The phenomenon of disappearing Christians seems to be a current British phenomenon (hurrah).

Er, why,
and why not in the USA too?

Please, let's spread this welcome trend worldwide. But why is it not happening like this in the United States?

In the Daily Telegraph of 16 December 2009 (on the front page) Martin Beckford, the Religious Affairs Correspondent, wrote:

“Only half of Britons consider themselves Christian, a sharp decline on 25 years ago, an academic study suggests.
One professorial analyst described a large proportion of the country as the “fuzzy faithful”, people who have a vague belief in god but do not belong to a particular denomination or attend services. However, most people still say religion helps bring happiness and comfort, and regret its declining influence on modern society.”

Sociology Professor David Voas, University of Manchester, analysed the data. He said: “More and more people are ceasing to identify with a religion at all. The key distinction in Britain now is between religious involvement and indifference.”

His analysis will be published in January 2010 by the National Centre for Social Research. It considers the results of 4486 interviews that were conducted in the respected survey on British Social Attitudes survey in 2008. It shows that just 50% of respondents call themselves Christian, which is down from 66% in 1983.

The proportion having “no religion” has risen from 31 to 43%. Non-Christians, including Muslims and Jews, represent 7% of the population, which is a steep rise from 2% 25 years ago and is largely due to Muslim immigration encouraged by the Labour government.
The steepest fall was among those who say they worship in the Church of England. This is down from 40% of those who call themselves Christians to 23%. Official church figures show that average Sunday attendance was 978,000 in 2007, compared with 1.2 million in 1983.

The proportion of Roman Catholics declined only slightly from 10 to 9%.This is partly because of a vast increase in the numbers of Catholic Poles and other eastern Europeans into Britain.
37% of people questioned “did not believe in god” or were unable to say whether some supreme being exists. 35% had a definite belief in god or a belief with “occasional doubts.”

A mighty 62% said they never attend services in a place of worship.
How different this is from the situation a century ago. And how different it is from the people of the Americas.
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Tags: Christian decline, percentage christians, unbelief

Views: 111

Replies to This Discussion

Hurrah for Canada, always good to have a refuge just in case Sarah Palin gets elected US President next time around.

(Yeah, you laugh now... but I bet the Republicans have learned a thing or two about pitching presidential candidates since Obama got in. They'll field a woman next time. I'm counting on it.)
They sound like the kind of Christians I meet in college. I remember my New Testament teacher, who happened to be a Protestant clergyman, saying that there is no proof that Jesus was anything other than a simple rabbi who angered the Romans. He then stated his belief that Jesus never intended to found a new religion, and it is likely that Jesus never declared himself to be Christ. He also demonstrated the internal inconsistencies of the New Testament. Another fact I discovered about liberal Christians was their lack of disdain for the non-religious, people of other faiths, and minorities. They were absolutely opposite from the fundamentalist Christians I had known in my younger years.

I must admit, although I am an outspoken atheist, I have no problems with reasonable and tolerant Christians of this sort.
I must admit, although I am an outspoken atheist, I have no problems with reasonable and tolerant Christians of this sort.

I have to agree with you, Larche. In fact, they're allies of a sort.
Doesn't the Anglican Church have a long history of liberal clerics that promoted higher criticism of the Bible, starting in the mid-nineteenth century? If your theologians have no faith your flock will scatter.
Please refer to this study, based on 54,000 interviews, that shows religion is in decline in the US also. I agree it's much slower than Britain and Europe, but still in decline. Click on the View-by-Year tab, and pick "No Religion". Click the different years and you'll see the growth of "No Religion". It shows how the South is really the bastion on religion in the US. I live in Northeast and can tell you in this area religion is rarely discussed. I cringe at other members stories from the South.

From this world map of "importance of religion", you'll see the US is on the lower half the scale. We still must continue to reinforce the wall between church and state, but I'm optimistic the trend away from religion will continue in the right direction.

