Infographic: Is Britain a ‘Christian country’?


The British Humanist Association coordinated an open letter, signed by more than 50 public figures, including authors, scientists, broadcasters, campaigners and comedians, who wrote to the Prime Minister to challenge his statement that Britain was a Christian country.

The story dominated the news agenda for the past week, and today the BHA has released an infographic which compiles statistics on the current state of religious identity, belief, and values in contemporary Britain. You can view the graphic above.


Written By: Liam Whitton
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  1. In the UK a huge number of people may broadly identify with being Christian but often it’s for little more than their parents were. If challenged how many genuinely believe in the stories from the bible – how many have actually read the bible outside of RE lessons at school? How many frequently attend church (apart from weddings, christenings, funerals, Christmas or Easter). Then is it enough to identify as Christian – which sort of Christian are you and how do you get around the fact that many disagree with each other.

    If people were actually honest about their non-belief it would further encourage others to be honest. Think the ‘real’ figure for being religious is far lower and expect it will drop significantly over the next 5-15 years. I lose respect for politicians who try and rally behind religions for votes and think Cameron has made an error here (especially as fairly sure both Nick Clegg and Ed Milliband have said they are atheist).

  2. It’s true. I’d describe myself as a Church of England atheist.
    I don’t even know where my nearest mosque is.
    But every Sunday morning, when I don’t go to church, I know exactly which church it is that i don’t go to.

  3. My father was ordained into the Methodist religion and we had many interesting discussions about the whole notion of religion, and Christianity in particular. I was always science-biased in school and later did my degree and later a PhD in empirical science. The more I learned, the less I could reconcile my father’s views (which I never really accepted) with reality and truth. I suppose I was an atheist from an early age and as I grew older, this situation simply solidified.
    In my early youth, I was, like many of my peers, made to go to ‘Sunday School’ and received the usual attempted indoctrination into the ridiculous stories of Christianity and other stories from the bible. These stories were attractive to a small and gullible child, but as I grew a little older, the cracks soon began to show. The multitude of contradictions, the historical and scientific impossibilities therein and the inconsistencies of the writers (whoever they were) mounted up as time went by. To my mind, the phrase ‘religious education’ is an oxymoron. It would probably be better to use the term ‘religious indoctrination’, which is far closer to the true situation and in some extreme cases, leads to fanaticism and its devastating results, of which we are all painfully aware
    But people in general suffer from two serious (and probably incurable) psychological conditions. One is called the ‘suspension of disbelief’ and the other ‘cognitive dissonance’.
    When you go to the cinema to watch a movie such as ‘Superman’, you can believe, for the period of the film, that a man can really fly. But coming out afterwards, you have no problem with accepting that the special effects in the film are not real and that no one can actually fly like Superman. For that brief period in the cinema, you have experienced the ‘suspension of disbelief’ effect and afterwards have reverted to the disbelief as it is in reality. However, people who believe in the Bible/Torah/Koran can’t revert to the disbelief and remain in the state of suspended disbelief all the time.
    Which leads to the second effect: cognitive dissonance. In this second serious condition, a person’s belief set is so fixed and immutable that no matter how much evidence is presented to contradict the belief, that belief remains intact. Which explains why people who believe in creationism in spite of the encyclopedias of evidence to the contrary, compiled by some of the smartest people who have ever lived, still prefer their belief to the blindingly obvious truth. And continue to accept the scribblings of anonymous Bronze Age writers who believed that the Earth was the centre of the universe against the empirical and testable science of a modern world written by exceedingly smart people who know the truth about the universe.

  4. Well the Deputy PMs statement in favour of disestablishmentarianism (secularism) finally persuaded me to vote Liberal this morning.
    Until now I’ve refused to vote on the basis that no politician is worth worth the effort and parliament had one of my ancestors hung drawn and quartered (for Jacobitism)…

  5. I suspect the census was not drafted by a moron (though there may be something to be said for it) but by someone who has a fair idea of the kind of response they’d get to a question being put in a particular way. Such is the smoke and mirrors politics and the real art of such magic is the collaboration between the politician and their audience.

  6. I’m more struck by who’s missing from the letter. No Dawkins or Fry. Perhaps they thought signing a letter complaining about Christianity penned by Jim ( Islam invented everything ) Al Khalili was a step to far.

