39% of Britons have no religion. 76% adults do no attend church even once a year

Empty church pewsNew research by Christian charity the Tear Fund finds that 39% of Britions have no religion and 76% adults do no attend church even once a year.

The BBC’s coverage of the findings reports that “the church says the results challenge the UK’s secular image, proving not everyone has embraced consumerism as their modern-day god.”

This seems a bit of an insulting assumption that shopping is the only alternative we have to religion! Of course these kinds of reports will be taken to support whatever the reader already thinks – the findings challenge the much-touted view that the 70% of Britons are religious (according to the 2001 census) as much as the UK’s ‘secular image’.

But according to the report other research “challenges the findings that many non-church goers in the UK still think of themselves as Christian. People are shedding their religious beliefs even faster than churches are losing their congregations, according to a study by Manchester University.”

The reality is that we need to understand the picture is more complicated than ‘a nation of faith communties’ or a secuar state that has turned it’s back on God, that we need a more sophisticated model.

“Some sort of ‘vague Christianity’ acts as a way for people to keep their options open, they don’t have to think too hard about life and aren’t pushed outside their comfort zone, says philosopher Dr Julian Baggini. It’s easier than going in the other two directions.

If you take religion fully on board you have to believe some strange things. Discarding it totally means you have to really think through the consequences, that death really is the end and many people find that worrying.”

But it is possible to do away with the middleman, not attend church and still be a Christian, he says. ‘Often the key messages in religion are social, like loving your neighbour. You don’t have to go to church to be nice to people and help them.’ 

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