There was something treacley about the kind of admiration Christopher Hitchens attracted that put me right off. But since his death the Prime Minister has brought Christianity into national identity, a pro-Palestinian activist has argued that actually no, this country is Jewish, I’ve downloaded the lauded/maligned ‘God Is Not Great‘, offended a colleague who disclosed that militant atheism had turned her into an agnostic by calling stridently for militant agnosticism, had that disrupted already by an endearing note from an extremely religious family friend that he is praying for me, seen GALLUP’s 2010 poll of world religiosity speculating what for Hitchens would have seemed obvious, that the poorest peoples of the world need religion to withstand difficult lives, and noticed with satisfaction how more and more Muslim women are fiddling with their hijab to mollify their families while contriving to attract the attention of the opposite sex.
So I was interested to read in the 28th British Social Attitudes Survey on religiosity, which found that
- Religiosity is in decline – two in three respondents belonged to a religion in 1983 when the survey began; this has fallen to one in two today.
- While 79% of us (including me) were raised in a religion, 50% of us say we have no religious affiliation today.
- But it’s a bit complicated – those raised in minority religions (including Roman Catholicism) are more likely to remain affiliated than those raised in mainstream Christianity, which has experienced the largest decline, or those raised without affiliation, who tend to remain that way.
- Those at either extreme in educational achievement are more likely to be religiously affiliated than the middle.
- Religiosity is most strongly linked with age – in the 18-24 age-group two thirds don’t belong to a religion, comparing to fewer than a third in the oldest age group, over 65s.
- The non-religious are least likely to identify with a political party, and where they do are most likely to support a party other than the main three.
- Although more Conservative supporters say they follow a religion, they don’t attend more religious services than the other two main parties’ supporters.
- No evidence of a life-cycle effect (people’s religious views changing with age); there may be the beginnings of a period effect (change due to events in society); ‘generational replacement’ (each generation less likely to be born into a religious family than its predecessor) best explains the decline in religion.
As a result of the decline in religion I hope to celebrate a strengthening of liberal attitudes to homosexuality, same-sex marriage, abortion and euthanasia, and the decline of the Conservative right.