  7. CliveHill May 21, 2014 at 2:51 pm

    It’s true. I’d describe myself as a Church of England atheist.
    I don’t even know where my nearest mosque is.
    But every Sunday morning, when I don’t go to church, I know exactly which church it is that i don’t go to.

    Or – As Dara O’Briain put it in Ireland, – “Are you a Catholic atheist or a protestant atheist?”

  8. There are clear views of public opinion in this survey:-

    Taxpayers’ cash should not be used to fund faith schools, say voters

    Labour wants talks on teaching of religion as poll shows 58% of the public urge abolition or axing of state funds.

    Labour is calling for cross-party talks on how religious education is conducted and monitored in the state sector as a special poll for the Observer shows widespread concerns about the use of taxpayers’ money to fund faith schools in a multicultural Britain.

    The survey by Opinium shows that 58% of voters now believe faith schools, which can give priority to applications from pupils of their faith and are free to teach only about their own religion, should not be funded by the state or should be abolished.

    Of those with concerns, 70% said the taxpayer should not be funding the promotion of religion in schools, 60% said such schools promoted division and segregation, and 41% said they were contrary to the promotion of a multicultural society. Fewer than one in three (30%) said they had no objections to faith schools being funded by the state.

    Labour supports the continuation of state-funded faith schools and shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt said he saw them as “an important part of the educational landscape”. But he said the recent controversy in Birmingham, where six non-faith schools have been put into special measures and a further five criticised following allegations of a plot by hardline Muslims to infiltrate them, had raised important questions about the relationship between education and religion in a multicultural society.

    Acknowledging that none of the schools criticised by Ofsted had been faith schools, Hunt said the row had triggered a real debate which politicians needed to join. “Events in Birmingham have raised questions about faith, multiculturalism and state education and in the aftermath this is the moment to think about discussing, on a cross-party basis, how we manage potential tensions, particularly in urban districts.”

    Hunt said he believed that in future Ofsted should have a strong role in inspecting how religion was taught in faith schools, and that only qualified teachers should give instruction on the subject. He suggested that schools should teach about other religions, and not just one.

  9. George Orwell said: “If liberty means anything at all, it means having the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

    I have reached the firm conclusion that by far the best culture base for freedom of religion is a secular one.

    Unfortunately for everyone, the devotees of most religions lack the maturity to withstand the rigours of open societies, preferring instead to remain cocooned within the strictures of the morbid doctrinal environment inflicted upon them as children.

    Which is bad enough, but they also far too often work to undermine the freedom of those who choose liberty, which carries with it the risk of being offended.

    So, feel at liberty to offend me; you never know, you might learn something from it.

  10. I see the UK government with “egg on its face”, has now done an (apparent?) about face on the requirement criteria for qualification as school governors, “Academies” and “Free Schools”.

    Some Muslims could be effectively excluded from becoming trustees or governors of new academies and free schools under rules introduced by the Education Secretary Michael Gove in response to the “Trojan horse” controversy, community leaders have warned.

    The Department for Education has inserted new clauses into the model funding agreement for academies stipulating that its governors should demonstrate “fundamental British values”, and giving the Education Secretary powers to close schools if they do not comply.

    The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) told the Guardian that the new rule would make it very difficult to become a school governor if conservative Muslim beliefs were deemed to be incompatible with “British values”, and that it put too much power in the secretary of state’s hands to define those values.

    But the department’s new rules enable the education secretary to close the school or dismiss its governors if he thinks that any member of the academy trust is “unsuitable” because of “relevant conduct”, defined as anything “aimed at undermining the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs”.

    A spokesman for the MCB said the danger was that the new clause allowed the Education Secretary to decide who was or was not an extremist based on his own views, and would penalise law-abiding Muslims who wanted to take part in public life.

    Talha Ahmad, a senior member of the MCB, told the Guardian: “As a matter of principle, to have so much power vested in one hand is wrong. But then to have powers over an area over which there is no consensus is, frankly speaking, quite dangerous.”

    A DfE spokesperson said: “There is absolutely no bar to Muslims becoming school governors. We want a diverse range of people, of all faiths and none, to serve on governing bodies.”

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