How Religious is Britain? Not Very, Says Richard Dawkins February 15, 2012

How Religious is Britain? Not Very, Says Richard Dawkins

In the week following the 2011 UK Census, the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science decided to commission their own poll (with their own questions) to find out just how religious people in Britain were.

It turns out a lot less than even they imagined:

More than 2,000 people were polled for Dawkins’ centre by respected pollster Ipsos Mori during census week last April.

Just 54 per cent identified themselves as Christians, compared to 72 per cent in 2001.

Almost three-quarters of those who described themselves as Christian did so because they were born into a faith, rather than because of their beliefs. Just a third (32 per cent) of these believe Jesus was physically resurrected. One in five do not believe in the resurrection, even in a spiritual sense.

Just under half, 49 per cent, do not think of Jesus as the son of God, while one in 25 of those who declare themselves Christian do not believe he existed at all.


It lends support to the notion that, if that many Brits aren’t even truly religious, then politicians need to stop pushing religiously-based legislation.

You can see the press releases from the RDFRS here and here. The raw data (including questions asked) is here (PDF).

Incidentally, as Richard Dawkins was promoting this study in the media yesterday, many headlines seemed to focus on his “inability” to recall the subtitle of Charles Darwin’s book.

The transcript went like this:

Rev Giles Fraser: Richard, if I said to you what is the full title of ‘The Origin Of Species’, I’m sure you could tell me that.

Richard Dawkins: Yes I could

Fraser: Go on then.

Dawkins: On The Origin Of Species.. Uh. With, Oh God. On The Origin Of Species. There is a sub title with respect to the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life.

Fraser: You’re the high pope of Darwinism… If you asked people who believed in evolution that question and you came back and said 2% got it right, it would be terribly easy for me to go ‘they don’t believe it after all.’ It’s just not fair to ask people these questions. They self-identify as Christians and I think you should respect that.

You can hear the audio here.

Because, you know, if he can’t remember the subtitle of “On the Origin of Species,” God must exist. He recalled it within a couple of seconds, of course, but even if he didn’t, what would that have proven? Absolutely nothing.

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  • religionsaremyths

    The Daily Telegraph, The Daily Mail, The Daily Express and The Times are right wing newspapers here in the UK that are very pro-religion and anti-secular who tend to often potray secularists and the non-religious especially Atheists in a negative way. Shame thing is the newspapers that are supposed to be left wing such as the Guardian and the Independent have also been pro-religion recently so it seems that there isn’t a newspapers that can be the voice of the non-religious and the relgiious who are secular and liberal. It doesn’t matter that religion is slowly dying here in the UK because religion being the world’s largest industry has a lot of influence in politics and the media so even if or when 99% of the UK population (I know that percentage is unrealistic just an example) is not religious religion will still be in charge here.

  • Drakk

    I don’t understand what Giles Fraser
    thinks (if he does at all) that little statement of his proves.

    Whether or not anyone is capable of
    reciting, like some bible-quote-spewing godbot, the full title of On
    the Origin of Species (by Means of Natural Selection, or the
    Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life – if anyone
    was interested) is utterly irrelevant to the question of whether or
    not they are able to understand and accept evolutionary theory.

    That’s not how this works. It would be
    far more pertinent to ask if people who “believe in evolution”
    (and how I despise that phrase) can accurately summarize the concepts
    of evolutionary theory – genetic mutations, favourable and
    heritable traits, selection pressures etc. Anyone who can’t answer,
    sure, go ahead and say they don’t “believe in evolution” –
    although it’s not logical to then go ahead and say that a) they must
    believe gawddidit or b) they don’t believe there’s any naturalistic/
    scientific explanation for the process.

    Engage the processor muscle and try
    again, please.

  • Matthew Prorok

    I think it’s rather telling that only 1% of people chose “I believe in the religion” as a reason to self-identify with it.  They largely identify as Christian because of what they do rather than what they think.

  • Leia

    I know evolution is real and don’t know the full title of Darwin’s book.  That proves nothing. I know god isn’t real and can quote multiple Bible verses… I don’t get his point.

    I am happy the Brits aren’t as religious as they once were.  I think the same trend is happening here in the States.

    My daughters don’t fully understand how evolution works, but still know it to be true, just like they can’t tell you how the sun works, but they still know it’s real and our closest star… Just because they can’t explain it doesn’t mean that a god or goddess created it. How is god still the default answer for so many people?

