March 24, 2009

UK one of Europe’s least religious countries

by David Masters

Britain is one of the least religious countries in Europe, according to new continent-wide study.

Only five European nations have lower levels of church membership than the UK – Sweden, Norway, Holland, Slovenia, and Belgium.

According to the EU-funded research, just 12% of Brits feel they belong to a church, compared to 52% of French people.

The research was led by Professor David Voas of Manchester University’s Institute for Social Change.

Professor Voas said: “Christian faith will soon have no role among our traditional establishments or lawmakers.

“It remains to be seen for example, how much longer bishops will be allowed to sit in the House of Lords.”

Despite Britain’s apparent lack of loyalty to the church, the UK has one of the highest rates of ‘fuzzy faith’ in Europe, whereby people have an abstract belief in God without belonging to a specific religion or denomination.

Professor Voas believes fuzzy faith is a step along the path to a secular society.

He said: “Fuzzy faith is a staging post on the road to non-religion.

“Adults still have childhood memories of being taken to church, and they maintain a nostalgic affection for Christianity but that is dying out.

“They still go along with the some kind of religious identity but they’re not passing it on to the next generation.”

However, Professor Linda Woodhead of Lancaster University disagrees with Voas’s conclusions.

She said: “Just because you’re not religious, it doesn’t mean you’re not spiritual or moral.

“A lot of people simply don’t want to take the whole package of religion on board.”

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