Monday, 17 December 2012

UK census 2011 - good news!

The statistical results are now available for the national census of the UK, taken last year.  And those results are interesting in many ways, but from the point of view of a secularist the most interesting thing is what they say about attitudes to religion.

It seems that the number of people with no religion has jumped to 25%, and in Wales it is even higher.  The Office of National Statistics page gives the highlights of this section of the census.  As usual though, one has to ask what spin is being put on any statistical report.

'The religion question' on the census was the only one that was not mandatory.  The reason for this was not at all clear, but it gave 7% of people the chance not to respond to it.  Why would they not respond?  It seems unlikely that they preferred not to claim a religion but more likely that they did not want to admit to their doubts.  This idea might be supported by the observation that 

Between 2001 and 2011  there has been a decrease in people who identify as Christian (from 71.7 per cent to 59.3 per cent) and an increase in those reporting no religion (from 14.8 per cent to 25.1 per cent). There were increases in the other main religious group categories, with the number of Muslims increasing the most (from 3.0 per cent to 4.8 per cent).

Norwich leads the way in atheism, with 42.5%.  I know that will disappoint at least one friend who likes to say that Brighton holds the record.  However, Brighton, with a disappointing 42.4% it will have to pull up its socks.  At least it has 9 years available to build up to a resounding victory in the next census.  To be fair to it, a larger proportion of the the Brighton population preferred not to answer the question, so it is possible that it still holds the lead in reality.

As you can imagine, the National Secular Society is not silent on the topic.  In Census shows huge drop in number of Christians in Britain they report on some of the results.  NSS president Terry Sanderson said: 

"Such an enormous reversal in the space of ten years is an indication of the huge upheaval there has been in religious attitudes in Britain.  It should serve as a warning to the churches that their increasingly conservative attitudes are not playing well with the public at large. It also calls into question the continued establishment of the Church of England whose claims to speak for the whole nation are now very hard to take seriously."

1 comment:

Rosa Rubicondior said...

It seemed a poitless question to me because it failed to distinguish between those who think of themselves a culturally Christian, Jewish, Muslim; those who were baptised or inducted into the religion in some way, and those who actually believe the religion as taught by the church/synagogue/mosque, etc.

Hence, it actually told us nothing about religious belief OR about cultural identity.

For example, I was baptised Anglican, would probably identify as culturally 'Christian' if I had to, but don't believe a word of it, so, with the vagueness of the question, which was the correct answer for me?

I selected Atheist, obviously but I doubt my Atheist mother would have done.

Never-the-less, for a question which a conspiracy theorists might argue was deliberately designed to give a confusing result which couldn't be used to reduce the power and influence of the Church in Britain, the result is very encouraging, partly thanks probably to the BHA campaign.