  • What this tells me, is that there are a very few number of actual Christians, but a lot of posers. I could have told you that without doing the study, but I guess it makes a good talking point which is this:

    When people on this blog blast  the actions of “Christians” are they really blasting true Christians or are they blasting the actions of the posers who are claiming to be Christian? I see a lot on this blog against Westboro Baptist “Church”, the Catholic “Church” and the Mormon “Church”. I would consider all three of these to have HUGE flaws in their theology that prove that they are nowhere deserving on the term Christian. In fact most debate videos that I have seen have been against a Catholic higher up, its rarely with someone evangelical. Even as an Evangelical, I would consider many of the Catholic practices to be pretty bad. 

    Here’s question #2. I think it is safe to say that most on this blog, has had a negative religious experience in their past. Often this is cited as to what started you down the atheist conversion path. So my question is “Was that negative religious path a result of an experience with a true Christian or once again, a poser?”

    Take a few minutes to think and reflect before answering. I’m just curious where this blog’s visitors are coming from and trying to understand better the bitterness that some people post with. Thanks!

  •  How do we, as outsiders, tell which ones are the ‘true’ Christians from the ‘posers’?

    You say the Catholic Church has flaws in their theology.  But I’m pretty certain they’d say the same of you.  Same with the Mormon Church.  And probably most every other sect and denomination of Christianity.

    What is the one true definition of a Christian?

  • Jon

    Many many people like myself rejected religion simply because it makes no logical sense. Some people had a bad experience which led them to question and discover it makes no logical sense, people that had a good experience are likely not going to question at all.

  • So they’re Christians who don’t believe Jesus rose from the dead? Isn’t that a central belief in Christianity?

  • Dawkins called upon god for aid and none was forthcoming.

    There is no god, qed.

  • Anonymous

    The whole point is that in some European countries (especially in Scandinavia) religion is more cultural than strictly religious. People just see it as part of their cultural or historical tradition. They have baptisms and religious weddings because that’s just how it’s done. Or follow some religious holidays because it’s a nice thing for the family. That doesn’t mean that they have to follow all of the theology

  • “I think it is safe to say that most on this blog, has had a negative religious experience in their past.”

    Depends what you mean by ‘religious experience’ – I’m English, I’ve never been religious, and to the extent that I’m bitter at all it’s because of the churches intrusions into the lives of people like me that have nothing to do with them. I’m not angry because they conned me, I’m angry because I want their noses out of my business.

  • Annie

    I found this point so interesting as well, and had to reread the question a few times, as I thought surely I was misinterpreting what it was saying.  The fact that 72% consider themselves Christian mainly because they were baptised/christened is a sign of intellectual laziness, in my opinion. 

  • ReginaldJooald

    Scientists place less importance on minor trivia like the subtitle of a book (or some random passage of a holy book) and more on important concepts like the evolution of species. Shock and amazement now follows.

  • Lucy

    I listened to the whole thing live and I thought it was pretty funny that Richard Dawkins said “Oh God” when he was fumbling for the correct title. Giles Fraser is a very reasonable bloke and made me almost want to change sides. The Church of England is said to have saved the English from religion and I’m thankful for that.

    In reply to Drakk:
    Dawkins’s asserted that some of the people who self-identify as Christians aren’t actually Christians. Dawkins tried to decide/test whether they were really Xian by asking questions such as “Which is the 2nd book of the bible?”. Fraser (who isn’t a creationist by the way) thought it should be up to the individual to self-identify as they like without being tested and was trying to demonstrate the weakness of such a test by asking whether people who self-identify as “evolutionists” would be able to give the full title of the Origin of the Spiecies (here it is so you won’t be caught out like Dawkins was) On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life

  • Anonymous

    Not caring about religion is infinitely preferable to actually taking it seriously

  • Anonymous

    You’re the high pope of Darwinism

    A phrasing only a creationist would use.

    If you asked people who believed in evolution that question and you
    came back and said 2% got it right, it would be terribly easy for me to go ‘they don’t believe it after all.’

    Except they didn’t ask them right or wrong questions about the faith, they asked them whether they believed in the faith claims themselves.

    If you went out to the group of people who accept evolution and a decent chunk of them answered “No” to the question “Do you believe that species have evolved and diverged over time?” or “Yes” to the question “Do you believe that all lifeforms on Earth were created simultaneously?” then you might have something of a point, but that’s not the kind of question being asked. In fact, previous studies have repeatedly shown that many Christians are woefully ignorant about the details of their own faith (more than the atheists are), yet no one has actually claimed they didn’t actually have faith.

    Finally the equivalence of trusting a holy book and trusting the overwhelming consensus among scientist is wholly ridiculous. Very very few people could properly explain how astrophysicists and chemists use spectroscopy to determine the atmosphere of planets in other solar systems, but they trust that this is possible because science has a proven track record of finding things out, making things work, and correcting itself when it strays. Drawing en equivalence between trusting science and trusting religion is like saying that trusting your mother and your imaginary friend is exactly equivalent.

