82% of British people think religion does more harm than good.

Well if worse ever comes to worst we can all move to England:

More people in Britain think religion causes harm than believe it does good, according to a Guardian/ICM poll published today. It shows that an overwhelming majority see religion as a cause of division and tension – greatly outnumbering the smaller majority who also believe that it can be a force for good.

The poll also reveals that non-believers outnumber believers in Britain by almost two to one. It paints a picture of a sceptical nation with massive doubts about the effect religion has on society: 82% of those questioned say they see religion as a cause of division and tension between people. Only 16% disagree. The findings are at odds with attempts by some religious leaders to define the country as one made up of many faith communities.

Non-believers outnumber believers 2 to 1? Damn, I wonder what the IT job market is like over there…

27 thoughts on “82% of British people think religion does more harm than good.

  1. It’s good to hear reassuring news like this while I am currently in the heart of the Bible Belt visiting family. If it weren’t for the joys of seeing my younger siblings I’d be counting every half-second until I could escape this hellhole known as the Sunflower State.

    Ah, England swings like a pendulum do…

  2. englands ok but its just well.. meh theres really nothing that exiting unless you like golf, woods or really old buildings

  3. The IT environment over there is great.  Lots of stuff going on and some very smart people doing it.  Tell you the truth, I miss it …

  4. Sadie,

    It’s a shame your prejudices prevent you from appreciating the people. Saddens me.


    I can’t find the donate button.  Is there one now?

  5. I actually find that quite surprising – I wouldn’t have expected it to be so high. I do think atheism is something that is more prevalent here – but gee, 82%? Then again, it’s a survey done by one left-leaning newspaper – the 2001 cencus suggested that there are greater numbers of people declaring themselves as Christian. In that, atheism came second, followed by Islam in third (if my memory serves correctly).

    The IT industry is quite buoyant but most of the jobs are in the south of the country which is the more expensive area to live – I’m from the north, where the cost of living is cheaper but there isn’t quite the same range of IT jobs going, especially not with the big names.

  6. Man, that would be nice. At least reading this gives me hope that this is possible. It will take a long time to happen in the U.S., but it gives us something to work toward.

  7. From my personal experiences in England, I would point out that they can be pretty insular.  It’s a generalization, of course, but they have plenty of other ways [other than religion, that is], of erecting social barriers.

    Of course, you could master the accent, and claim to have been born in Tonbridge Wells but, until then, get used to hearing people mumble ‘typical.  Just typical,’ anytime you do anything that is vaguely “American.”

    meh.  Who knows.  Maybe things have changed since the mid eighties.

  8. I’m surprised by the figure too, at least in the UK politics, work and religion are a lot more separated, and sunday is treated more as a work day than a church day (also I have chrismas day off but that’s it for religous holidays). I agree there is nowt to do but work, sleep and die, but I’m sure work done purely out of boredom accounts for some productivity (and some vandalism).

    As for whether religion does more harm than good – well it depends, if people lump together into different religous ‘factions’ that conflict, then you get situations like that of northern Ireland or the middle east, the more fundie the group the more the problem. Fundies also don’t like to question their beliefs because it removes the security they looked for in religion.

    However if people have their own flexible set of beliefs then there becomes no clear boundry with which people can clash, same goes for intermediate race, mixed wealth classes, etc; because if there is no well defined difference in the people you can’t so easily separate to form fundie groups. At that point, even if there is no god, the benefits to society like decreased suicide, hope, integration, etc start to notice.

  9. ipdly:…meh theres really nothing that exiting unless you like golf, woods or really old buildings

    Oh, I don’t know…the countryside is beautiful and London is great. Have you seen Stonehenge? But to each his/her own, I guess.

    And Consi, don’t forget that none of us are free from prejudice colored by personal opinion. Is my homestate an embarrassment? I think so, although the 2006 elections in which they reinstated Kathleen Sebelius and gave that asshat Phill Kline the heave-ho are in my opinion signs that the state is moving in the right direction. Are there some good people there? Of course, my kin among them. Happy holidays to you and yours.

  10. Its very surpising that its 82% even though its that high and I definetly like that idea, I still could not move there ever, they have strict gun control and that just does not work for me.

  11. Commiezilla –

    they have strict gun control and that just does not work for me.

    The UK is, relitively speeking a very safe country to live in, guns are simply not needed, I would be more afraid of having a gun in the house incase a burglar found it. You can get gun licences and own certain guns though.

  12. Ditto on the guns thing. After the Dunblane school shooting guns have been tightly controlled here, and there hasn’t been a huge rise in gun crime. The police are not routinely armed either. You’ll often hear, particularly in the US, that the gun controls aren’t working in the UK – I put that down to the gun lobby over there. Yes, there are firearms offences committed here and people who have guns but shouldn’t, but the scare stories I hear just do not match up to the reality. There’s wide public support for the controls here and I can’t see them being repealed.

    As for or attitudes to Americans, it varies depending where you go. You’ll get some people giving you a frosty reception but most won’t mind. Just remember: the majority of us hate Bush, we’re not too keen on obese American tourists calling everything ‘quaint’, and we’re not big on American cars. If that fails, just say you’re Canadian smile .

  13. 82% of those questioned say they see religion as a cause of division and tension between people


    Most people have no personal faith, the poll shows, with only 33% of those questioned describing themselves as “a religious person”.
    A clear majority, 63%, say that they are not religious – including more than half of those who describe themselves as Christian.

    That has some red herrings in it although it sounds good on the surface (or how it’s interpreted) until

    ICM interviewed a random sample of 1,006 adults aged 18+ by telephone

    and you realise 60 million people spoke thru 1,006 … who had a telephone.

    The CIA fact site: https://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/uk.html
    reports via census info that almost 75% of Brits associate with some species of xianity and only 23% admit they are unspecified or follow no religion at all … so we have NFI how many atheists there really are.

    I’ve just finished Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything – it held my interest from start to finish.
    It’s the easiest book I’ve read that dealt with, and nicely explained, Cosmology and Quantum Theory and (nearly) everything in between.
    I’ve just started Richard Dawkins’, The God Delusion.
    I’ll let you know if it dies in the arse like Sam Harris’ End of Faith did.
    I’m sure it won’t – Richard’s British.  wink

    Gotta go – I’m at dad’s place and the dog’s barking – people must be arriving for xmas lunch. Time to put on my ‘shit it’s great to see you and I’m so, so interested and comfortable with small-talk’ face.
    I’d so much rather read a book … at home.  smile
    False alarm … but I should go up the other end of the house and start volunteering ‘if there’s anything I can do’.

    Enjoy your xmas lunch y’all and remember, as mum often told me, if you haven’t anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all … just smile … enigmatically.

  14. Job market is better than the one in Michigan anyway. Plus, over in the UK and Europe they seem to know how to write intelligent job descriptions. The last couple of British IT jobs listed examples (know PERL, PYTHON, OR PHP, and be able to learn more) the last IT job posting I looked at (just 20 minutes ago) for Michigan wanted all three as Required skills plus expertise in Solaris, Linux, BSD, Mac OS X, and Windows XP (for an entry level position.) Seems to be similar for other jobs, US job cataloging books in a library wants reading knowledge of Japanese, Chinese, AND Korean. A job at the International Criminal court (admittedly not in the UK) cataloging material only requires being able to read two European languages one of which must be French or English. The vast majority of European languages fall into either the romance language family or the Germanic language family. Chinese, Japanese, and Korean all all members of different language families…

    Oh, I don’t mean to be rude Les, but is there any way of changing this default theme so that it is a little more high contrast. My cheap LCD makes it hard for me to see the light blue elements.

  15. “The UK is, relitively speeking a very safe country to live in, guns are simply not needed, I would be more afraid of having a gun in the house incase a burglar found it. You can get gun licences and own certain guns though.”

    Yeah thats ok I’ll keep’em, besides ther e is no way I could give up my hobby. I deal with the churchies before that happens.

  16. I’ll note two things re Religion and Britain:

    1.  The Brits suffer from what so many other nations who’ve had National Churches suffer from—an unfortunate (but inevitable) confluence of “Christianity = the State =  the Status Quo = Ho Hum.”  This should be a huge, massive, glaring, red flag counter-example for folks who want to make Christianity the “State Religion”—but, of course, too many folks of that ilk are just the sort who can’t see the problem.

    2.  The biggest religious issues in the UK have been the Catholic/Protestant conflict in Ireland, and the rise of Islamic extremism.  Given that, and the dregs of the State Religion to draw a contrast against, it’s little wonder that religion is seen there as a division and a problem, not as a positive thing.  Especially when the US flirtation with conservative Christianity is so visible over the horizon.

  17. > and you realise 60 million people spoke thru
    > 1,006 … who had a telephone.

    1000-2000 is generally accepted as a good minimum figure to get reasonable margins of error (say 2-3%). The rate of people NOT having telephones is pretty low these days, and some weighing often makes up for the fact that not all do (for example by weighing responses from poorer areas slightly higher).

    So unless you have any additional info, I would not say that a 1000 person phone poll is biased or irrelevant. What I’d be more interested is the exact phrasing of the question. That is where the rub is. Is the question neutral enough to get a realistic response?

    Question a: Religion has often been a divisive influence in the past, do you think it still is?

    Question b: Do agree with the statement that religion is a divisive influence?

    Question c: Do you think religion in general is more divisive or more beneficial?

    Question d: Some people believe religion is divisive, even though most religions preach peace and friendship. Do you believe religion is a positive force?

    Question e: Would you disagree with the statement that religion has a beneficial influence on people?

    See… the above questions, asked of the same sample of people, would probably cause differences in the end results of 30-50%…

  18. Ingolfson got it before I did- 1000+ is considered by statiticians a good representation, no matter what the population size. Basically they take so many answers from different catagories- so of all the 1000s of people asked they will select at random so 49% are male etc. Of course I haven’t seen the Q’s, but a established polling company like ICM should be able to sort out bias in it’s clients.

