A survey from the National Centre for Social Research, just released today, finds that a record number of British people have no religious affiliation at all. 53% of people said they didn’t belong to any organized religion, which is up 5% from just a year ago.
Researchers with the British Social Attitudes survey asked participants, “Do you regard yourself as belonging to any particular religion?” If they said yes, they were asked which one. That phrasing makes a difference. If researchers had offered a multiple choice list of religions, with “No religion” as an option, it’s possible many people would have responded with the religion of their youth despite no longer practicing it. But when asked up front if they’re religious, it’s much easier to honestly say no.
Since 1983, when this survey began, the number has grown pretty steadily with only a few slight dips in between. And the rise of the Nones is commensurate with the decline of the Church of England.
Even more exciting? (Are you sitting down for this?)
The percentage of non-religious people between the ages of 18-24? A whopping 71%. It’s abundantly clear that the trend for religion is not looking good.
I should point out that there are always a few confused people out there, too. A survey from earlier this year found that nearly a quarter of Christians (and a small number of “active” Christians) said they didn’t believe in the Resurrection of Jesus… which kind of defeats the purpose of the whole Christianity thing.
Humanists UK’s response to this new data was a simple one: With so many more people living without God, why is there still an official church? Why does it still get funding from the government?
Humanists UK has said the figures must raise fresh questions about the place of the churches in the running of state schools and their other state-funded privileges.
Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson asked, ‘How can it be right that 97% of young people today are not Anglicans, but some 20% of the state schools to which their children will go belong to the Church of England? More generally, how can the Church of England remain in any meaningful sense the national legally established church, when it caters for such a small portion of the population?’
While it’s true that “No Religion” is not synonymous with atheism, religious institutions are quickly losing their relevance. That’s good news for anyone who supports rational thinking.