Opinion Former Article

BHA: New Government statistics illustrate ‘madness’ of privileged place in policy for religion

Religious people are not more likely to participate in society than non-religious people and Christians are less likely than others to mix with people from different backgrounds and beliefs, new Government figures have suggested.

The British Humanist Association (BHA) has welcomed the findings as further evidence against the mistaken idea – increasingly advanced by religious leaders and Government representatives of the 'Big Society' agenda – that religious people are more likely to participate in society and non-religious people are less so.

The Citizenship Survey: April 2010 - March 2011 was published by the Department for Communities and Local Government on 22 September 2011.

In terms of civic engagement and formal volunteering in 2010-2011, the figures show almost no difference in participation between those with no religion (56%) and Christians (58%) – a continuing trend since 2007. The proportion of Hindus and Muslims participating in civic engagement and formal volunteering is the lowest of all religion or belief groups, at 44% respectively. Overall, there seems to be no significant difference between participation between those with and those with no religion.

In years from 2007 to 2011, Christians were much less likely than any other religion or belief group to mix with people from different ethnic or religious backgrounds. Far fewer Christians (49%) than other respondents ‘mixed regularly’ with others in work, school or college.

BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘These statistics clearly demonstrate that having no religion is no barrier to civic participation and volunteering, exploding myths that religious people contribute more to civil society than others. Many aspects of the Government’s ‘Big Society’ agenda are geared specifically towards including and praising the contribution of religious people and institutions. It would far better be properly secular, inclusive and aimed to recognise the real contribution of people regardless of belief.’

Speaking on the community cohesion figures, Mr Copson continued, 'These figures indicate the need to encourage a more inclusive approach to community cohesion, and abolishing divisive ‘faith’ schools would be an important place to start. They illustrate the madness of official policies – in education especially – giving a special role to religious groups.'

 

NOTES

 

For further comment or information, please contact Andrew Copson at andrew@humanism.org.uk or 07534 258596.

 

The Citizenship Survey: April 2010 - March 2011 findings together with the statistical tables are at: http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/corporate/statistics/citizenshipsurveyq4201011

In June, the BHA gave evidence to parliament’s Public Administration Select Committee inquiry (http://www.humanism.org.uk/documents/4874) into the Big Society, alongside representatives from the Church of England, the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales, and the Chief Rabbi. See the transcript (http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201012/cmselect/cmpubadm/c902-iv/c90201.htm) and video (http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/Player.aspx?meetingId=8757&wfs=true) of our evidence.

For more surveys and statistics on religion or belief, see http://www.humanism.org.uk/campaigns/religion-and-belief-surveys-statistics

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.

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