  • Annie

    I agree!  But if you don’t go to church, or even believe in the religion, it doesn’t seem like it would take mental calisthenics to come to the realization that you could discard this unused worldview like you would a moth-eaten sweater.

  • Revyloution

    Gads,  Origin of Species is not a holy text.   We don’t require people to memorize it.  We don’t tell people they are bad if they don’t live their life by it.  In fact, we don’t think anyone should live their life by it.  It’s simply a science text reporting on the research of one man into how life adapts to its environment,  and extrapolates a theory of how life might have began.

    It has many things that are wrong in it.  It has many thing that are right.  It has things that are simply conjectures.   I don’t know of any biology course that has this text as required reading. (unless it’s a history of biology course).  It’s simply the book that got the ball rolling.   If you want to talk about evolution,  then reference text books that are being used today.  Reference research papers that are published in this decade.   Talk about the claims that living biologists make.  And quit trying to resurrect the Darwin’s corpse.  Atheists don’t believe in resurrection.

  • Anonymous

     I say “Oh my god” all the time

  •  Thanks for the reminder  🙂
    There’s a bit difference, though, between a one-word answer and a twenty-one word answer.
    Interestingly, how many Christians do you think could answer both questions? Now, how many “evolutionists” could answer both?

  • T-Rex

    I was raised going to church on most Sundays but we were never really super religious. No praying before meals or bed time or any of that. And I never believed most of that shit anyways. None of my Sunday school teachers or ministers at my church could ever give me a reasonable/believable explanation as to the existence of dinosaurs and the age of the Earth. I’ve always loved science and dinosaurs and still do and was always very inquisitive. I suppose I was the church’s worst kind of attendee.  I suppose we attended church more out of habit, than actual fear/necessity, whatever.

    When I was 10 our family decided to relocate to Florida from Indiana because of  my father’s job. My parents wanted me to be baptized at our church before we moved, so they rushed me through the process.  I fought with the ministers tooth and nail when they would come to my house to question me about my faith and knowledge and understanding of the Bible, Jesus, Gawd, etc.. None of it ever made any sense to me but they couldn’t understand why and they went ahead with the baptism anyways. I guess they were afraid to “lose” me.

    Once we moved we never attended church again. I was thankful for that because I always hated getting up early on Sunday to attend something I didn’t believe in. Religion was never a concern for me after that and I never really gave it much thought until I had kids. I’ve only become an active atheist/anti-theist in the past few years.

    The internet and Facebook has had a huge impact on me as I’ve learned more and more about the atrocities committed in the name of religion and gawd. Now I despise religion and will fight tooth and nail against the spread of this hideous disease. Every day my atheism is strengthened/enforced as I see more and more hate and ignorance being spread by religions. I will protect my children from it at all costs. And when I say proetect them, I mean educate them about it and show them the hypocrisy that runs rampant through it.

    For most of my life religion was a non factor. Now it’s near the top of my list of things to expose and fight against. Fuck religion. Have a great day! 🙂

  • Asking Richard Dawkins to state the subtitle of “On the Origin of Species” is the same as asking Rev. Giles Fraser to recite the entire book of Ecclesiastes.  It can only test on how well someone can memorize and regurgitate unnecessary information, not whether or not that person understands the underlying principles of his or her own argument.

  • jeff

    Actually, the fact that he could’t recall the subtitle helps to demonstrate that “belief” in evolution isn’t a dogmatic thing that’s centered around a single non-changing book.  

    The Origin of Species is an important book, but it will never be anything like the Bible.  Plenty of other books explain evolution, and with the benefit of years of additional study, these newer texts can provide more than Darwin could.

  • I believe Bishop John Spong falls into that category, Adam.

  • Drakk

     Sorry, but I don’t see this as a valid comparison. Evolution does not venerate Origin of Species or any other individual text. It doesn’t venerate anything, much. All there is, and all that is required to accept evolutionary theory, is an understanding of the basic principles behind evolution – which can be found in any biology textbook worth the paper it’s printed on.

    While I don’t deny the right of any person to call themselves what they want, when the IM poll is showing data like 37% of “christians” never praying out of choice, 12% thinking of themselves as “not really religious at all” and such similar results, the degree to which these people are christian is debatable. If someone tried to tell me they accepted evolutionary theory but could not describe even qualitatively the process behind natural selection, I would not consider them as being able to honestly say that they accepted evolution theory, because they know nothing of it.

    I don’t accept doublethink. If you say you’re christian and that you don’t consider yourself religious, at least one of those ideas is wrong.

