The Church of England should drop religion and take up politicsby Peter Kellner / December 12, 2013 / Leave a comment
It won’t happen, but the message from YouGov’s latest poll for Prospect is clear: the Church of England should abandon religion and become a political party.
Back in 1957, Gallup asked people a range of questions about their faith. They found that most people were Christians who regarded Jesus Christ as the son of God. Most people drew a clear distinction between religion and politics and wanted religious leaders to worry about our souls, but not about government policy.
Half a century later, YouGov has repeated Gallup’s questions and discovered a precipitous decline in religious belief. The decline in church attendance reflects more than a stay-at-home culture dominated by television and computer technology. It flows from a collapse of faith in the central tenets of Christianity.
Back in the 50s, fully 78 per cent thought either there was a personal God (41 per cent) or “some sort of spirit, God or life force” (37 per cent). Just 22 per cent were either atheists (6 per cent) or agnostics (16 per cent). Today there are almost exactly the same number of religious as non-religious Britons. And atheists now easily outnumber believers in a personal God.
There has been an even sharper collapse in the belief that Jesus Christ was the son of God: down from 71 per cent to 27 per cent. And the decline looks set to continue. Whereas 35 per cent of people over 60 hold this belief, the figure among people under 25 is only 9 per cent.
Large numbers of doubters can even be found among people who declare a religious allegiance. One third of the public count themselves as part of the Church of England or Scotland; only 45 per cent of them say that Jesus was the son of God. The figure is higher among Catholics, at 67 per cent—but this still means that one Catholic in three does not share this belief. (Too few respondents to our survey belong to other Christian groups to analyse with confidence.)
As in 1957, we are more likely to believe in life after death than in the devil, but both figures are much lower. Here, as in much of the poll, there is a marked gender gap. Women are more likely to believe there is life after death (39 per cent) than not (26 per cent). Men divide…