Chapter summary: Religion

Losing faith?

How religious is the British public and how has this changed over time? Getting an accurate picture of the importance of religion in people’s lives matters; not least because it influences the role of religion in policy making and public life, and helps guide the allocation of funding and resources.

There was much debate in the run-up to the census about how to measure ‘religiosity’. The chapter examines levels of religious affiliation, whether someone was brought up in a religion, and whether they regularly attend religious services.

  • Half (50%) do not regard themselves as belonging to a particular religion, while the largest proportion (20%) of religious affiliates belong to the Church of England. Nearly twothirds (64%) of those aged 18–24 do not belong to a religion, compared with 28% of those aged 65 and above.
  • More than half (56%) of those who belong to or were brought up in a religion never attend religious services or meetings. Just 14% attend weekly.

Levels of religiosity have declined over the past three decades and are likely to decline further, mainly as a result of generational replacement.

  • One in three (31%) in 1983 did not belong to a religion, compared with one in two (50%) now. The largest decline has been in affiliation with the Church of England, which has halved since 1983 (from 40% to 20%).
  • This change – which is likely to continue – can be explained by generational replacement, with older, more religious, generations dying out and being replaced by less religious generations. There is little evidence that substantial numbers find religion as they get older.

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