Faith plays minor role in lives of most white Christians

Although most white Britons call themselves Christian, most admit religion plays little part in their lives, a government study shows. But a strikingly different picture emerges in black and Asian communities, who say that their faith is a crucial part of their identity.

Although most white Britons call themselves Christian, most admit religion plays little part in their lives, a government study shows. But a strikingly different picture emerges in black and Asian communities, who say that their faith is a crucial part of their identity.

And in a sign that Britain's religious map is likely to change dramatically over the next decade, the numbers of young Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus who stressed the importance of their religion far outstripped the young Christians who professed a similar strength of faith.

The first detailed Home Office survey of the nation's belief found almost four out of five people expressed a religious affiliation, a result some officials regarded as surprisingly high in an increasingly secular society.

The highest number (74 per cent) called themselves Christian, with Muslims (2 per cent) and Hindus (0.8 per cent) the largest of other faith groups. Almost 22 per cent, nearly all white, said they had no faith.

But there are signs religious affiliation made little difference to the lives of its white adherents. When asked what they considered important to their identity, religion was cited by only 17 per cent of white Christians, behind family, work, age, interests, education, nationality, gender, income and social class. For black people, 70 per cent of whom say they are Christian, religion is third, and Asians placed it second, only behind family. People of mixed race ranked their religion seventh.

Nearly all people who called themselves as Christian (98 per cent) were white, and 2 per cent were black. The majority of respondents who were Muslim were Asian (76 per cent), and most Hindus (83 per cent) and Sikhs (88 per cent) also described themselves as Asian.

Signs of a rapid demographic change in Britain's religious make-up emerged. Just 18 per cent of Christians aged 16 to 24 viewed their religion as important, but 74 per cent of young Muslims, 63 per cent of young Sikhs and 62 per cent of young Hindus said they did.

Followers of Islam, the country's fastest-growing religion, tended to live in more deprived neighbourhoods than other faiths. Muslim respondents were also more likely than any group to never have had a job.

Fewer Christians and Muslims had degree-level qualifications than those of other religions; Hindus and Jews had more higher qualifications than the national average. Highest levels of home ownership were among Sikhs (88 per cent), Hindus (76 per cent), Jews (74 per cent) and Christians (74 per cent), with the lowest among Muslims (52 per cent), nearly one quarter of whom rented local authority accommodation.

Most people believed ministers and employers were doing enough to defend and respect religious rights and customs. But in a sign of growing discontent among ethnic-minority youths, some young Muslims and Sikhs said the Government was doing too little. One-fifth of Christians of all ages accused the Government of doing too much to protect religious freedoms.

More than two-thirds of people surveyed were allowed to take time off work for religious ceremonies and festivals. But most said their employers did not provide prayer facilities. Researchers found no apparent link between religious affiliation and participation in the local community, such as by contacting councillors or signing petitions.

A Home Office spokesman said the research, based on nearly 15,500 interviews, was aimed at ensuring government policy reflected social change and tapped into the talents of the ethnic minorities. He said: "We are committed to building stronger and more cohesive communities and to reach out to people at risk of social exclusion."

Fiona Mactaggart, the Home Office minister, said: "For many people, their religious affiliation is important to their sense of identity. Our job is to take account of this in our policy-making. It is encouraging that most people questioned felt the Government was doing enough to tackle religious discrimination.

"Mutual understanding is important for building strong, active communities in which citizens have the power to shape their future."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
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

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...