Theo Hobson

Muddled souls - Britain is a non-religious, Christian-ish country

Muddled souls - Britain is a non-religious, Christian-ish country
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A new survey of British religious attitudes is out. It reveals a surprising degree of hostility to religion, and an unsurprising degree of muddle.

David Cameron's claim that Britain is a Christian country looks refuted, for more than 60 per cent of respondents said they are ‘not religious at all’. Presumably this must mean that less than 40 per cent call themselves Christian? Er, no – 56 per cent say they are Christian. It seems that Britain has a strong contingent of nonreligious Christians, like secular Jews.

The most striking finding is that more than half of those polled believe that religion does more harm than good. The poll also shows that more people believe being an atheist is more likely to make you a good person than being religious. The atheist narrative has stuck. So it seems that our secular Christian contingent think religion makes people less moral, but they still can’t deny that they are, sort of, on some level, Christian-ish. It sounds like they think they should probably be atheists, but can’t quite make the leap of unfaith.

My reading of the muddle is that Britain splits three ways: One-third is religious or sympathetic to religion; one-third is atheist; and one-third is muddled, feeling that religion is probably harmful overall - but also that it is part of their cultural identity.

Theo Hobson is a British theologian; his latest book is 'Reinventing Liberal Christianity' (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2013)