Secularism in Britain

March 06, 2012, 11:53 AM GMT+0

67% think religion should be a personal matter only, 51% think religion in Britain is in decline

When it comes to religion in the public sphere, the majority of Britons feel that faith should remain a personal matter that has no place in public life, our poll shows. Almost 3 out of 5 Britons believe religion has more often been the cause of evil in the world than good. Meanwhile, almost half think religion still provides critical guidance.

  • 67% of respondents say that religion should be a personal matter that has no place in public life, 24% think religion should be more public
  • 58% think religion is more often the cause of evil than good in the world, 27% say religion is neither responsible for good or evil in the world, or it is responsible for both equally, 12% think religion is more often the cause of good
  • 49% agree that religion still provides critical guidance for the way we live our lives, 41% disagree
  • In total, 38% believe in a God, while 33% do not

Religion in Decline

When considering the part that religion plays in Britain, the majority think religion is in terminal decline, yet only around 1 in 5 people think Britain today is too religious.

  • 51% agree that religion in Britain is in terminal decline, 24% disagree
  • 36% say Britain today is too secular, 31% say the balance is about right, 17% say they think Britain today is too religious
  • 42% agree that the Church of England still carries out a valuable role in Britain, 41% disagree, 16% don’t know

These results come after our recent poll on whether Britain is a Christian country, where the majority of panellists said they believe Britain ‘should be’ a Christian country.

Baroness Warsi, Cabinet Office minister and chairman for the Conservative Party, made a recent statement expressing fear of the marginalisation of religion throughout Britain and Europe, saying that faith needs “a seat at the table in public life”. In an article for the telegraph, Minister Warsi likened Britain’s "militant secularisation" to the traits of a totalitarian regime, stating: “one of the most worrying aspects about this militant secularisation is that at its core and in its instincts it is deeply intolerant.”

Secularists disagree with the efforts of Baroness Warsi to dispel secularism, maintaining their belief that the state should be separate from religion, as an essential element in promoting equality between all citizens. In a blog post for the National Secular Society’s website, Terry Sanderson accused Baroness Warsi of "swimming against a very strong tide" with her principles.

“Turning away from religion is a choice that the people have made of their own volition and using their own conscience," wrote Sanderson. "It is not the Government's job to tell them that they are wrong.”

See the full results and details here (pages 8-10)