Research from the think tank Theos, examining the beliefs of “non-religious” people today, has shown that majority of people in Britain have some form of religious belief after all.
Drawing on research conducted this summer, and comparing it with findings which look at the bigger UK picture, the study shows that only 9% of people are consistently “non-religious” in that they call themselves non-religious, never attend a place of worship, and don’t believe in God, life after death, the soul, or angels, etc.
By contrast, 35% of people who never attend church (i.e. even less than once a year) believe in God or a Higher Power, whilst nearly a third of the same group call themselves Christian.
The report, Post-religious Britain?: The faith of the faithless isolated those who are clearly non-religious – who never attend church, or call themselves atheists, or place themselves in the ‘non-religious’ category – and then examined what they actually did believe.
It found that atheists (24% of the population) are the most sceptical group, although even among these nearly a quarter (23%) believe in the human soul, 15% in life after death, and 14% in reincarnation.
People who never attend a religious service (47% of the population) were more likely to have spiritual beliefs: 21% believe in angels, 20% in God as a universal life force and, remarkably, 44% in the existence of the human soul.
Even those who call themselves non-religious (44% of the population) had certain religious beliefs, with a quarter (24%) believing in heaven and nearly a third (29%) believing in some sense of God.
The report also looks at the social characteristic of non-believers. It shows that the average British atheist is more likely to be male, young, white and well-educated than the population as a whole.
Nick Spencer, Research Director at Theos, remarked: “We are becoming less institutionally religious as a nation, but that doesn’t mean that we are necessarily becoming more atheistic.
“This study shows that while there is certainly a small minority who are consistent in their rejection of all forms of spiritual and religious belief, most people in Britain have some form belief, however personalised and complicated – a fact that we see reflected in the full pews from Advent Sunday to the Christmas service.”
Theos is a religion and society think tank which offers research and commentary on issues of religion, ethics and society. It was launched in November 2006 with the support of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, and the then Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor.