The Bible Society’s new religious think-tank Theos has shot itself in the foot with its poll, published today, says the British Humanist Association (BHA).
Asked if faith was ‘one of the world’s great evils, comparable to the smallpox virus but harder to eliminate’, the public split 50:50. (The poll gave 42% agreeing, 44% disagreeing: the 2% difference is within the margin of error for a sample size of 1000.)
‘We are very encouraged,’ said Hanne Stinson, BHA chief executive, ‘You could scarcely have a stronger statement of disillusion with religion but nearly half the population agrees that religious faith is a “great evil”. Even the British Humanist Association would not agree with that statement without qualification!
‘Contrary to what the two Archbishops [Rowan Williams and Cormac Murphy-O’Connor] say, those who want a secular society are not “guilty of an intolerant faith position”: we simply want a level playing field. The churches are attacking a straw man of hostility to religion in order to defend their huge privileges and the Government’s policy of giving them a bigger and bigger role in public services – like probation yesterday.
‘In the Theos poll, 4 out of 10 people think religion is not a force for good in society (43%) and that Christianity does not have an important role to play in public life (39%). These must be record high figures – but maybe unsurprising given that religious observance is down to well under 1 in 10 of the population.’
The British Humanist Association is the largest organisation in the UK campaigning for a secular state. It represents and supports the non-religious and works for an end to religious privilege and to discrimination based on religion or belief.