SOME STATISTICS ON RELIGION
The BBC's recent published opinions on religious
broadcasting seem to indicate that their audience ought to be
interested in religious programmes and would be if only the programme
makers could come up with a winning formula, perhaps using a charismatic
presenter or packaging the material so that it appears less didactic,
or boring. They talk to established representatives of religions,
who will naturally put on the best face, but they don't seem to
draw appropriate conclusions from any research done with ordinary
people. But is the BBC likely to spark interest in religion in
an audience that thinks it doesn't matter? While the churches
would like to enlist the BBC in their efforts to reverse these
trends, that, surely, is not what the BBC is for.
The following extracts from surveys taken in
the last few years indicate the increasing rejection of religion
in this country.
1. DfES Report no. 546 (2004) on social
attitudes among young people 12-18:
A third of young people described themselves
as belonging to a religion, with the majority, just over a quarter,
belonging to a Christian religion. Two thirds did not regard themselves
as belonging to any religion, an increase of ten percentage points
in as many years (from 55 per cent in 1994 to 65 per cent in 2003).
As the next table shows, young people were markedly
more likely than adults not to see themselves as belonging to
a religion. It should be noted that the overall figure for adults
disguises considerable age related differences; among 18 to 24
year olds, 60 per cent said they did not belong to a religion
(as did 56 per cent of 25 to 34 year olds).
2. The Church of England is fond of quoting
the 2001 census figures to the effect that more than 70 per cent
of people in England and Wales consider themselves to be Christian.
It would be unwise to rely on this figure for two reasons:
(i) As the Scottish version of the census
showed, different results are obtained if you ask first about
religion of upbringing, then about religion currently practised.
As we noted in our consultation response to the Office of National
Statistics in August 2005:
In the 2001 Census the Scottish
questions came the nearest to being comprehensive and accurate
by acknowledging the statistically significant distinction (both
qualitatively and quantitatively) between the subjects' religion
of upbringing and their religion at the time of the Census, and
asking about both. This double question has enabled research to
be undertaken which has given a much better understanding of religious
belief and adherence in Scotland, such as that carried out by
Prof Steve Bruce and Tony Glendinning at the University of Aberdeen.
(ii) The framers of the question assumed
that the respondents would know what was meant by Christianity
(or Islam, or . . .). A Reader's Digest Survey in March 2005 showed
that only 48 per cent of those questioned knew what Christians
are remembering at Easter, the most important Christian festival.
It would be interesting to do a survey to find out what those
who labelled themselves Christian really know about Christianity.
Other surveys seem to yield answers at odds
with the census:
3. Mori poll, May 2005 (The Tablet 20/5/05)
shows low levels of religious belief 24 per cent of electors define
themselves as having no religion.
4. National Centre for Social Research Research
65 per cent of 12-19 tear olds define themselves as having no
5. Welsh Omnibus SurveyJune 2004
for C4C 59 per cent never or very occasionally attend a place
6. Yougov poll 2005 Is C of E important?
In a large-scale of over 3,500 people, the C
of E came 32nd out of 37 in a list of what people think defines
Britishness. Only 17 per cent of respondents thought that the
Church of England was "very important" in contributing
to a sense of Britishness, while 23 per cent thought it was "not
important at all".
33 Report No 564 publ 2004 Young People in Britain:
The Attitudes and Experiences of 12-19 Year Olds. Back
Beaufort Research Limited, 2004 http://www.beaufortresearch.co.uk Back