    Also, might I add – when confronted with a sudden undesirable circumstance (stubbed a toe, overslept, car won’t start, etc) my usual response is “Ahh, fuck”. That doesn’t mean I want to have sex.

  • Of course this small misstep is instantly jumped on, because the ideas and science behind the title are so well established.  As an atheist, I would never stoop so low to ask a Christian to recall the exact wording of an important Bible phrase, and when they couldn’t, assert this as proof that the Bible is wrong. This is so unbelievably childish it is scary, but I guess these tactics are all that theists have left.

    On a positive note, the poll looks like very good news for us. Britain seems to have their stuff together, maybe they could come back here and rule us for a few years to get us back on track … 

  • TiltedHorizon

    Christianity is actually comprised of denominations which differ wildly from one another in terms of what they believe, how they worship,and their attitudes toward other Christians.

    The problem with this “Christian or Poser” question is the definition is a reflection of the individual and denomination. Had you posted this question 25 years ago while I was an orthodox Catholic, my answer would be that you are the “poser” because at the time you would have met ‘MY’ definition. If you ask a Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness and Baptist the same question the conclusion will likely be the same; you & everyone who is not them are the ‘posers’. The more religions one examines the clearer this commonality becomes: “WE are right, THEY are wrong”.

    Imagine the face of a clock, now imagine every possible hand placement being pointed to simultaneously; each second, minute, and hour combination claiming itself as true. This is what religion has become in my opinion, a dysfunctional clock on which every time permutation contests for legitimacy, often by denouncing or completely dismissing counter claims (as you have just done with the “Poser” question), resulting in a timepiece which no longer serves its purpose. So to answer your question, I left ‘faith’ because something broken should have no influence over my life.

  • I see. I think you might be the rare exception then. I agree with being bitter about the church’s intrusions into people’s lives. Most are too quick to judge as we all like to think that no matter how bad we are at least we aren’t as bad as “that guy” over there. However, this does not change the fact that we are bad. 

    I think a lot of church goers rather than focusing on their own lives when challenged, will shove it off on someone else. 

    Example, the Bible says not only to not sexual relations outside of marriage, it says that to even lust after someone is a sin. I don’t know of ANYONE who has had zero sexual thoughts outside of marriage. So then the average church goes proceeds to think, well I’m bad, but at least I haven’t acted on those thoughts. Or maybe I have, but only once, etc.”That guy/girl though is just slutty!” 

    This kind of thinking unfortunately happens too much and thus the intrusion onto others when the church goer should be focused on their own relationships. 

    Thanks for the comment 🙂

  • John 13:34-35 “A new commandment I give to you, to love one another, even as I have loved you that you also have love for one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples. Because you have love for one another.”

    I would say no single denomination has it all figured out. Denominations shouldn’t even exist in the first place. If someone says a single denomination does have it right then they are being misled. I could have just as easily cited any other denomination, but was just tossed out the ones that are attacked more often on this board. 

    There is NO WAY mormonism is the same as Christianity seeing how they do not believe that Jesus is THE deity and just one of many deities. 

  • T-Rex. Thanks for the response. I bet a bunch of others have had an experience similar to yours. 

    I also grew up loving dinosaurs. Hmm….maybe we were exposed to some similar things or grew up about the same time period?

    As far as asking sunday school teachers the questions you asked I say right on! People should be held accountable, especially when they are in the position of authority over someone else! I had similar questions going through my head, but at the time was waaaay too much of a people pleaser to ask them. I grew up not wanting to rock the boat. Now I think, if the boat gets tipped over then one will learn a new skill and swim 🙂

  • Pseudonym


    Dawkins’s asserted that some of the people who self-identify as Christians aren’t actually Christians. […] Fraser (who isn’t a creationist by the way) thought it should be up to
    the individual to self-identify as they like without being tested […]

    Unsurprisingly, I agree with Fraser on this point. Even if there were a scientific test for Christianity, Dawkins is probably one of the least qualified people on the planet to devise what that test should be.
    This survey shows that the number of people who self-identify as Christian is declining in the UK, but it also shows that for those who do self-identify, self-identity is mostly what it’s about. Fraser doesn’t have a problem with this, and I don’t see why Dawkins should either.

  • Pseudonym

    If someone tried to tell me they accepted evolutionary theory but could
    not describe even qualitatively the process behind natural selection, I
    would not consider them as being able to honestly say that they accepted
    evolution theory, because they know nothing of it.

    There’s probably quite a bit of science which you literally trust your life to every day, but probably don’t understand qualitatively. Consider standards, for example. The vehicles you use, the food you eat, any medicines or medical devices you need, any electrical device you use… these are covered by numerous standards (e.g. safety standards), most of which you probably don’t understand. But I wouldn’t have a problem with you saying that you “accept” the science that underlies them.

