U.K. Poll: Jesus Third Most Popular Role Model for Children

Jesus Christ is the third most popular role model for children in Britain, according to adults surveyed in a new poll released Friday.

British adults were asked who they would want their children to look up to in a poll conducted by Opinium Research. Family members topped the list, followed by multi-millionaire entrepreneur and daredevil Richard Branson in second place, according to Reuters.

Jesus Christ came in third in the poll, being less popular among younger Britons than older citizens. Nearly double those over 55 years old chose Jesus as the best role model for children compared to those aged 18-34.

In fourth place are teachers, followed by former South African president and freedom fighter Nelson Mandela. Princess Diana was the sixth most popular role model, followed by celebrity chef and healthy eating campaigner Jamie Oliver at number seven.

Former Prime Minister Winston Churchill ranked eighth, American civil rights hero Martin Luther King, Jr., ninth, and Microsoft founder and billionaire Bill Gates came in tenth.

Jesus and the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. were the only two figures in the top ten list who were religious leaders, reflecting the decline of religion in British society.

A recent U.N. freedom of religion report revealed that more than half of British citizens say they have no religious adherence, countering a 2001 U.K. National Census which said nearly 72 percent of the population was Christian alone.

Pope Benedict XVI last fall lamented Europe's religious decline and its increasing embrace of secularism and a new multicultural image. The pontiff reminded Europeans of the continent's Christian roots and urged citizens to acknowledge the importance of religious faith.

"Europe cannot and must not deny her Christian roots," declared the pope in September while in Vienna, Austria. He stated that Christianity has "profoundly shaped this continent," according to The Associated Press.

A Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life survey found that while six out of 10 Americans responded yes to "Religion is very important to me," a significantly lower percentage was found in Europe.

In Great Britain, 33 percent of those polled said religion was "very important" in their lives, compared to 27 percent in Italy, 21 percent in Germany, 11 percent in France, and 11 percent in the Czech Republic.

It is noteworthy that the role model list included no British celebrities, such as soccer star David Beckham – a surprise given Britain's well-known celebrity-obsessed culture. Other than Branson and Oliver, who are seen as "go-getters," there were no other celebrities on the role model list.