British public: no link between morality and religion

4 November, 2014

A new survey published today has revealed that most of the British public does not think that being religious makes an individual more likely to be moral – with most thinking it makes no difference, and actually more thinking that atheists are more moral than the religious than the other way around. The British Humanist Association (BHA) has said that the survey underlines the need for Britain to be an inclusive, shared society with no privilege for religious groups or institutions.

The survey was carried out by Survation in October, was commissioned by the Huffington Post and canvassed the views of over 2,000 British adults. Findings include:

  • Over 60% of the public are not religious, a third are somewhat religious and just 8% are very religious.
  • Most Brits believe that religion does more harm than good, with under a quarter believing the opposite. 45% of Christians and 70% of Jews share the negative view of religion, with just one third and 27%, respectively, taking the converse view.
  • 55% of Brits believe that atheists are just as moral as the religious, including 69% of Jews and 60% of Christians. One in eight British people say that atheists are more moral and just 6% say they are less moral.

BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘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. 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.

‘There are also lessons here for what should be the position of religion and religious institutions in our shared public life. In a country where most people don’t see themselves as religious, and don’t believe in any connection between religion and morality, it is unsustainable for religious leaders, politicians and others to seek to make the idea of Britain as a “Christian country” the basis of our national character. We need an inclusive shared society and an end to the privilege of religious institutions that allows a third of our state schools to be controlled by religious groups, unelected clerics to sit in our Parliament, and discriminatory religious organisations to provide what should be secular public services.’


For further comment or information, please contact Andrew Copson on 020 3675 0959.

Read more about today’s findings:

Read more surveys and statistics about religion or 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.