the National Centre for Social Research, which confirmed ‘the sharp decline in religious faith in Britain’.

Professor Voas told The Telegraph: ‘More and more people are ceasing to identify with a religion at all.

‘Indeed, the key distinction in Britain now is between religious involvement and indifference.

‘We are thus concerned about differences in religiosity - the degree of religious commitment - at least as much as diversity of religious identity.’

The study revealed the greatest fall was among people who worship in the established religion, the Church of England - down from 40 per cent of those who call themselves Christians to 23 per cent.

While church figures show that average Sunday attendance was 978,000 in 2007, compared with 1.2million in 1983.

The proportion of Roman Catholics declined from 10 per cent to 9 per cent.
Prof Voas added: ‘The results suggest that institutional religion in Britain now has a half-life of one generation, to borrow the terminology of radioactive decay.

‘Two non-religious parents successfully transmit their lack of religion. Two religious parents have roughly a 50/50 chance of passing on the faith. One religious parent does only half as well as two together.’

Read more: dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1236267/Sharp-decline-faith-number-Christians-Britain-falls-half.html#ixzz0ZuIamkSb

I live in England. How reliable are statistics based on nearly 4,500 people? According to the latest population statistics, Great Britain has a population of 61,399,118, (- 2008 Source: World Bank, World Development Indicators).

It also conflicts with the following article from 14th Decemeber 2009:

Excerpt:

While traditional churchgoing is on the decline in the UK over the past decade, the latest immigrants mean Christianity is becoming more charismatic and fundamentalist.
The figures are based on interviews carried out for the annual Labour Force Survey by the Office for National Statistics.

The IPPR report found that over the past decade, there has been an increase of 275,000 in the number of British residents born in Pakistan or Bangladesh - twice the population of Oxford.

The number of Somali-born residents has also shot up, from fewer than 40,000 in 1999 to 106,700 this year.

The report says that many of the new immigrants are migrating here after first settling in other European countries, where they are subject to 'latent homophobia'.

'Migration has caused an increase in the proportions of the population affiliated to non-Christian faiths,' the report concludes.

Catholicism has also seen a resurgence, thanks to the arrival of almost 600,000 from Poland, Lithuania and Slovakia; while there has also been a rise in evangelical churches which tend to have less liberal views on issues like homosexuality.

'Perhaps the most significant change has been the growth of Pentecostal and charismatic Christianity within migrant populations, particularly those from Africa and Latin America,' the report found.

'In Lewisham, there are 65 Pentecostal churches serving the Nigerian community, and others serving the Congolese, Ghanaian and Ivorian communities.'

Professor Mike Kenny of IPPR said: 'The research shows that recent waves of inward migration have given a boost to some of the UK's established faith communities at a time when Britain's society and culture are generally more secular, and smaller numbers of the indigenous population are regularly attending churches.

Read more: dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1235527/Britains-tolerance-Islam-results-1m-Muslims-setting-home-here.html#ixzz0ZuL6oOSa

I also heard statistics from a television program broadcast this year on Channel 4, called, 'Revelations: - How Do You Know God Exists?' which said according to a recent survey, 4 out of 10 people in Britain beleive in God, another 40% are unsure, but do profess to believe in some kind of spirit or life force. A suprisingly small minority, in secular Britain, just 1 person in 6 believes there is nothing out there at all, no God, no spirit, no life force, Creation is a huge and rather splendid accident.

This is what the quoted in this documentary.

How do they get these statistics, I've never been asked what my religious beleifs are in a survey, neither has my Mother I don't think. I wonder how accurate they actually are.

But if I keep seeing these statistics on the decline, we're off to live in America!!

[quote="lemonbeam, post:1, topic:180004"]
I live in England. How reliable are statistics based on nearly 4,500 people? According to the latest population statistics, Great Britain has a population of 61,399,118, (- 2008 Source: World Bank, World Development Indicators).

How do they get these statistics, I've never been asked what my religious beleifs are in a survey, neither has my Mother I don't think. I wonder how accurate they actually are.

[/quote]

Very! Often (at least in the US) newspapers will list the margin of error at the bottom of their chart illustrating the poll results. Failing that, it's usually helpful to go to the source - in this case, British Social Attitudes. Unfortunately, their site is not very user-friendly, and requires a login to access. Luckily, you did some of the legwork already. So, here's a calculator for this sort of thing. Based on your figures, there is a 99% chance that the answers of a completely new selection of 4500 random people would be within 2% of the results in the current survey.

Don't feel bad that you weren't asked about this - only one in every 13644 people was surveyed this time.

Participants are selected using a technique called random probability sampling. This technique ensures that everyone has a fair chance of taking part in the survey and the results are representative of the British population.
Source

Unfortunately, they don't elaborate exactly how they do that, probably because it's fairly complex - these are professional pencil-pushers who have been doing these sorts of surveys, arguing about them, improving techniques, for their entire careers.

The only spot I saw a conflict was

The proportion of Roman Catholics declined from 10 per cent to 9 per cent.

and

Catholicism has also seen a resurgence, thanks to the arrival of almost 600,000 from Poland, Lithuania and Slovakia

A couple possibilities: 1) The "British population" may be limited to British nationals, and exclude foreigners. 2) A "resurgence" may not mean an increase in overall numbers, but simply a less precipitous fall - or maybe just increases in cities with larger Eastern European populations.

There isn’t a conflict between the two. The second simply points out that, while Christianity is in overall decline, it is becoming more fanatical and immigration brings more *devout * Christians as opposed to what you might call “cafeteria Christians.” These sorts of statistics are always very interesting. In the United States, for example, the majority of Christians identify themselves as Catholic but the majority of Christians rarely, if ever, attend religious services.

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