Infographic: Is Britain a ‘Christian country’?

Last Monday the British Humanist Association coordinated an open letter, signed by more than 50 public figures, including authors, scientists, broadcasters, campaigners and comedians, who wrote to the Prime Minister to challenge his statement that Britain was a Christian country.

The story dominated the news agenda for the past week, and today the BHA has released an infographic which compiles statistics on the current state of religious identity, belief, and values in contemporary Britain. You can view the graphic below:

2014 04 28 LW v5 Infographic Christian Country

Comments

  1. Nigel Girling says

    More than 40 years ago, as a 13 yo student at a comprehensive school, I was disciplined for challenging the assertions of my RE teacher, who also happened to teach science (!) when he proposed the creationist story as being factually correct – having taught us only weeks earlier about the scientific explanation of a ‘big bang’…. I asked him to make his mind up as to the one he wanted us to believe, suggesting that he couldn’t have it both ways. He hit me hard enough to knock me from my chair. I was then sent to the headmaster who, despite my recounting of the events supported by witnesses, suspended me and put me on a lesson-by-lesson reporting cycle that effectively sealed my reputation as a rebel and a troublemaker. From then on, my natural tendency to ask questions and seek to understand the ‘why’ of everything was perceived as disruption – which made me even more rebellious. 2 years later I was expelled. My father, the village lawyer and a former methodist lay-preacher, ex-communicated me and refused to support my entry to university. Several decades later I’m still suffering the consequences of this ‘diversion’ – and have sought to create a career ‘around the outside’ of the establishment….. it seems from our PM’s assertions that we’ve made little progress in removing these prejudices….. and yet the church brigade still manage to position us as the bad guys…. it’s a strange world.

    • hanh says

      despite all those nosense inflicted upon you by a bunch of sins selling magicians.
      at least you are hanging onto what hold true to yourself.

      good on you !!

  2. Jim Rider says

    I am so sorry to read that you have had such bad experiences … truly awful. I hope you now have happiness and fulfillment in you life. Stick in there; at least you have 10,000 Humanists in Britain who can empathise.

    • Nigel Girling says

      Thanks Jim… I appreciate the support. Of course, not all the ripples have been bad… I learned to be more creative and to tap in to other aspects of my character and abilities in order to build a career without the ‘obligatory’ degree – and I’ve used my subversive nature to try to influence from the fringes and more obliquely. I’d like to say that I’ve made the transition from Bete Noir to Eminence Grise… but I suspect I’m more grey with black stripes to some I’ve encountered…

  3. Vir Narain says

    In discussing this issue should it not be recognised that religion and culture are very intimately – almost inextricably – connected? It has been claimed that “Christianity is at the very roots of European culture” (cited in Kettle 1990: 14) and that “Europe has no identity without Christianity.” The waning influence of Christian religion has to be acknowledged. Can we say the same about “Christian culture”?

    • Thomas Graff says

      Furthermore; most parts of the ‘Christian culture’ hotchpotch do not originate with Christianity in the first place; rather, they were progressively assembled from pre-existing cultures. Undoubtedly the religion has a large place in the history books, but no monopoly on any of cultural practises that it uses to infer its ‘inextricable connection’ to European identity.

    • Laurence says

      I agree with Vir – despite being a life-long atheist, and agreeing that we don’t need religions to tell us right from wrong.

      It’s difficult to say if our culture influenced the local version(s) of Christianity, or vice versa, or (more likely) they both influenced each other.
      But I have spent a large part of my life outside the UK and Europe, and I can see that my values and beliefs (which I would describe as humanist) are closer to modern/liberal Christian values (if we ignore the ‘God’ bits, of course!), than other religions and cultures I’ve come into contact with.

      I may believe that my UK Christian friends are deluded about the existence of a god, but I don’t disagree with their non-superstitious beliefs in the same way that I worry about a few of my friends who follow other religions.

      So I am comfortable with the general values of modern UK society being closely related to the basic values of the Church of England – I think they still reflect each other very well, in both their positive and negative characteristics, despite the low number of C-of-E adherents.

      In fact, if we look at the wider world, humanists should see that modern/liberal Christians are quite close to our attitudes, so it may not help if we attack them so much!

