‘Toxic brand’: Britons say religion does more bad than good, atheists ‘more moral’ than believers
The poll of 2,004 people conducted by Survation exclusively for Huffington Post UK
revealed that nearly two in five Britons have no religious
allegiance, with just 56 percent describing themselves as
The figures for active worship are even more stark, with 60 percent of the population surveyed claiming they are “not religious at all” with only 8 percent saying they are “very religious.”
“Religion has become a ‘toxic brand’ in the UK," Linda Woodhead, professor of the sociology of religion at Lancaster University, told HuffPost UK.
"What we are seeing is not a complete rejection of faith, belief in the divine, or spirituality, though there is some of that, but of institutional religion in the historic forms which are familiar to people.”
Young people tended to be less skeptical. Roughly 30 per cent of 18-24 year olds believe that religion does more good than harm, while only 19 per cent of 55-64 year-olds agree.
70 percent of Jews, who constituted about 1 percent of those surveyed, claimed that religion was a force for the negative, more than any other group.
The participants also showed that they did not believe that belief was an indicator of being a good person, with 55 percent saying that atheists are just as likely to be moral as believers. In fact, more (8 percent) thought the irreligious were more likely to be good people than the theists, than vice versa (6 percent).
"This survey just confirms what we know is the common sense of people in Britain today - that whether you are religious or not has very little to do with your morality," said Andrew Copson, chief executive of the British Humanist Association.
"Most people understand that morality and good personal and social values are not tied to religious belief systems, but are the result of our common heritage and experience as human beings: social animals that care for each other and are kind to others because we understand that they are human too.”
"Not only that, people understand that religious beliefs themselves can be harmful to morality: encouraging intolerance, inflexibility and the doing of harm in the name of a greater good. We only need to look around us to perceive that fact."
The results show a continuation of existing trends, with church attendances halving to only 800,000 a week over the past half-century, and the number of Christians falling from 72 to 59 percent in just a decade between the 2001 and 2011 surveys, with a corresponding increase in those openly irreligious.
Indeed, the only religion to exhibit growth in the period was Islam, from 3 to 5 percent.
While only 2.5 percent of those surveyed were Muslims, those who were displayed a greater commitment to their faith. One in five UK Muslims describes themselves as “very religious,” and only 7 percent say they are not religious at all.