    I don’t accept doublethink. If you say you’re christian and that you
    don’t consider yourself religious, at least one of those ideas is wrong.

    Don’t discount the possibility that one of your own assumptions about the nature of Christianity (as it exists in the UK) or self-identity is wrong.

  • Anonymous

    In some places around the world people just don’t care about religion or the lack of it. 
    For a example see: 

  • MG

    I would find it pretty easy to be irreligious in a country where the official state religion was founded by former ruler, in a fit of pique with the Pope over getting his marriage annulled. So he could marry his wife’s handmaid, with whom he was carrying on an affair. And whom he later had executed.

  •  First of all, you did not answer my question.  Picking one verse out doesn’t do any good because every other Christian can quote mine the Bible to their heart’s content as well.  That doesn’t do a thing for determining which of you is more right than the others.  At most that maybe gives me an idea of what bit you find most important.

    And on a second note, I don’t think you know much about Mormonism.  They worship Jesus and the trinity thing like other Christians.  That multiple dieties thing doesn’t seem to apply any more than other Christians with their “trinity” and armies of angels and demons.

    But it sounds like you’re basically saying that all Christians are wrong.  So all Christians are posers?  You’ve given us nothing to go on to figure out what a “true” Christian is.  (Other than the implication that you consider yourself one.)

  • I agree about religions being messed up and I see how my definitions were a bit over simplistic. My apologies as I was just typing without too much thinking 🙁

    I can easily see how one religion would see everyone else as a poser or outsider. The proverbial litmus test would be to go back to actual texts to see what is taking place (and no, not just pulling out of a narrow range of context as some are in the habit of doing). 

    If a person is to consider themselves a Christian, they would have to say that they believe in what the Bible is teaching though I would think and would have to be a student of Jesus teaches, just as a chemist studies chemistry, a Christian should be studying Jesus’ live and teachings. 

    I would love to see a poll of what % of “Christians” read the Bible daily. It would be pretty low I’m guessing. 

    I teach chemistry and physics, and to some extend the Bible. I have my nose in all three daily. It’s as I tell my students, if they want to succeed in a subject then you have to be looking at the material daily. 

    Most Catholic churches that I have attended do not even open the Bible when they are at church. That saddens me. 

    My wife’s uncle is a catholic priest and a professor at a Catholic university. He told her once that the idea of penance was invented to gain more money during a time that the church was broke. No where in the Bible does Jesus teach this as a requirement to be forgiven of any sinful act. They literally made it up because they were broke. Yikes!!!

  •  Momma J,
    There is a nasty insinuation when you call other christians ‘posers’ which I’m sure you didn’t intend, but that comes off nonetheless, which is that Christianities that differ from your personal brand are faking it, that they are increasingly so, the further they go from your own beliefs. The problems with this are manifold, but the first one is that most of these sects have believers as honest as you, who likely consider you to be the poser. I can attest to an Greek Orthodox priest speaking of Evangelicals speaking-in-tongues as ‘paganisticly inspired sinfulness’.

    The verse you give tells us nothing. Some atheists love each other and their fellow human beings. Are they to be included as Jesus’ disciples? The verse says nothing at all about actually believing the Bible is true.

    This is the problem, when all you have to go on is the subjective interpretation of scripture, you have no real claim to a ‘true Christianity’.

    Indeed, there is a possibility that you have not included in the mix. The
    possibility that the reason no denomination has it figured out is that
    there is nothing to figure out.

  •  There is a problem, when clergy come along, in the name of people who self-identify as ‘Christian’ for traditional, social, familial or apathetic reasons and demand that their dogma-based opinions be given additional weight because they reflect the beliefs of a number of people that in fact don’t have those beliefs.

    It’s a similar way that the Catholic clergy are currently using the clout of the catholic population to block contraception, something 98% of catholic women apparently use.

  • Annie

    This is an interesting conversation to me… I hope you don’t mind if I step in.  From my understanding, you are saying that a true Christian is someone who reads and understands the text (bible)?  Is this correct? 

    And so, if a Jewish person reads and understands the Torah (the first five books of your bible), then do you consider them as godly as your brand of Christianity?  You have made some reference to needing to know and study Jesus’ life, so I’m curious as to your thoughts on this.  Obviously, they wouldn’t, by your views (or I imagine their own), be considered a good Christian, but would you agree that they are good Jews?

    And finally, you wrote, “I teach chemistry and physics, and to some extend the Bible.”  Do you teach both science courses and theology courses, or do you infuse your science courses with biblical studies?  If it’s the latter, I’m interested in what type of institution you teach (grade level, public or private, etc.).

