UK Christians: “Religion should not have special influence on public policy”
UK Christians are overwhelmingly secular in their attitudes on a range of issues from gay rights to religion in public life, according to new research. In the week following the 2011 Census, Ipsos MORI conducted a UK-wide survey on behalf of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science (UK), exploring the beliefs, knowledge and attitudes of people who say they were listed as Christian in the Census (or who would have been if they had answered the question).
Religion and government
Three quarters (74%) strongly agree or tend to agree that religion should not have special influence on public policy, with only one in eight (12%) thinking that it should.
Just 2% of respondents disagree with the statement that the law should apply to everyone equally, regardless of their personal religious beliefs, with 92% supporting it.
More oppose than support the idea of the UK having an official state religion, with nearly half (46%) against and only a third (32%) in favour. The same pattern is repeated with the question of seats being reserved for Church of England bishops in the House of Lords: 32% of respondents oppose, with only 25% in favour.
There is overwhelming support for religion being a private, not public, matter. Asked how strongly they support the statement that governments should not interfere in religion, 79% strongly agree or tend to agree, with only 8% strongly disagreeing or tending to disagree.
Four in ten Christians (39%) oppose the costs of hospital chaplains being met from NHS budgets rather than by the chaplain’s religious organisation, with only a third (32%) happy for the NHS to pay.
Eight out of ten (78%) say Christianity would have no, or not very much, influence on how they vote in General Elections, with only 16% saying it would influence them a great deal (4%) or a fair amount (12%).
While Christians are more likely to support than oppose state-funded faith schools, this support is reduced when non-Christian faiths schools are included. Less than half (45%) support state-funded faith schools for any religion, whether Christian or non-Christian, while just over half (53%) are in favour of state-funded schools for any Christian denomination.
Less than a quarter (23%) think religious education in state-funded schools should teach pupils to believe in a religion: 15% think it should teach pupils to believe in Christianity and 8% to believe whatever faith the school subscribes to. Most (57%) think state-funded schools should teach knowledge about the world’s main faiths even-handedly, without any bias towards any particular religion, and without trying to inculcate belief.
More Christians oppose (38%) than support (31%) the teaching of 6-day creationism in state-funded school science lessons.
The current law in England and Wales requiring state schools to hold a daily act of broadly Christian worship is not strongly supported either, with almost as many Christians opposed to it (36%) as in favour (39%).
Six in ten respondents (61%) agree that homosexuals should have the same legal rights in all aspects of their lives as heterosexuals, and those who disapprove of sexual relations between two adults of the same sex (29%) are greatly outnumbered by those who do not (46%).
Less than a quarter (23%) believe that sex between a man and a woman is only acceptable within marriage.
There is strong support for an adult woman’s right to have an abortion within the legal time limit, with more than three in five (62%) in favour and only one in five (20%) against.
Three in five (59%) Christians support the legalisation of assisted suicide in the case of terminally ill adult patients where certain safeguards are in place, with only one in five (21%) opposing it.
Despite the fact that 60% of respondents claim that Christianity is very or fairly important in their lives, this does not appear to be strongly reflected in practice. Seven in ten (69%) say that Christianity has had, or would have, no or not very much influence in their choice of marriage partner, and even more (81%) say it has no or not very much influence on whom they socialise with.
Commenting on the results of the research, Richard Dawkins said:
“In recent years Christian campaign groups have become increasingly vocal. Whether demanding special rights for Christians to be exempted from equalities legislation, strenuously opposing all attempts to review the law on assisted suicide, or campaigning against further social advances such as equal rights for gay people to marry, it is now clear that they are completely out of step, not just with the population as a whole, but also with a significant majority of Christians.
“Britain is a secular society, with secular, humane values. There is overwhelming support for these values, even among those who think of themselves as Christian. Just as importantly, there is also deep opposition to the state promoting religion in our society. When even Christians overwhelmingly oppose the intermingling of religion and state policy, it is clearly time for the government to stop ‘doing God’.”
NOTES TO EDITORS:
1. The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science (UK) is a registered charity which promotes rationalism, humanism and science in a quest to overcome religious fundamentalism, superstition, intolerance and suffering.
2. Ipsos MORI interviewed a representative sample of 2,107 adults aged 15+ across the United Kingdom. From this sample, a total of 1,136 adults defined themselves as Christians. Interviews were conducted face-to-face over the period 1st April and 7th April, 2011. Data are weighted to match the profile of the population.
3. A copy of the data relating to this press release may be found at:
4. Richard Dawkins will be available for press interviews on 14, 15 and 16 February 2012
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