More than half of people in the UK believe religion does more harm than good, while less than a quarter believe faith is a force for good, a new survey has revealed.
And the viewpoint even applies to those with strong faiths – one fifth (20 per cent) of Britons who describe themselves as being “very religious” said religion was harmful to society.
The findings from the study for The Huffington Post, which was carried out by Survation, challenge widely held beliefs about religion and its place in modern British society.
They show that only eight per cent of Britons describe themselves as very religious, while more than 60 per cent said they are not religious at all.
And the majority (55 per cent) believe that being religious does not necessarily make you a better person. One in eight Britons said atheists tend to be more moral, compared to just six per cent who said atheists are less moral.
Of the 2,004 people surveyed, 56 per cent described themselves as Christian, 2.5 per cent were Muslim, one per cent were Jewish and the remainder were of another faith or none.
Young people are actually more likely to have a positive view of religion. Around 30 per cent of 18-24 year-olds believe religion does more good than harm, compared to just 19 per cent of 55-64 year-olds.
Linda Woodhead, professor of the sociology of religion at Lancaster University, told The Huffington Post that the trend pointed to disillusionment with institutional religion in particular.
She said: “What we are seeing is not a complete rejection of faith, belief in the divine, or spirituality, though there is some to that, but of institutional religion in the historic forms which are familiar to people.”
Andrew Copson, chief executive of the British Humanist Association, said: “This survey just confirms what we know is the common sense of people in Britain today - that whether you are religious or not has very little to do with your morality.”