A new report by Tearfund - a Christian agency - into churchgoing in the UK concludes there is a "secular majority" in the UK, but they decided to omit this finding from their press release for the report.
The report's executive summary states:
"Two thirds of UK adults (66%) or 32.2 million people have no connection with church at present (nor with another religion). These people are evenly divided between those who have been in the past but have since left (16 million) and those who have never been in their lives (16.2 million). This secular majority presents a major challenge to churches. Most of them - 29.3 million - are unreceptive and closed to attending church; churchgoing is simply not on their agenda."
The research was designed and conducted by a Christian group, so it's probably safe to assume that if any manipulation took place it would have been to boost the Christian figures rather than the reverse.
The survey claims 53% of the UK population claims to be "Christian". This is way down on the 72% figure from the 2001 Census. Does this mean there has been collapse in Christian belief in the last 6 years? This is unlikely, although we should expect to see a steady and continuing decline. No, it's probably got more do with this survey being a better method for finding out about people's beliefs than the Census question on religion which is critically flawed and needs to be dropped by Office for National Statistics.
Here is the summary table of adult responses to the main question in the survey:
From the table we can see that only a minority of people aged under 45 are Christian and that a majoirty of all people aged under 35 have no religion. So unless there are mass conversions, in the future Britain is on course to be firmly secular with a small minority practising religion, mostly comprised of those in later life, those recently arrived from countries with higher levels of religiosity and other non-Christian religions.
The report also estimates 10% of the population attend a church weekly rising to 15% who attend at least monthly. This puts active, practising Christians as a small minority of the UK population. This could and should have implications for the conduct of public policy in the UK as it makes no sense to privilege such as small group over the rest of us.
The Tearfund press release tries to be as upbeat as possible with its language of "encouragement" and "opportunity", and makes no mention of the "secular majority" conclusion from the report. There's nothing to stop any organisation putting a positive gloss on anything they publish, and we would expect any lobby group to do so, but we should also expect that other voices, including this blog, will look behind the headlines and point out any spinning the facts that might be taken place.
It's a report rich in data so may return to this again in the near future.