The Pew Research Center conducted a recent series of studies called "The Pew
Global Attitudes Project." They is measuring the "impact of
globalization, modernization, rapid technological and cultural change and the
Sept. 11 terrorist events on the values and attitudes of more than 38,000 people
in 44 countries..." A poll released on 2002-DEC-19 revealed whether
people around the world consider religion to be personally important. 5
Results showed that the percentage of the public who considered religion
important ranged from a high of 97% in Senegal to a low of 11% in both France and the Czech
Republic, among the 41
countries sampled. They found that the percentage was:
The disparity between the World Values Survey's 16% and the Pew
Global Attitude Project's 33% may be an accurate representation of a real
increase in interest over a four or five year interval, from about 1997 to 2002.
However it is more likely due to a difference in the specific question asked. On
matters of religion, people tend to give the answer that is expected of them,
rather than the truth. So, results often differ because of the setting, the
nature of the questioning, the specific question asked, and even the order of
A BBC news report in 2004-MAY revealed that about 74% of adults in England and
Wales regard themselves as Christians. Another approximately 6% identify
with another religion. But only about 7% of Christians in the UK actually
attend church regularly. Hanne Stinson, director of the British Humanist
Association, said that many adults are "cultural Christians."
They see themselves as being Christian in the same way that they are
British, almost in a tribal way. She said:
"People label themselves with
what they were brought up with...If they haven't gone to church for 20
years, they still put themselves down on official forms as 'Church of
According to The Telegraph, the results of the 2004-DEC "YouGov"
"... provides overwhelming evidence that the British are
now a largely irreligious people. Only a minority believe that God exists
and almost everyone acknowledges that Britain is becoming an increasingly
secular society...the national mood appears to be one of benign
The UK's YouGov polled 1,981 adults across Britain during 2004-DEC-16 to 18. The
margin of error was about ~+mn~2.5 percentage points. Some
A minority, 44%, believe in God. This is a drop from 77% in 1968 -- an
unusually rapid change for religious matters in only 36 years.
Among those who believe in God, 3% believe in more than one God and 10%
believe in "some other kind of Supreme Being." Thus only about one in three adults are conventional monotheists.
33% believe in the existence of Heaven.
25% believe in Hell. This result has changed little since 1968.
After reviewing a report by the University of Manchester
News.Telegraph reported that
"Organized religion is in near-terminal decline
in Britain because parents have only a 50-50 chance of passing on belief to
their offspring." 2
Dr. David Voas, who oversaw the study said that
religion would reach:
"... fairly low levels [before very long] The dip in
religious belief is not temporary or accidental, it is a generational phenomenon. The decline has continued year on year. The fact that children are only half
as likely to believe as their parents indicates that, as a society, we are at an
advanced stage of secularization." 2
This report was based on interviews of 10,500 households over 14 years and
used data from the British Household Panel and British Social
Attitudes surveys. They found that between 1991 and 1999:
The importance of belief in God fell from 37.8% to 32.5%
The percentage of people who said that they attended church services regularly fell by 3.5%. Responses to this type of question are notoriously inaccurate. For example, when church attendees were actually counted, once county at a time, in the U.S. only about 20% of the adult population actually attenced church. Yet previous U.S. surveys showed that about 40% claimed to attend weekly.
The percentage of people who regard themselves as affiliated with a
religion dropped by 2.9%.
There was diverse reaction to the survey results:
Steve Jenkins, a spokesperson for the Church of England was skeptical.
"There is an assumption that people 'catch' religion from their
parents, but many people come to faith through the grandparents, schools,
and their friends. He said that the study had not released "proper
evidence...There is nothing to back up the claims. Our recent statistics
show that congregations are actually increasing, as is the number of
Church of England data shows that in 2004, the ordinations
of 564 candidates for the priesthood were approved -- the highest figure in six years.
Congregations in 2003 had increased in size by 1 per cent. This compares to
a total population growth which averages about 0.3% a year. 3
The National Secular Society welcomed the results. Their vice president,
Terry Sanderson, said:
"We find [belief] embarrassing as a country and it
is time we accepted that...People may say they believe in Christianity but
if you question them even slightly it becomes clear that they cannot accept
the central tenets of its faith -- they don't believe in its supernatural
More 2005 data:
The Mori poll polled 4,270 adults during 2005-May. The margin of error would have been less
than ~+mn~2 percentage points. Some results:
36% of young adults (18 to 34 years-of-age) define themselves as Atheist
24% of the adult population as a whole say they have no religion.
Only 11% of those over 65 say they have no religion. 4
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.