Majority of people in Britain now say they are non-religious

2010 was a year in which the new government heavily emphasised its pro-Christian credentials. As the new year begins, the British Humanist Association (BHA) has welcomed the findings of latest British Social Attitudes survey showing that, for the first time, the majority of people in Britain now say they are non-religious, and expressed hopes that the results will cause government to take a fairer and more measured approach.

The latest survey, just published but conducted in 2009, shows only 43.7% of people claiming to be Christian while 50.7% say they are non-religious.  Just 5% belong to non-Christian religions, almost half of these Muslim.

This marks a huge change since BSA first asked the question in 1985, when Christians totalled 63% and the non-religious 34%.  Since then there has been an unsteady progress: the previous highest figure was 46.1% in 2006 but in 2008 it was only 43.4%.

The survey also asked about religious upbringing.  The answers show that more than 4 in 10 of those who had a Christian upbringing have abandoned the religion, while barely 1 in 3 of today’s non-religious had a non-religious upbringing. (Figures for non-Christian religions show very little difference between current religion and family religion.)

Commenting on the findings, Andrew Copson, BHA Chief Executive, said: ‘The trend in Britain is clearly still one of increasing non-religious self-identity and hopefully we will see some reflection of this in this year’s decennial Census. Unfortunately, The leading question ‘What is your religion?’ meant that lots of people ticked the ‘Christian’ or another religious box even though they do not worship or believe. We are encouraging those with only a cultural connection to Christianity but no actual religious belief to answer ‘No religion’ in the Census in March. In the meantime, figures such as those provided by the British Social Attitudes Survey are a necessary counter to unreliable census figures, which have been persistently misused to justify funding of religious organisations and exempting them from non-discrimination laws in the last few years.’

Naomi Phillips, BHA Head of Public Affairs commented, ‘It is time the Government took note of the growing number of people, now apparently the majority, who have no religion.  It should stop favouring religious organisations and religious schools with opt-outs and exemptions from the law.’

Notes

Find out more about the BHA’s Census Campaign.

Read the BSA findings.

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.