Fact File: Secular Britain

 

In the beginning, there was Bideford. In February 2012 the High Court ruled council meeting prayers in the Devon town unlawful, and reignited a row about encroaching secularisation that’s been rumbling in the background of British public life for over a century.

Is Britain still a Christian country? The 2001 census said so, revealing that 72 per cent of British people describe themselves as Christian, but “militant atheist” Richard Dawkins has disputed these figures, suggesting many non-Christians just ‘tick the box’. According to the British Social Attitudes survey, only 14 per cent of the British population attend a religious service weekly. 

The Muslim peer and Conservative co-chairwoman, Baroness Warsi took up the cause of religion, joining a fight back in her party which has seen Michael Gove print new bibles with his name on their spine and David Cameron declare “We are a Christian country, and we should not be afraid to say so.” 

Humanist groups have dismissed these moves as attempts to claw back lost ground, but the issue remains contentious. Apparently even buses have an opinion.

The Numbers

64% of 18-24 year olds do not belong to any religion. Source: British Social Attitudes Survey, 2010

20% of those surveyed describe themselves as belonging to the Church of England. In 1983 this figure was 40%. Source: British Social Attitudes Survey, 2010

26 - Number of bishops sitting in the House of Lords. Source: churchofengland.org

49% of self-described Christians don’t believe that Jesus was the Son of God. Source: Ipsos MORI

Further Reading

If religion is ‘marginal’, I’m the Pope, Mark Steel, The Independent, 2012

In secular Britain, a clash over public prayer, Anthony Faiola, The Washington Post, 2012

Prime Minister’s King James Bible Speech, David Cameron, 2011

Deliver us from militant atheists, Robert Shrimsley, Financial Times, 2012

Baroness Warsi decries Europe’s ‘aggressive secularism’, the Telegraph, 2012

Timeline

2001 – The Labour Government introduces plans to increase the number of faith schools amid public scepticism.

2008 – Atheist Bust Campaign is launched with the slogan “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”

2011 –  The education secretary Michael Gove announces plans to send a copy of the King James Bible to all English schools.

2012 – High Court rules that local councils have no statutory powers to hold prayers during meetings

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
filmPoldark production team claims innocence of viewers' ab frenzy
Life and Style
Google marks the 81st anniversary of the Loch Ness Monster's most famous photograph
techIt's the 81st anniversary of THAT iconic photograph
News
Katie Hopkins makes a living out of courting controversy
people
News
General Election
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Office Administrator is requ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - Commercial Vehicles - OTE £40,000

£12000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion and growth of ...

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - Sheffield - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer position with a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Leader - Plasma Processing

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Operations Leader is required to join a lea...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders