No prayers, no god, no Jesus, no church: beliefs of UK ‘Christians’

14 February, 2012

The British Humanist Association (BHA) has welcomed today’s release of new Ipsos MORI research, commissioned by the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science UK (RDFRS UK). The data analyses the beliefs and practices of people who ticked ‘Christian’ on the national Census, and shows that many of them have no religious beliefs, and no habits of religious practice.

The research, carried out in the week following the 2011 Census, confirms the findings of research conducted in the previous week by YouGov for the BHA. That research found that:

  • 65% of ‘census Christians’ said they were not religious
  • Only 6% of ‘census Christians’ had attended a church in the last week
  • Only 48% of ‘census Christians’ believed Jesus was a real person who was the son of god, died and came back to life.

Among other findings, the new research has shown:

  • Only 30% of ‘census Christians’ say they have strong religious beliefs
  • 60% of ‘census Christians’ have not read the Bible from choice in the last year
  • Only 10% of ‘census Christians’ say they seek most guidance on questions of right and wrong from religious teachings or beliefs, with over 50% preferring to draw upon their own inner moral sense
  • Only 28% of ‘census Christians’ say that it is a belief in the teachings of Christianity which makes them tick the Christian box, with over 72% saying it is because they were christened and 38% because it was their parents’ religion.

This data supports work done by academic demographers in the UK such as Abby Day and David Voas as well as the data from other surveys and polls, which have demonstrated repeatedly that the self-definition of ‘Christian’ says little about personal religious belief or practice.

Andrew Copson, BHA Chief Executive, commented:

‘There are many who wish to pretend that the decline of religiosity and increase in non-religious beliefs is other than what it is – a long-established and still-continuing trend. In doing so, they often resort to the argument that, although they do not attend churches or participate in worship, most people still believe in Christianity, even if they no longer belong to churches. This pretence was given a boost by the 2001 Census and the surprise result that over 70% of people ticked the Christian box.

‘Unfortunately for the ideologues, much research ever since that result has shown that many if not most of the “census Christians” are not Christians in any meaningful religious sense. Most don’t see themselves as religious and many have no Christian religious beliefs. Their approach to moral decision-making is more akin to a humanist ethic than a mainstream religious one.

‘Many in public life, not least our current Prime Minister, express the sentiment that the UK is a “Christian country”. Today’s data helps us to further demolish that specious claim by showing that not only are most people in Britain not Christian in any religious sense, but even most “Christians” aren’t.’


For further comment or information, please contact Andrew Copson, Chief Executive at or on 07855 380 633, or Pavan Dhaliwal, Head of Public Affairs at or on 0773 843 5059.

Read the full research:

The BHA ran the Census Campaign, encouraging non-religious people to tick ‘No religion’ in the 2011 Census. The BHA argued that the census data on religion produced by the 2001 Census gave a wholly misleading picture of the religiosity of the UK. The BHA campaigned for an improved question on religion; however, once the same flawed question was approved again for use in the 2011 Census, the BHA’s objective was to raise awareness of the importance of responding carefully, to give an accurate picture of religious affiliation in the UK. Visit the Census Campaign website:

Read more surveys and statistics related to religion and belief:

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.