      • Vir Narain says

        Thank you, Laurence. Your reference to ‘Christian values’ tempts me to quote Peter Medawar – a Nobel Laureate in Science. “Where so many people I like and admire do so and derive strength and comfort from doing so, I am not at all proud of my lack of belief, and while it would not be in my power to simulate belief (a deception that would soon be unmasked), I should like my behaviour – short of overt acts of worship or the avowal of beliefs I do not hold – to be such that people take me for a religious man in respect of helpfulness, considerateness and other evidences of an inclination to make the world work better than it otherwise would be’ In short, I should like to be thought to possess what it rightly outrages Jewish people to hear described as the ‘Christian virtues.’”
        Even as an outsider (being a non-European and a lifelong agnostic of Hindu origin) I find it it saddening to see that those who are – rightly – drifting away from the Christian religion also find it necessary to deny or denigrate Christian culture. In the light of of what many believe is the ongoing cultural invasion of Europe this is especially unfortunate

        • Thomas Graff says

          Vir, denial of ‘Christian culture’ is easy; because it is difficult to pin down just what extant and desirable cultural practises Christianity has an exclusive claim to.

          I do not denigrate Christianity, but I couldn’t disagree more strongly with the implied values of Peter Medawar. The insinuation that ‘helpfulness’, ‘kindness’ and the ‘inclination to make the world…work better’ are values to which Christianity has an uniquely strong claim is, among other things, inaccurate. Ethically, the uniqueness of monotheistic religions is in having a moral code that is not necessarily interested in the human condition, but rather, the requirements of a metaphysical being. Prior to the establishment of the church, there are many examples of moral philosophy that seem closer to our current moral stance than those to be found in scripture.

          Laurence, Liberal Christians are from my experience very nice people, but this is irrelevant to the question. It is also counter productive to equate the scrutiny of Christianity’s privileged position with regard to our national identity, to an attack on a liberal Christian, privately holding a set of personal beliefs that they think better them as an individual. Plainly the two are not the same, and no one has expressed any desire whatsoever to attack anyone in that way.

          • Vir Narain says

            Thomas. Asserting that “Christianity has an uniquely strong claim” to certain virtues may be overstating the case. But, when you compare this with the situation in the rival Abrahamic religion/ culture, the contrast is undeniable. Your reference to monotheistic religions is interesting. As Ralph Peters has said: “All monotheist religions have been really good haters. We just take turns.” No prize for guessing whose turn it is now.

    • DanDare says

      You could just as easily cite that European culture is an Enlightenment culture, a Hellenistic culture or (more realistically) a secular culture.

      It has no real meaning to call it a ‘christian culture’ other than the desire to see the word christian tacked onto the word culture so that a false equivalence can be set up i.e. Christian culture = christian people.

      • Vir Narain says

        Do we concede that religion and culture are closely connected? Of course, all kinds of prefixes can be tagged to ‘culture’ – regional, ideological, professional etc. Does that change the proposition that religion and culture have a significant relationship?

        • DanDare says

          That’s entirely irrelevant to the discussion at hand. Religion, politics, science and economics are all deeply entwined with culture.

          England is not a christian nation and doesn’t have a christian culture.

    • hanh says

      Christianity did not invent in England , adopting other’s and called it as your culture, such behavior in itself is a culture.

      Why then we can’t adopt secularism from the world and called it Global culture of which England is part of it ?

      On a separate note, it is not what culture that counted. Is it a good culture that makes a better world and less violent world, that is more important a question .

  4. les says

    Is Britain a Christian country? One must remember that David Cameron had a very narrow and elitist education at Eton and is therefore quite ignorant of the world outside of economics and stocks and shares. So we must not be too hard on him.
    He knows very little about British society and what constitutes the united Kingdom of today. He lived in his little bubble and has now been let out, leaving a mounting trail of destruction.

  5. JC says

    I think religion is literally redundant in the modern world. Instead of worrying about what idiots believe, we should be focusing on how to solve the biggest threat facing humanity: the fact that in 10 to 15 years at least, and perhaps mid-century at most, it will be uneconomic to extract enough oil to meet the needs of the gas industry, coal industry, industry, transport sector, personal transport and thus will affect household energy supplies. This is surely the MOST important matter we face. Instead we are worried about what people (most of whom will remain ignorant regardless of educations programmes) believe! How crazy is that. But then again, human decision making processes are mostly irrational so I’m not that surprised. No doubt there will be no viable solution to the coming world energy crisis (since fracked oil runs out fast, as does any kind of fracking, and renewable energy simply won’t make enough, and in any case all require cheap oil to harvest the materials they are made from etc etc).

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