• Majority of Scots have no religion, study shows

    The religious affiliation question in the 2011 (June-September) Scottish Social Attitudes (SSA) Survey reveals that the majority (53%) of Scottish adults in 2011 professed no faith, up by 16% from 2001.

    The Christian share fell from 61% to 44% during the decade, mostly among the Church of Scotland (down from 36% to 22%). The details are given below, taken from here.

    One of the main reasons this poll produces a figure above 50% for the non-religious in Scotland is that the question asked (‘do you regard yourself as belonging to any particular religion?’) tends to filter out ‘cultural Christians’ much better than the question used in recent England & Wales Censuses.

    H/T Dave Elleman, Dorset Humanists.

    Scottish Social Attitudes and Other News

    Posted on March 4, 2013 by Clive Field

    Start your week with BRIN’s latest selection of British religious statistical news, comprising three sources of data on the contemporary scene plus a reassessment of religious belonging in the Edwardian era a century ago.

    Scottish Social Attitudes Survey, 2011

    The dataset for the 2011 (June-September) Scottish Social Attitudes (SSA) Survey was released by the Economic and Social Data Service (ESDS) on 20 February 2013 and can be interrogated by registered users via the ESDS Nesstar catalogue. The sample comprised 1,197 Scots aged 18 and over interviewed face-to-face by ScotCen Social Research.

    The religion-related content was confined in 2011 to standard questions on religious affiliation and attendance at religious services. However, since the results for religion from the Scottish census of population in 2011 have yet to appear, it may be useful to note here the weighted SSA results for 2001 and 2011.

    The SSA religious affiliation question (‘do you regard yourself as belonging to any particular religion?’) reveals that the majority (53%) of Scottish adults in 2011 professed no faith, up by 16% from 2001. The Christian share fell from 61% to 44% during the decade, mostly among the Church of Scotland (down from 36% to 22%). The details are given below:



    No religion



    Church of Scotland



    Roman Catholic



    Other Christian






    Interestingly, claimed attendance at religious services showed less change between 2001 and 2011, albeit this is an indicator notoriously liable to inflated self-reporting. Nevertheless, regular (monthly or more) churchgoing reduced from 24% to 19%.



    Once a week or more



    Once a month or more



    At least once a year



    Less often



    Never/practically never



    No religion/family religion



    Evangelicals and education

    Evangelical Christians ‘are a highly-educated group who appreciate and value the education they have received. Many are committed to lifelong learning and have undertaken study to better understand their faith and serve the Church. Significant numbers are involved in education as teachers, other staff or school governors.’

    These are among some of the major findings in the latest report from the Evangelical Alliance’s 21st Century Evangelicals research programme, in which a self-selecting (and thus potentially unrepresentative) panel of evangelicals are periodically invited to complete an online questionnaire on selected topics. This particular survey was carried out in November 2012 and elicited 1,377 responses, 77% from persons with a university education. The report Do We Value Education? was published on 26 February 2013 and is at:


    The content of the survey is too extensive to summarize here. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that there was not complete unanimity among evangelicals about the role of religion in state schools. Although 69% agreed that all schools should have regular assemblies including a Christian act of collective worship, no more than 31% felt that religious education (with a predominantly Christian emphasis) should be a compulsory component of the curriculum for all children throughout their entire school life. This was far behind the figures for English language (82%), mathematics (76%), science (50%), physical education (39%), and computing and technology (48%).

    When it came to faith schools, one-third failed to disagree with the proposition that they tend to divide communities in harmful ways, and no more than 52% agreed that church schools generally offer a higher standard of education than non-church schools. Somewhat controversially, 51% argued that church schools should always give priority in admissions to children from churchgoing families, despite the fact that 42% acknowledged that church schools do not seem to be doing a very good job at producing committed Christians among their students.


    Children’s engagement with and perceptions of the autumnal and now largely secular and commercialized festival of Halloween (abbreviated from All Hallows Eve, All Hallows being an alternative rendering of All Saints Day in the Christian calendar) are illuminated in a new article by Mark Plater: ‘Children, Schools, and Hallowe’en’, British Journal of Religious Education, Vol. 35, No. 2, 2013, pp. 201-17. This is available to subscribers or on a pay-per-view basis at:


    Short questionnaires were completed in class in 2007 by 493 primary school pupils aged 7 (n = 127) and 11 (n = 366) in the London borough of Redbridge and Lincolnshire. The overwhelming majority of children were found to have participated in Halloween activities in some way in recent years, with 66% having significant and 23% some involvement. The combined figure of 89% ranged from 74% of those whose family background was religious to 93% in the case of non-religious. Participation was higher among pupils aged 11 (92%) than aged 7 (78%).

    The commonest Halloween activities reported by the children were: trick or treating (72%), dressing up for Halloween (70%), attending Halloween parties (57%), playing Halloween games (45%), watching scary movies (40%), walking around the streets in the dark (39%), and making Halloween-related artwork (39%). In 84% of families various forms of merchandise had been bought to support these activities at some point in recent years.

    Most children (79%) said that they enjoyed Halloween but 9% did not (three-fifths of the latter being from religious families). Enjoyment was much higher in Lincolnshire (86%) than inner-city Redbridge (56%)  Asked to choose from a list of adjectives to describe Halloween, 74% selected positive (typically fun-scary and/or exciting) and 13% negative terms. Plater contrasts the relative enthusiasm of the pupils for Halloween with the reluctance of teachers to tackle it in the curriculum, which was revealed in his earlier research.

    Edwardian religion

    In his book Religion and Society in Twentieth-Century Britain (2006, pp. 40-87), Callum Brown characterizes Edwardian Britain as ‘the faith society’, in which there was a ‘buoyancy of Christian culture’, ‘religiosity marked the social values of almost the entire society …’, and ‘nearly every person would claim some attachment to a religion, most would be able to show an attachment to a church …’ These assertions are (partly) put to the quantitative test in a new article by Clive Field, ‘“The Faith Society”? Quantifying Religious Belonging in Edwardian Britain, 1901-1914’, Journal of Religious History, Vol. 37, No. 1, March 2013, pp. 39-63. The article can be accessed (on a pay-per-view basis) at:


    In this paper Field collates the extant statistical evidence for church attendance and church membership/affiliation in the years before the First World War. A mixed picture is reported, with elements of sacralization and secularization co-existing. Although churchgoing was already in relative and absolute decline, one-quarter of adults (disproportionately women) still worshipped on any given Sunday, and two-fifths at least monthly. Moreover, hardly anybody failed to be reached by a rite of passage conducted in religious premises. Only 1% professed no faith and just over one-half had some reasonably regular and meaningful relationship with organized religion in terms of church membership or adherence. For children, perhaps nine-tenths attended Sunday school, however briefly.

    Category: Demographics of religion


    Article by: Jonathan MS Pearce