A new survey commissioned by Hodder Faith & Home for Good indicates that perceptions of Christianity may be shifting

In a major new survey – the results of which are released today* – over 4,000 people were asked about their feelings towards religion and only 10% of the public agreed with the statement that ‘religion is a negative influence on society’. In fact, 44% of people surveyed agreed that they have had a positive experience of Christians and Christianity and half of British adults (51%) disagree that Christians are a negative force in society.

Some particularly interesting statistics were gathered from the 18-24-year-old ‘Gen Z’ age group – sometimes known as the ‘Post-Millennials’ – and, according to some, the first genuinely post-Christian generation. Although they are the most likely to report that being an atheist or non-religious is ‘more normal’, they are also the most likely to agree that they have had a positive experience of Christians and Christianity – a higher proportion than any other age group (51% vs 38-49%). They are also the most likely to report that they go to church services (33% vs 22-31%). Three in five British adults aged 18-24 (62%) also agree that they feel comfortable discussing their religious beliefs with people at work – again, a higher proportion than any other age group (62% vs 34-56%). Gen Z, it would seem, is showing the greatest openness and positivity towards faith.

This new survey coincides with the launch of a new book, Faitheism by Dr Krish Kandiah, which publishes today. In this book, Krish explores how Christians and atheists might have more in common than you think, looking at how – in a time of increased racial, sexual and gender equality – we need to move towards being a ‘genuinely inclusive society’ in terms of faith literacy and collaboration. As an Anglo-Indian-Sri Lankan-Malaysian Christian who was brought up in a Hindu household and who has fostered children from Muslim, Hindu, Christian and atheist backgrounds, Krish is well placed to discuss issues of exclusion and acceptance. In ‘Faitheism’, he presents a series of stereotypes about Christians and atheists – such as ‘Christians are judgemental and atheists are tolerant’ – before unpacking and challenging each one. He concludes by sharing his dream that one day ‘we will believe the best about each other, even when we don’t believe the same as each other’.

In his work with Home for Good, the adoption and fostering charity he founded, Krish appeals to Christians to provide loving homes for children in care. Home for Good raises awareness of the needs of vulnerable children, believing the Church is ideally placed to meet these needs and ensure that no children in the UK are without a safe and loving home. Faitheism was partially written in response to the resistance Krish has at times encountered from social services to place children in the care of Christians. Krish says of his interactions: ‘we have found that some social workers show a high degree of unconscious bias, suspicion and reluctance to accept Christians as foster carers and adoptive parents’. Yet the recent ComRes survey also revealed that fewer than one in ten (7%) British adults would hesitate about leaving their child with a Christian.

* ComRes interviewed 4,087 British adults online in two waves between 2nd and 6th March 2018. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

The key findings are listed below:

  • One in ten British adults (10%) agree that Christians are a negative force in society.
  • Half of British adults (51%) disagree that Christians are a negative force in society.
  • Two in five British adults (39%) agree that when they meet somebody new, they assume that they have no religious beliefs unless they tell them otherwise.
  • One in ten British adults (9%) agree that they find it harder to talk to someone when they know that the person is a Christian.
  • Two-thirds of British adults (65%) disagree that they find it harder to talk to someone when they know that the person is a Christian.
  • Three in five British adults who never attend church (61%) disagree that they find it harder to talk to someone when they know that the person is a Christian.
  • One in ten British adults (12%) agrees that they would be more likely to trust a person with no religious beliefs than a Christian.
  • Almost half of British adults (45%) disagree that they would be more likely to trust a person with no religious beliefs than a Christian.
  • Less than one in ten British adults (7%) agree that they would be cautious about leaving their children in the care of a Christian.
  • Three in five British adults (62%) disagree that they would be cautious about leaving their children in the care of a Christian.
  • Less than one in ten British adults (7%) report that they would have more fun socialising with a Christian than an atheist.
  • Three in ten British adults (28%) agree that being an atheist or non-religious is more normal than being a Christian.
  • One quarter of British adults (26%) disagree that being an atheist or non-religious is more normal than being a Christian.
  • Over two in five British adults (44%) agree that they have had a positive experience of Christians and Christianity.
  • One third of British adults who never attend church services (33%) agree that they have had a positive experience of Christians and Christianity.
  • Almost half of British adults (46%) agree that they feel comfortable discussing their religious beliefs with people at work.
  • Almost two in ten British adults (16%) disagree that they feel comfortable discussing their religious beliefs with people at work.
  • Two in five British adults (19%) agree that Christians are more tolerant than other people.
  • Two-thirds of British adults (32%) disagree that Christians are more tolerant than other people.

Younger adults

  • Half of British adults aged 18-24 (51%) agree that they have had a positive experience of Christians and Christianity – a higher proportion than any other age group (51% vs. 38-49%).
  • Three in five British adults aged 18-24 (62%) agree that they feel comfortable discussing their religious beliefs with people at work – again, a higher proportion than any other age group (62% vs. 34-56%).
  • British adults aged 18-24 are most likely to report that they go to church services (33% vs. 22-31%), and British adults between the ages of 25-34 are most likely to report that they go to church regularly (11% vs. 4-9%).

The flipside of these stats on 18-24 year olds is the following:

  • British adults aged 18-24 are most likely to agree that being an atheist or non-religious is more normal than being a Christian (34% vs. 27-32%).

A notable finding relating to gender

  • Men are more likely than women to agree that Christians are more tolerant than other people (23% vs. 14%).

Krish is available to discuss these findings – and others in the survey – as well as exploring the reasons which might lie behind them. Please contact Rhoda.hardie.pr@gmail.com / 0781 542 7111 if you would like to talk to him and I would be delighted to connect you. If you would like to receive a review copy of Faitheism, do let me know and I can send you a copy by post or email.

ABOUT KRISH KANDIAH:

Krish Kandiah is Founder and Director of the adoption and fostering charity Home for Good and an Ambassador for the relief charity Tearfund. Krish holds degrees in Chemistry, Missiology and Theology. His PhD is from Kings College London and he currently holds faculty positions at Lancaster Bible College, Regents College, Vancouver and Regents Park College, Oxford University. He lives with his wife and seven children, including fostered and adopted children, in Oxfordshire, UK.  

PRAISE FOR FAITHEISM:

‘The author of this remarkable book was born into an affectionate family whose religion was Hinduism,  but he converted to Christianity.

This experience has given him an urge to help our society to develop a way of discussing differences … and encourages freedom of speech.’

Lord Mackay of Clashfern

‘Krish Kandiah presents us with a book that doesn’t pull its punches in suggesting that the way we relate to one another over faith – or the lack of it – often lacks rigour, intelligence and civility.

He proposes solutions that challenge and inspire.’

Tim Farron MP

‘A great antidote to the current tide of opinion that religion is to blame for the world’s ills… We should dream as Luther King did that a day will come when we are at peace.’

Rt Hon. Caroline Spelman MP

‘Without doubt, we need a better conversation about faith in public life.
This clear and accessible book provides an engaging account of some of the key issues. I recommend it warmly.’

Grace Davie, Professor Emeritus in the Sociology of Religion at the University of Exeter

Hodder Faith is an imprint of John Murray Press, Carmelite House, 50 Victoria Embankment, London EC47 0DZ

Rhoda Hardie

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