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Religion in Britain on Steady Decline, According to Study

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  • Episcopal
    (Photo: Reuters)
    Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, head of the Worldwide Anglican Communion.
By Stoyan Zaimov, Christian Post Reporter
December 20, 2011|9:06 pm

A study released in December by British Social Attitudes, the primary social research survey in Britain, revealed a striking drop in religious belief in the country, with almost half of all respondents saying they do not belong to any religion.

Of the other 50 percent of respondents, 20 percent said they were Anglican, 9 percent Roman Catholic, 15 percent identified as “Other Christian” and 6 percent as “Non-Christians.” Also, 56 percent of those who were brought up in or now belong to a religion said they never attend services, with only 14 percent in total going to church on a regular basis.

The study also examined the decline of religion in the past three decades. In 1983, two in three people belonged to a faith, while now that number is only one in two. The Anglican Church has suffered the greatest losses – its membership has gone from 40 percent in 1983 to 20 percent in 2010.

The report claims that this trend is due to more religious older generations dying out and being replaced by youths who are less likely to identify with a religion – and it shared predictions that this trend is likely to continue. Another potential reason it suggested for the decline was the growing distrust of politicians and public cynicism which was spreading into religious circles.

The latest study found out that a large number – 79 percent of respondents were brought up in a religious household. Of those brought up in an Anglican family, half still adhered to the same denomination, while two-fifths are now non-religious. Nine out 10 people brought up in an other religious household still kept the same belief, while 19 out of 20 who did not have a religion while growing up remained without one as adults.

The study also showed that religious affiliation is not the same thing as religious practice. Close to half of people who said they belong to a religion shared that they never attend religious services, while 14 percent attend on a weekly basis. Those who said they were Anglican were least likely to attend church service – less than one in ten attend every week, and close to half never go to church. Thirty-nine percent of those with a non-Christian faith attended church every week.

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Other interesting statistics split the results by gender and age group. Men were more likely to be non-religious, with 56 percent of male respondents choosing that option. Youths between the ages of 18 to 24 were the least religious at 64 percent, while only 28 percent of seniors between 65 and 97 years of age had no religion. The same senior age group who had a religious affiliation was also most likely to attend church, at 39 percent, while religious youths from 18-to-24 had the lowest attendance levels at 24 percent.

From the political party identification category, Conservatives were most likely to be religious, at 56 percent, while those who chose “Other Party” (from a list that also included Labour, Liberal Democrat and No Party) were the least religious, at only 37 percent.

In its conclusion, the British Social Attitudes study suggested that both religious people and religious service attendance have been in a long-term decline, and there is no reason to believe the younger non-religious population will turn to religion later in life.

The report projects that this decline will see the continued rise of liberal attitudes in the country on issues such as same-sex marriage, abortion and euthanasia. It shared that there is also a possibility that faith discussion may be pushed out of many public spheres.

 

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