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Integrated Household Survey gives misleading figures on religious belief

The Office of National Statistics released the 2010 Integrated Household Survey yesterday, and the British Humanist Association (BHA) has described the figures released as misleading. The annual survey, the second largest in Britain after the decennial Census, asked “What is your religion even if you are not currently practicing?” The results found were 71.4% Christian, 4.2% Muslim, 1.4% Hindu, 0.6% Sikh, 0.5% Jewish, 0.4% Buddhist, 1.1% any other religion and 20.5% no religion at all.

The BHA feels that this question leads people to respond with a vague cultural affiliation, which causes inaccurate results, making the data inadequate for capturing the levels of belief of the population when it comes to making policy or resourcing decisions. For comparison, the 2010 British Social Attitudes Survey asked in 2008, “Do you regard yourself as belonging to any particular religion?” This gave results 50% Christian, 3% Muslim, 1% Jewish, 3% other non-Christian and 43% no religion. They also asked, “Apart from special such special occasions as weddings, funerals and baptisms, how often nowadays do you attend services or meetings connected with your religion?” This found that only 10% of the population attends religious services at least once a week, with only 18% attending at least once a month, and 62% never attending religious services.

BHA Campaigns Officer Pepper Harow commented, ‘These results are dangerous in that, much like the equally misleading results from the Census, they are likely to be used by politicians to justify a more prominent role for religion in our society. Retaining the right of some Church of England Bishops to remain in the House of Lords, the growth of state-funded ‘faith’ schools and allowing religious groups to run public services are all legacies of inaccurate data on religious beliefs. It is important that all Government policy decisions are based on an accurate understanding of the levels of belief in the UK, and not on an exaggerated one.’

Notes

See the results of the 2010 Integrated Household Survey

Read more statistics on religion and belief, and about the British Social Attitudes Survey.

Read about the BHA’s work ahead of the 2011 Census

For comment or information, contact Pepper Harow, Campaigns Officer, on 0207 462 4992.

The British Humanist Association is the national charity representing and supporting the interests of ethically concerned, non-religious people in the UK. It is the largest organisation in the UK campaigning for an end to religious privilege and to discrimination based on religion or belief, and for a secular state.

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