    “I would point out that they can be pretty insular.” as opposed to, say, a country where 97% of the population hasn’t been abroad, and who complain that wikipedia is too ‘British’.

    really nothing that exiting{sic} unless you like golf, woods or really old buildings

      they don’t make you leave….  I could say there’s nothing exciting in the US unless you like overeating on high fat high salt ‘food’ and hating anyone who doesn’t agree with you- or I could just be stereotyping like you.

  19. So, going back to my first point, why is there such disparity between the ICM results and the CIA facts gleaned from census results – has there been such a large shift since the last census?
    I mean, did 50% of the xians suddenly realise that religion is a bit meh and breeds problems?

    And, I admit I made an error in thinking a randomly chosen 1006 could NOT speak for the attitudes of a nation.
    Though, I still wonder about how many calls resulted in refusal to play in the poll and why … but I suppose they’re catered for too, eh?

    Of course when I hear the word poll I always remember Sir Humphrey’s lesson to Bernard of how polls can be (are?) manipulated.


    Sir Humphrey: “You know what happens: nice young lady comes up to you. Obviously you want to create a good impression, you don’t want to look a fool, do you? So she starts asking you some questions: Mr. Woolley, are you worried about the number of young people without jobs?”
    Bernard Woolley: “Yes”
    Sir Humphrey: “Are you worried about the rise in crime among teenagers?”
    Bernard Woolley: “Yes”
    Sir Humphrey: “Do you think there is a lack of discipline in our Comprehensive schools?”
    Bernard Woolley: “Yes”
    Sir Humphrey: “Do you think young people welcome some authority and leadership in their lives?”
    Bernard Woolley: “Yes”
    Sir Humphrey: “Do you think they respond to a challenge?”
    Bernard Woolley: “Yes”
    Sir Humphrey: “Would you be in favour of reintroducing National Service?”
    Bernard Woolley: “Oh…well, I suppose I might be.”
    Sir Humphrey: “Yes or no?”
    Bernard Woolley: “Yes”

    Sir Humphrey: “Of course you would, Bernard. After all you told you can’t say no to that. So they don’t mention the first five questions and they publish the last one.”
    Bernard Woolley: “Is that really what they do?”
    Sir Humphrey: “Well, not the reputable ones no, but there aren’t many of those. So alternatively the young lady can get the opposite result.”
    Bernard Woolley: “How?”
    Sir Humphrey: “Mr. Woolley, are you worried about the danger of war?”
    Bernard Woolley: “Yes”
    Sir Humphrey: “Are you worried about the growth of armaments?”
    Bernard Woolley: “Yes”
    Sir Humphrey: “Do you think there is a danger in giving young people guns and teaching them how to kill?”
    Bernard Woolley: “Yes”
    Sir Humphrey: “Do you think it is wrong to force people to take up arms against their will?”
    Bernard Woolley: “Yes”
    Sir Humphrey: “Would you oppose the reintroduction of National Service?”
    Bernard Woolley: “Yes”
    Sir Humphrey: “There you are, you see Bernard. The perfect balanced sample.”

  20. britian is far from a safe country as you can clearly see, like the recent prostitute murders and all the other damning social stastics which evolve around the british islands, scotland, england wales and nortehrn ireland. I would quickly strike the remark, that britain is a relatively safe country, as ill informed and not researched. The uk, england scotland northern ireland and wales, one of the most socially violent and regressive unions in Europe if not the western world. I would say liberal religion is good for the world.

  21. My Dad’s dog’s called Stephi.  LOL

    Steph: I would say liberal religion is good for the world.

    Well, of course you would say that.
    Do you realise that un-murdered sentence was the only sentence that made any sense ? and it was stupid.
    The rest of what you said was stupid cos it made no sense.
    Does that make any sense?  wink

  22. The 5 murders that took place was probably the most serious incident to happen in that town, ever. My home town, York, has 1.2 murders per year – i.e. on average 6 people will be murdered over a period of 5 years. This is a town with a population of 150,000 or more.

    Like all countries there are good places and bad places to live – some do have major gun and crime problems, whereas in others the biggest problems to hit them will be theft of a few sheep. But for the most part Britain is a safe place to live and has low levels of crime. I’d like to see your damning social statistics, Stephen, if you have them available.

  23. I’m from the south, as you can tell from my email address. Where I live you would lock your door but not watch your back, there would be little point in targetting me if it wasn’t to steal and I would more readily give my wallet than my life

    Violent crime is heavily publicised by the UK media because relitively speaking it’s so unusual and the media are desperate for a story. Sure I’ve seen youth congregate around shops taunting anyone that passes and you hear of individual shopliftings but that’s not exactly organised crime or armed robbery

  24. > Violent crime is heavily publicised by the UK
    > media because relitively speaking it’s so

    There is a culture of fear, and a real level of crime. While the two do have SOME relation (both in their origins as well as influencing each other somewhat), they are not the same.

    For example, I noticed that I am much more worried about crime now. Why? Because I now live in a larger city (fact)? No. Because our boss subscribes to a newspaper to put in our breakroom, which is a bit more yellow press than I would read on my own (not scandalously, but a bit). And they LIKE their crime stories!

    Previously, unless it was a real big story, I might never have heard of it. Nowadays, I read about every single murder to happen in my country (New Zealand, where they actually are still all reported, because we are so small).

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