  • Mormonism is NOT like Christianity:
    According to Mormonism:
    1) Jesus is lucifer’s “spirit brother” 
    2) Denies the doctrine of original sin and instead presents 
          humans as gods in embryo form
    3) Denies Christ’s preservation of His church. Teaching 
         instead that the true church vanished from the earth after 
        the death of the apostles and the Joseph Smith had to 
         restore it with his “latter-day-saints

    4) Denies the Trinity by affirming instead that God the       Father and Jesus have bodies of flesh and bone 5) Teaches that God the Father had sex with Mary6)Denies the immutability of God, teaching instead that    God was “perhaps once child, and mortal like ourselvesMaybe you are the one who doesn’t know much about either Mormonism or Christianity. This is the part that i find so interesting. You can talk about how horribly evil religion is but then you don’t know what they believe. So if you don’t know the basic teachings of a religion how can you cry foul against it?As far as telling who is truly a Christian and who isn’t I think you’d have to really know what the Bible says about such things. I’ve already listed one sign. There are others as well, but I don’t feel like I need to define what a Christian is. If you are sincerely inquisitive, then you can search the Bible yourself, and then use that as your litmus test if that is what you are looking for. Or you can simply go by what someone else has told you. I find it a bit ironic that so many find fault in people who are devoted to a religion and say that we do so blindly without thinking and yet I’ve talked to quite a few atheists who have gotten their information from another person and they have never read the Bible for themselves.
    I’m not saying that this is you by any means. I’m not saying that this is the majority even. I’m simply saying that this describes the backgrounds of many atheists that I have conversed with. 

  • I would say that a “good Jew” would be someone who read and studied their scriptures and tried to live by them accordingly. The point of OT Jewish law was that it was so incredible meticulous that they could not do it and must rely on God Himself. 

    The statement I made about teaching the three subject was a bit misleading as the location of where I teach them is not all the same. Chemistry and physics are taught at a public school, lets call it a magnet school. That’s the best way to describe it. Teaching the Bible happens at church or in my home with my small group with whom I get together with and we study what the Bible says. My apologies for the confusing statement 🙁

  • amyc

    “I think you might be the rare exception then.”

    Wow, instead of claiming to know the minds of millions of non-religious people, why don’t you use your power of telepathy for good?

    In regards to the rest of your post:

    “Example, the Bible says not only to not sexual relations outside of marriage, it says that to even lust after someone is a sin.”

    Never mind the absurdity of an all-powerful being caring about who I sleep with, but telling me I can’t even think about it? That’s endorsing thought-crime, and it’s reprehensible. It’s one of the main problems I have with religious dogma: it takes something natural and intrinsic to being human and makes it evil and dirty.

    “…thus the intrusion onto others when the church goer should be focused on their own relationships.”

    I agree with your sentiment here, but I have to say, unless you have drastically changed some of your views, I don’t think you’re being completely honest (you may not even realize it). You say other people should focus on their own relationships and stay out of other people’s lives, yet I’ve seen you on here numerous times arguing that you don’t think gay marriage should be legal. Again, this is probably something you don’t realize you do. A lot of people have a blind spot when it comes to their own actions.

  • Dan

     Momma J,

    Have you heard of the No True Scotsman Fallacy? If not you might want to look it up. Just because you don’t consider a bad person a true Christian doesn’t mean they aren’t. The ‘Posers’ are usually the people we don’t have much problem with. I don’t have a moral problem with people like John Shelby Spong, John Crossan, or many of the very liberal (often agnostic) Episcopalian ‘Christians’ fighting for gay fights in my community. They are so far removed from traditional Christianity that I would consider them the posers, not the people actively doing evil in God’s name, who are usually traditional Christians.

    The people I have the most problem with are the religious people trying to turn America into a theocracy, treating women as second class citizens, and denying gay people rights. These are the people who hold to fairly traditional Christian doctrines and have much more sway over American culture than Spong or Crossan, I’m talking about people like Frankilin Graham, John Piper, Al Mohler, Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, Jerry Falwell, Bob Jones, David Barton, Sarah Palin, Pat Robertson, John Ashcroft, Gov. Bob McConnall, Mark Driscoll, Chuck Colson, Tim LaHaye, Ralph Reed, James Dobson, Tony Perkins, Bryan Fischer, Rick Warren, and the list goes on and on. These are the kinds of Christians who most disgust us atheists. As an evangelical, do you think all these people are ‘posers’ and fake Christians?

  • Dan

     Exactly, I left Christianity kicking and screaming over about 3 years of heartbreaking research. I wanted to believe so badly, but just couldn’t justify all the crazy stuff. Of course now I am much happier than I ever was as a devout Christian, reality is much better than fairy tales, but I left Christianity for intellectual reasons, not because of bad experiences.

