Losing faith: Atheism rising in Britain, poll suggests

Feb 17, 2015

Reuters / Suzanne Plunkett


Religiosity in Britain is dying as almost one in five British people now identifies themselves as atheist, a poll for The Times has found.

The poll, made in conjunction with YouGov, surveyed 1,550 adults. It found 19 percent identify themselves as atheists, 7 percent as “agnostic” and 3 percent as “humanist.”

In contrast, 49 percent identified themselves as Christian, while 42 percent said they had “no religion”they directly identified with.

The poll is one of the first to measure the number of self-identifying atheists in the UK, while previous studies had simply measured the number of people who believed in “God” against those who didn’t.

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20 comments on “Losing faith: Atheism rising in Britain, poll suggests

  • To do a poll like this you should ask the responding their age and gender. Then check the census for the relative numbers of ages and genders and adjust the figures. The problem is, any online poll selects a bias sample set.

    Further, religious people are fuddy duddies. They not as likely to use the Internet. They will be underrepresented in the poll.

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  • 2
    Miserablegit says:

    Good news but heavily qualified by not enough evidence of the poll data. This poll should only be seen as part of an ongoing trend.

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  • It says the poll was conducted by the times what makes you think it was done online? Furthemore Further, religious people are fuddy duddies. They not as likely to use the Internet. They will be underrepresented in the poll.
    How did you determine that? Seems like a generalization.
    The totality of the evidence seems to suggest that young people are more likely to identify as atheist but I see no reason to think this poll was skewed towards young people.

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  • 4
    Nathaniel says:

    Atheism, as it plays out in society, is an ideology. The Chapel Hill shootings were stimulated by atheist extremism, the reporting seems to suggest.
    This makes no sense. If a person is led to question and replace inherited mythologies, what is left is science, plus integrity. This cannot be an ideology because it must respond to facts even if the facts force you to abandon deeply seated ideas which were part of identity.

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  • This earlier survey we discussed, suggested higher levels of nones!

    In the latest 2010 BSA report, published earlier this month, only 42% said they were Christians while 51% now say they have no religion. Admittedly, some other surveys – including the last census – have produced different findings on these issues, usually to the advantage of the religious option.

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  • I live in a part of North London, (and anecdotal I know), but I could take you to several former churches which are now pubs and flats. Religion is dead on its feet around here, even the JWs have stopped knocking on my door. They seem to congregate around Oxford Circus tube station now ! And are ignored by most.

    I am waiting for the Finsbury Park Mosque to be turned into a Paddy Power betting shop. I might have to wait a bit !

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  • I’m so glad you as likely to use the Internet to make this observation. I asked my religious friend to comment, but he a fuddy duddy. He not use the Internet.

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  • Hi Roedy,

    The poll was conducted using YouGov. YouGov usually only polls members – I know because I’ve been a member for years. YouGov polls are therefore highly regarded as they can get around many of the issues you noted – self-selection, demographic adjustments and so on.


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  • The was apole of those who claimed to be Xtians in 2011.


    A poll carried out by Ipsos MORI for the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science (UK) in the week after the 2011 Census focused on the beliefs, attitudes and practices of UK adults who say they were recorded as Christian in the 2011 Census (or would have recorded themselves as Christian had they answered the question).

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  • There are also some very interesting details on polls here:-


    In the UK, the percentage of the population which describes itself as belonging to no religion has risen from 31.4% to 50.6% between 1983 and 2013 according to the British Social Attitudes Survey’s 31st report issued in 2014. Among people aged between 15 and 24, the incidence of religious affiliation is only 30.7%. It is only amongst the over 55s that the majority of respondents are religious.

    Conversely, the report found that only 41.7% of people in the UK identify as Christians compared to 49.9% in 2008 and 65.2% in 1983. The Church of England has seen the greatest decline in its numbers; membership has more than halved from 40.3% of the population in 1983 to just 16.3% in 2014.

    A 2014 YouGov poll found that 77% of the population did not consider themselves to be religious, including the 40% who said they were not religious at all.

    Religiosity is particularly on the wane amongst young people. A 2013 YouGov poll found that only 25% of 16-24 year olds believe in God, whilst 38% do not believe in either God or a greater spiritual power. The same study found that only 12% of young people pronounced themselves as being influenced by religious leaders.

    An Ipsos MORI poll, published in January 2007 for the British Humanist Association indicated that 36% of people – equivalent to around 17 million adults – are in fact humanist in their basic outlook.

    Another question found that 41% endorsed the strong statement: ‘This life is the only life we have and death is the end of our personal existence’. 62% chose ‘Human nature by itself gives us an understanding of what is right and wrong’, against 27% who said ‘People need religious teachings in order to understand what is right and wrong’.

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  • 15
    Annette says:


    This is from YouGov’s “Panel Methodology” page:

    “When a new panel member is recruited, a host of socio-demographic information is recorded. For nationally representative samples, YouGov draws a sub-sample of the panel that is representative of British adults in terms of age, gender, social class and type of newspaper (upmarket, mid-market, red-top, no newspaper), and invites this sub-sample to complete a survey.”


    So those questioned should represent a cross-section of the population as a whole – there won’t be any bias in favour of younger people.

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  • Hm, wishful thinking, I fear. Atheism has a set of associated identities, and unfortunately not all of them are what one would want. Recall also that one can be an atheist and hold irrational beliefs, be they political or outright woo. One can even be rational but seriously misinformed.

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  • The moral compass of hypocrites spouting on the minimum living wage, is of very little use, so no wonder members of churches are leaving!

    .The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have called for an end to “income inequality” in the UK, warning people and communities are being left behind.

    Wider uptake of the living wage would combat “the anxiety of bare subsistence”, the two most senior figures in the Church of England said

    .The Church of England pays some staff less than the living wage – despite calling on employers to pay at least that amount – it has been revealed.

    The living wage, calculated from the basic cost of UK life, is currently £7.85 an hour outside London.

    But the Sun newspaper reports a Church job advertised at £6.50 an hour – something an MP called “astonishing”.

    The Church said each parish, diocese and cathedral was a separate legal entity which made its own decisions.

    According to the Sun, Canterbury Cathedral advertised for a kiosk assistant to be paid £6.70 an hour. The £6.50 advertisement was for “waiting-on staff” at Lichfield Cathedral.

    Conservative MP Charlie Elphicke told the newspaper: “It’s astonishing that the Church of England can call for the living wage to be paid by employers but don’t pay it themselves.”

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  • UK approves three-person babies

    The Catholic and Anglican Churches in England said the idea was not safe or ethical, not least because it involved the destruction of embryos.

    I see that despite the bishops in the House Of Lords:-

    The House of Lords tonight rejected an attempt to block the plan by a majority of 232.

    James Lawford Davies, a lawyer from Lawford Davies Denoon which specialises in the life sciences, told the BBC: “All of the legal arguments made in opposition to the regulations are hopeless.

    .The UK has now become the first country to approve laws to allow the creation of babies from three people.

    The modified version of IVF has passed its final legislative obstacle after being approved by the House of Lords.

    Sally Cheshire, the chairwoman of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, said: “Britain is the first country in the world to permit this treatment, and it is a testament to the scientific expertise and well-respected regulatory regime that exists across the UK that Parliament has felt able to approve it.

    So basically the dogmatic bigoted, lost to the advice of the expert medical and scientific establishment, by 232 votes, despite bishops being given a vote as Lords!

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  • As Marx said in his first Preface to Capital:

    The Church of England would rather give up 38 of its 39 Articles than part one with one 39th of its income.

    I think Marx was right on that !

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