Religion’s relationship role in society continued to stay in the headlines yesterday as Richard Dawkins’ Foundation for Reason and Science released the results of a poll it commissioned looking at Christian belief and practice in the UK (full Ipsos MORI report here). Its main finding was that those who identified themselves as Christian in the poll was 54% compared to the 2001 census result of 72%. Unsurprisingly the conclusions it drew from the study were generally unfavourable towards Christianity. Richard Dawkins summarised the report by saying:
“Despite the best efforts of church leaders and politicians to convince us that religion is still an important part of our national life, these results demonstrate that it is largely irrelevant, even to those who still label themselves Christian.
“When it comes to belief, practice or even the most elementary knowledge of the Bible, it is clear that faith is a spent force in the UK, and it is time our policy-makers woke up to that reality and stopped trying to impose beliefs on society that society itself has largely rejected.
“In the past, there have often been attempts to use the Christian figure in the Census to justify basing policy on the claim that faith is important to the British people. This time, any attempt to do so will clearly be inexcusable.”
Dawkins then went on the Radio 4 Today programme to present his conclusions. Giles Fraser, former Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral was brought into the discussion to provide a counterpoint view. The ensuing debate was not one of Richard Dawkins’ finest moments as he failed to remember the full title of The Origin of the Species. I don’t like making fun of people irrespective of their beliefs, but it is a classic radio moment. These six minutes are well worth listening to.[gigya src=”http://boos.audioboo.fm/swf/fullsize_player.swf” flashvars=”mp3=http%3A%2F%2Faudioboo.fm%2Fboos%2F667322-are-the-uk-s-christians-religious-enough.mp3%3Fsource%3Dwordpress&mp3Author=BBCR4Today&mp3LinkURL=http%3A%2F%2Faudioboo.fm%2Fboos%2F667322-are-the-uk-s-christians-religious-enough&mp3Time=09.07am+14+Feb+2012&mp3Title=Are+the+UK%27s+Christians+religious+enough%3F+” width=”400″ height=”160″ allowFullScreen=”true” wmode=”transparent”]
Dawkins makes the crucial mistake of trying to define what a real Christian is when he doesn’t even believe that God exists. However, the main problem with his analysis as any good scientist or statistician should know (I would hope Dawkins would want to be included in this group) is that the same statistics can be manipulated to tell a variety of stories.
Reading the same findings Nick Pollard and Mike Keen draw these alternative conclusions:
- at least 23% in the UK believe Jesus is the Son of God the Saviour of Mankind – that’s almost one in four people not only believe that God exists, but also that he has come to us in the person of Jesus and offers salvation to us all
- at least 18% in the UK pray regularly (at least every week) – how many other personal activities of choice are practiced at least weekly by that number of people?
- at least 9% in the UK attend church regularly (at least weekly) – how many other community events are attended weekly by that number of people?
- More than half the respondents had a concept of Heaven and the power of prayer and outnumbered those who did not believe in either by a multiplier of x 5
- 88% recognised Jesus as being a real character with half those saying he is the son of God
- 60% of those polled indicated that Christianity was important to them ranging from fairly important to important
From this point of view there is much that should be celebrated by Christians. For those who know that God is a reality rather than a concept, Richard Dawkins’ continued desire to see religious belief eradicated can only be seen as a battle he will never win. He would surely hate anyone doing this, but please pray for him to have an experience of God that will fundamentally change his beliefs.
There have been plenty of articles written in response to this report already. If you read just one, I would suggest Nick Spencer’s article in Prospect Magazine.
Other recent news and comment worth reading:
Baroness Warsi visited the Pope yesterday. Despite being a Muslim, in this Telegraph article she strongly argues for the role of Christianity in our country to be strengthened and for Europe to become more confident and more comfortable in its Christianity.
In the Guardian Julian Baggini, an atheist, asks why secularism has become an aggressive and intolerant force in Britain.
The National Secular Society are featuring prominently in the news at the moment having won the Bideford Council prayers High Court case. Another campaign they are currently pursuing is to ban the use of NHS money to fund hospital chaplains. Christian Concern reports on this issue having been discussed at the Church of England General Synod last week