  • Drakk

     I do see your point, but I don’t see that as a valid comparison. Safety standards are not an explanatory framework of ideas like evolutionary theory (and certainly I don’t know anyone basing part of their worldview on safety standards), they are a result of one. While I don’t know the specifics of any particular set of standards, I do know a fair amount of physics, and given that the standards are decided by people far more qualified than myself I accept those standards as being grounded in good science.

    As for evolutionary theory, if a person could not describe its principles, but said that they believed there was a purely naturalistic explanation for the diversity of life (without going in to the specifics of such) I’d be happy to grant them that. As explained, though, I don’t think they would be justified in actually saying they accept evolutionary theory.

    Regarding my assumptions on the nature of Christianity: I didn’t think I was making any. Christianity is a religion, under the definition of religion, and as such saying that one is simultaneously Christian and non religious is, to me, a blatant contradiction. I’d like to know what assumptions you think I’m making.

  • Beth

    “How  Christian is Britain” would be a more accurate title. There are quite a few other faiths  that would bump the overall figure up beyond 52%. (Depending on what part of the country the question was asked)

    Some of the  Christian flag waving going on over here is a response to the growth in the ethnic minority populations, so is more about  misplaced nationalism than religion.  It’s deemed safer to talk about ‘Christian values’ than couch the discussion in terms of race

  • Old fogey

    The purpose of the Dawkins Foundation survey was to ascertain the extent to wich those who call themselves Christians when asked, actually believe in what they are identifying themselves with.

    Mostly, people aren’t posing as Christans – it is just a label that has got attached to them, and which they are so indifferent to that they have never shaken it off.

    I could quote as a good example my in-laws. Baptised Christian, taken to church as children, married in church and had their daughter baptised. Now in their late eighties and have not actually attended a church service (except for the usual weddings etc.) for some 45 years.

    If you asked their religion, they would have said Christian.

    Yet when I spent quite a lot of time with them sorting out some problems and we got into discussion of this, it gradually became apparent that they actually had not religious belief except a lingering superstition of the Pascals Wager sort, and about as potent as the sort of unfocussed slight uneasiness that many people are left with about walking under ladders.

    The word I like to describe the situation they had been in is “apatheist”. They just weren’t interested.

  • chicago dyke, evolved outlaw

    my best friend is “jewish” in the sense that he’s from israel, born to practicing jews, and enjoys and demonstrates the ethnic and cultural heritage that is his, in occasional ritual or daily practice, such as not eating pork. he is not a “religious” jew (technically he’s a Wiccan) but he still uses his jewish identity for various purposes. i can see british christians in the same way, if that’s how they live. another example: when i was a grad student, i went to divinity school. altho i was almost 100% atheist at that point, every year i checked the methodist box, when it came to scholarship funding. why? not because i believed, but because i could legitimately claim to have been baptized (at my rich grandfather’s insistence) into the methodist xtian church, and would’ve happily taken methodist money to pay for schooling. i never went to church or gave it any money. 

    there are lots of reasons beyond belief to identify with a religious group. just sayin. 

  • Of course atheists have love for people too. I didn’t mean that at all. 

    The more telling part of that verse that I shared is that a Christian loves others as Christ has loved them. In order to know what that looks like, you have to study his words, actions and sacrifice in detail. I admit, it could be a bit of a catch 22 here. 

    I’m pretty sure an atheist isn’t going to spend their free time studying in depth what Jesus’ ministry looks like. But in order to know if someone is living out THAT kind of love, they would have to. 

    He have only one word that means love. In the Greek new testament scriptures there are three different types of love that are conveyed there. Not knowing which Jesus is talking about would make it difficult to look for in people. 

    As far as tongues go, whew! That for some reason has been a very controversial topic within the church. Church’s have split over how to treat the topic. The bible actually does lay out guidelines for how it should be done (if it should be done at all). It is one of the spiritual gifts identified in the new testament, but is extremely rare. I admit I do not know enough about Greek-Orthodox to know where they are coming from, but I know enough to keep my radar up any time I hear the word “orthodox” within the context of denomination. Do you know what parts of the Bible that they would study and adhere to? Again, I must admit my ignorance on their basic beliefs, but it sounds like maybe they do not highly regard the new testament as some others do.

    Thanks for the constructive criticism by the way. Sometimes I get worked up and my thoughts don’t get communicated clearly when I type. Me and my slow thinking! Grr!

  •  You’re welcome and thanks or the reply.

    Regarding the Greek Orthodox church, they focus on the new testament. Indeed they try to use the original Greek whenever possible, mainly during the liturgy. They took the title Orthodox after the Catholic church schism in 1054 and claim to be the actual continuation of the first Christian church and not the Papists. Quite frankly when I was still in it I got the idea that they treat any denomination formed after the Protestant reformation to be sort of a red headed step child.

