A poll instigated by atheist Richard Dawkins' foundation has claimed that almost three quarters of British Christians believe religion should have no role in crafting public policy, while almost two-thirds believe same-sex couples should receive every right that heterosexual couples are given.
The Ipsos MORI poll was conducted on behalf of The Richard Dawkins Foundation For Reason and Science after the 2011 census was collected. The results were published Tuesday.
In a statement, Richard Dawkins – renowned scientist and noted atheist – said the poll's findings did not surprise him nor does he think the U.K. is a Christian nation anymore.
"Britain is a secular society, with secular, humane values," Dawkins said. "There is overwhelming support for these values, even among those who think of themselves as Christian."
The 2011 census found that about 75 percent of U.K. residents consider themselves Christian. The Ipsos MORI poll found that 72 percent of British Christians say they consider themselves part of the faith because they were baptized or because their parents were Christian; and 65 percent of Census Christians said they would not consider themselves "religious."
Dawkins claimed that this explained why many British Christians want to keep faith out of public policy, and went further to say that the results meant religion was now "largely irrelevant."
"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," Dawkins said.
"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," he added.
Simon Barrow, co-director of the British Christian organization Ekklesia, agrees with Dawkins that the U.K. is becoming a secular nation but said the poll should not come as a surprise.
"Top-down and institutional religion is in decline. Trying to restore or maintain the cultural and political dominance of religious institutions in what is now a mixed-belief 'spiritual and secular' society is a backward-looking approach," Barrow stated.
Barrow said the poll should be seen as a call to service for Christian organizations in the country to recruit more members and be more creative and ingenious about evangelism.
"Churches have a creative opportunity here," Barrow said. "It is to rediscover a different, ground-up vision of Christianity based on practices like economic sharing, peacemaking, hospitality and restorative justice. These were among the distinguishing marks of the earliest followers of Jesus."
Barrow urged Christians to welcome both the poll as well as Dawkins' analysis, despite what many would claim is a clear bias in evaluating the results. Barrow affirmed his personal belief that the poll was a fairly good indicator of modern religiousness in the U.K.
"While Richard Dawkins may not be a subtle, unbiased or persuasive analyst of religion overall, it would be entirely unhelpful for believers to dismiss this survey because they disagree with its commissioner in other respects," Barrow said. "Its content evidently needs further and deeper analysis, alongside other data, than the initial response to it has allowed."