With the influx of Muslims in the UK (and the rest of Europe), I think you folks face a different kind of lunatic fringe than our home grown lunatic fringe.
Here in the South religion is really an all-encompassing, social activity. Church is where you go to worship, eat, socialize, show off your new clothes and cute kids, play basketball, listen to contemporary Christian music or traditional music, catch up on the latest gossip, find out who is sick and who died, go to Sunday School with people of your own age, impress others with your sound moral character,etc., etc., etc. It is going to be hard to persuade people to give all that up just because Christianity is based on false premises. Most Christians have never thought deeply about why they believe. It seems obvious to them that all 'nice' people believe and go to church.
This is exactly what I mentioned above that makes me cringe. It's like we live in two different countries. After reading your profile, I give you a lot of credit for standing up in what you believe in (or actually don't believe in), especially considering where you live.
Thanks for the kind words. You are right, what I usually get when I mention that I am an atheist is 'slack-jawed amazement'. Many people have known me for years and I think they believe that if I have been an atheist all this time it should have been apparent from my behavior or life style. They can't believe that a normal, likeable person (a grandmother!) can be one of those horrible people. Can you say cognitive dissonance?
Here in the South religion is really an all-encompassing, social activity.

Strange. I've visited the Southern part of Great Britain more than a few times and never noticed this.
Here in the South religion is really an all-encompassing, social activity.

Ah yes. Modern Britain is not at all like that.
But Victorian Britain was.
And perhaps life in a few villages still is.

Modern Britain differs so much from the south of the USA in that aspect, it seems.
I'd suggest that an important factor in the UK is the emphasis on multi-culturalism. From what I know about the US there appears to be a norm that you are expected to integrate into. The societal boundaries are pre-defined and it is up to the individual to be assimilated into that norm. Part of that norm is a believe in the Christian God but the primary discriminator is identification as an American first. So, for instance, you would be an American Muslim.

In the UK it's different. We've adopted a multi-cultural society, where one identifies with your group first. The grouping has primacy - you would be a Muslim who lives in Britain.

I'd argue that the multi cultural society has allowed religious communities to exist in their entirety - their religious identity being maintained and therefore being expressed openly, and fully, in society.

The effect is that your average christian Brit is exposed to a large range of religious belief based communities, where each belief system is as valid as their own. It is integral to society, is taught in school etc. When everything is held as equal, where religious communities are transparent, I'd say that it is inevitable that people would look at their own beliefs when compared to others. In the UK there is nothing special about any one religion so it looses it's interest and importance. If all religions are equal, what's the point in being religious? Better to make up your own - hence the rise on New Age groups in the UK?
I may be repeating what has allready said but from from my perspective there are a number of contributary factors. The two I feel I have the confidence to explain are these:

1. I feel in Britain, religion is not as passionatly forced down our throats as it is in America. Watching the running campaigns of the American politicians and presidents over the years has revealed that one of their main policys is, " I will do what is right by God, and obey his ruling" or somthing along those lines. Mainstream America seems alot more passionate about it's government than we do in Britain, and if the constitution is shoehorning faith as a policy for candidency, then people will feel more obliged to believe. In Britain I cant ever remember a speech where the focus of debate was heavily centered on the politicians relationship with the omniscient dictator.

2. This leads me to my second theory which suggest Religion takes influence from cultural trends, in the sence that we copy what we think is 'right' or good'. Nobody would believe if they didn't get told about God from an early age, without knowledge (or lack there of) about God, people wouldn't feel obliged to clasp there hands and talk to the sky. Assuming we are taught religion from an early age, we assume we are taught by people we look up to and respect, such as parents, teachers, or 'grown-ups' in general. Therefore we are less likley to question the concept, if my mum told me there were no monsters under the bed, I believed her, so if she had told me there was a god, I would've proberly believed her. So if we are less likley to question adults on the concept, we are brought up with belief, making it inherently harder to shake the concept, it would be like a child telling there mum they were wrong, I dont know about everyone else, but If I did that, it would be like pushing an auto-punish button. But I digress, in basic, British people are becoming more rational as we are not being spoon fed religious iconography, therefore, the rational folk are not teaching there kids to have faith, but instead letting them choose for themselves.

Although I feel this is a portion of the decline in religion, I feel it is a huge contributary factor.

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