Church of England spins Prayer Survey

The Church of England announced today that it had commissioned research which shows ‘four out of five believe in the power of prayer’ and that young people especially believe in it.

The British Humanist Association has criticised the Church for misrepresenting the research and seeking to mislead the public.

The survey question asked of respondents did not actually ask people whether they ‘believe in the power of prayer’; it simply asked what people would pray for, regardless of whether they actually pray or not. The exact wording of the question was: ‘Irrespective of whether you currently pray or not, if you were to pray for something at the moment, what would it be for?’ Naturally, 81% of respondents named specific things that they would choose to pray for, such as world peace, if they were to believe in the power of prayer. It is this figure the Church of England has used to claim that ‘four out of five’ people believe in the power of prayer.

Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association, commented, ‘If you asked someone “Irrespective of whether you make wishes of genies, what would you wish for?” or “Irrespective of whether you believe in Father Christmas, what would you ask him for?” you could hardly use the responses to demonstrate wide public belief in genies or Santa Claus. Yet this is exactly what the Church of England is doing with prayer. It is amusing until you remember that this is an immensely powerful institution with a highly privileged position in public life, control of almost a third of our state schools and seats in our parliament. Their desperate attempt to have an Easter good news story through misleading claims conceals the reality of the religious demography of our country – religious practice, identity, belonging and belief are all in long-term decline – now at the level of minority pursuits – and non-religious identities and beliefs are on the rise.’

Notes

For further comment or information contact Pavan Dhaliwal, Head of Public Affairs at pavan@humanism.org.uk or on 0773 843 5059.

The ‘Prayer Survey’: http://www.churchofengland.org/media/1704430/prayersurvey.pdf

The Church of England’s press release: http://www.churchofengland.org/media-centre/news/2013/03/four-out-of-five-believe-in-the-power-of-prayer.aspx

Read the previous BHA press release, ‘Census results show huge shift in cultural identity from Christianity to no religion’, 11 December 2012: http://humanism.org.uk/2012/12/11/census-results-show-huge-shift-in-cultural-identity-from-christianity-to-no-religion/

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.