A recent poll in the UK confirms a trend I have noticed elsewhere – the movement of younger people away from organised religion, and to a slightly lesser extent, from religious beliefs. But also to a decline in respect for religion and its leaders.
The YouGov poll for the Sun shows a decisive turn against religion among 18 – 24 year olds. And a very low belief in a god (see Poll: Young people turn decisively against religion).
Fifty six% of people in this age group say they have no religion while 38% don’t believe in a god.
In common with other polls there is still substantial support for not believing in a god but believing in “some sort of spiritual greater power” – the halfway house.
Only 12% said religious leaders have any influence on them – lower than for politicians, who scored 38%, brands, which scored 32% or celebrities, who scored 21%. Eighty two% declared religious leaders have no influence.
Finally, a high 41% told pollsters ‘religion is more often the cause of evil in the world’ while only 14% said it was a cause for good.
I think we might find the same attitudes in this country.
But it does raise some important questions about the public perception of the role of religion in today’s society. It’s commonly described as a source of good. But Andrew Copson, chief executive of the British Humanist Association and first vice president of the International Humanist and Ethical Union, won’t have it. In a commenting article, Religion is in decline – so why are people so well behaved?, he says:
“One of the most mystifying aspects of recent governments’ emphasis on religion as a source of individual and social values has been its total mismatch with reality. Survey after survey has shown the population as a whole, and young people in particular, increasingly turning away from religious beliefs and influences entirely – and yet there has been no detrimental effect on the wellbeing of the nation.”
He concludes “there has been a change in recognised moral authority away from religion and towards secular influences.” And asks “when a government is going to realise this change and accept the implications for public policy.”
With polling like this it is about time that we all recognised that religion is not the source of our morality and public utterances claiming it is should stop.