Secular sidelines

September 16, 2010, 10:30 PM GMT+0

The British public feels strongly about the Pope’s refusal to apologise for the child abuse scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church, and sees religion as a ‘side-lined’ presence in modern society, our survey has found. The results come as the Pope arrives in the UK today for a controversial four-day state visit.

79% of the population believe that the Pope should apologise on behalf of his clergy for the alleged incidences of child molestation, compared to just seven percent who say the Pope should not have to apologise. Interestingly, support for an apology was equally strong among the self-identified British Catholic population, 82% of whom believe the Pope should apologise.

Religious respect?

Despite such strong feeling on this subject, however, a surprising amount of indifference has been displayed towards the papal visit. to the UK, beginning today. A sizeable 49% of the population say that they neither support nor oppose the Pope ’s UK-wide itinerary, and while 29% actively oppose it, only 17% actually support the visit. Respect for senior religious figures in general is low as well, with 56% of the population claiming to have little or no respect for such individuals, compared to 36% who hold them in higher regard.

Secular sidelines

Data suggests the public’s indifference to the visit may be symptomatic of decreasing ‘religiosity’ in the UK. 68% of the public believe that Christianity has been ‘pushed to the sidelines’ in modern Britain, and just nine percent of parents selected ‘religion of the school’ as one of a list of important factors to consider when choosing a school for their children; factors such as performance of the school (66%), ease of travel (34%) and area of the school (33%) proved to be more pressing concerns.

However, a shifting understanding of what it means to be ‘religious’ could also be an important feature when considering the ‘religiosity’ of modern society. Just seven percent of the population think you need to attend religious services to be ‘religious’, compared to 78% of the total who don’t think that attendance is necessary, a sentiment shared both by those who consider themselves to be a member of a religion and those who don’t (79% and 78% respectively).

With the papal visit to the UK the first in 28 years, the issue of religion’s place within society has been brought firmly back on to the agenda – although apparently not at the top of the priority list for many.

Survey details and full results