    I happen to be Greek, so I know what you mean about love being used for three words. That wasn’t a problem for me since at the time I read the NT in the Greek. It does showcase a problem in your outlook. Love is the core of your belief, yet you don’t always know what is meant by it. You’re suppose to emulate something you have no clear image of, only translations of translations of copies of copies of second to third hand information.

    Since you mentioned it above, I didn’t in fact have a negative experience with Christianity. What I did notice is that kind, good-hearted people believed with all their hearts in dogmas that were mutually contradictory but that all relied ultimately on subjective interpretation of a text with emotional experiences used as proof that this interpretation is real.

    How do you know of Jesus’ love without projecting your own love into the text?

    You said it yourself that millions have read the bible and arrived at different conclusions. I think this is because everyone projects their own personality into their faith. So a compassionate person sees kindness in Jesus, but a slaver sees a Jesus promoting slavery.

    The best reason a believer has for believing their own particular brand of belief seems to be to be personal feeling, and I can’t see how that is good enough for anyone.

  • Rosemary

    Bad experiences with Christians had no more to do with losing my beliefs than the heaps of god experiences.  It was purely ruthlessly honest investigation and reason.  You shouldn’t believe the mythical stories your leaders tell you.

  • Rosemary

    There is no way that the first followers of Jesus of Nazareth, being Jews, would have believed him to be both the Messiah and god.  The characteristics of the Jewish Messiah was that he be fully human.  Believing that anyone human was also god was Jewish blasphemy.

    The idea that Jesus was divine did not come from the Jewish “church”, it got added in by the Gentile “church” in order to compete with their own gods. In the Roman Empire, important people like the Emperor were considered to be divine and to have been born of a virgin.   If Jesus had not been provided with a virgin birth, ability to perform miracles, eternal life and divinity then he would not have been acceptable as a figure of worship for the bulk of the Roman citizens. 

    The Christian Jesus-is-god religion was the result of the Emperor  Constantine’s Political Committee charged with making a religion that would be nationally cohesive.  It incorporated elements of the Jewish Nazarene sect plus a whole lot of mythical stuff from the Greek and Roman religions of the time.   Constantine and/or his Reigious Committee ordered the destruction of all documents that did not support this new composite religion and the slaughter of all “heretics” who challenged it.  

    So “true” Christianity may have little in common with whatever a First Century internant preacher called Yesua  (or Joshua) may have actually taught to his Jewish audience.

    Considering that there are about 38.00o different varieties and descendants of the original Roman composite your particular version of what is “right” has an extremely remote chance of being the “true” one.  You display the arrogance and assurance of the indoctrinated ignorant.

  • Rosemary

    Once again, you are behaving as if your own subjective personal interpretation of the biblical text,  your emphasis and your ideas about the nature of “god” are the only “true” ones.  There is no logical reason to believe this.

    You are simply parroting the doctrines of a particular religious faction.  Like many others, this particular faction arose in the United States in the last century.  American Evangelical style religion is so aggressive that just about every one knows its basic tenets.  Many people who are now atheists were once what this faction would have considered model “true Believers” – that is, until their apostasy got them retroactively labeled as “not real”. Such ad hoc labelling is a logical fallacy.

  • Rosemary

    All this says it that your version of Christianity differs from the Mormon one.  You are both schisms from the original Roman Christianity.  According to the more ancient versions, your version is no more legitimate than the Mormon version.  Your reasoning assumes that the Christian Bible is a magical book (instead of collection of man made documents that were collected together into an “Old” and “New Testament” by a bunch of Roman Catholic clerics and who decided on their divinely inspired status on the basis of a vote.  All dissenters were then silences, unsuccessful manuscripts were destroyed, etcetera. 

    You have no idea what material or teachings were rejected.  You are only basing your interpretation of carefully selected verses from what books survived the committee.

    Hint:  since this was a Roman committe charged with inventing  Roman religion you can be reasonably certain that manuscripts with a Jewish slant would be rejected as “uninspired”.  

    If you think the Catholic church is wrong then why do you accept their say about what ancient manuscripts are divinely inspired?  If you think Martin Luther was more accurate and divinely moved, then you don’t you reject the book of James and other manuscripts that emphasized “works” along with “faith”?

    Ultimately, it is evident that the huge variety of groups that insist that they are “real Christians” cannot entirely agree on what the “facts” of Christianity are or how its sacred texts should be interpreted.  You are no different and there is no more reason that we should take you to be any more of an expert in the matter than any other person who insists that they are the Real True Christians.

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