“You can be religious in the traditional sense, but not follow conventional traditions. The census should have asked about community.”
It is unlikely that if he were alive today, Mark Twain would have seen fit to comment on the results of the 2011 British census, esteemed survey though it is.
But to misquote him, are reports of the death of religion being greatly exaggerated?
At first glance, the results appear to confirm that in Britain, faith is no longer fashionable. Asked for the second time in census history “what is your religion”, fewer respondents said that they had one. Although Britain is still predominantly Christian, since 2001 the numbers identifying as such have dropped by 13 percentage points, down by four million.
While the numbers identifying as each of Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist or Jewish either rose or remained largely consistent, more than a quarter of respondents said they had no religion, up from 14.8 per cent ten years ago.
When surveys or news stories point to a supposed threat to religious life in this country – the Scouting oath being adapted for atheists, for example – the doomsayers tend to warn that society as we know it is on the verge of breakdown; that the community structure that helped make Britain great is collapsing with no word on its replacement.
This piece was originally published by the Independent. Read the rest here.