By Rev Steve Hollinghurst.
This is my overall response based on analysis of the survey data. For more detailed analysis please download the full document here: http://www.churcharmy.org.uk/ms/sc/Evangelism/sfc_tomorrows_evangelism.aspx
It has long been held by anyone dealing in social survey data that the census figure of those claiming Christianity as their religion cannot be taken as a demonstration of the number of UK residents who are Christian. Unfortunately some Christian voices have chosen to speak in public as if this is not the case. This survey, commissioned by Richard Dawkins, adds to the evidence that we cannot claim that most people in Britain are Christian.
However, what it meant for people to tick ‘Christian’ in the census was not clear. Dawkins has very usefully added to our knowledge through this survey by addressing those questions directly. What this survey shows is that about 18% of the population indicated they were Christian because they were followers of the Christian religion. Other indicators show similar percentages attending church as part of their religious practice and even more holding traditional Christian beliefs.
The majority who ticked Christian do not fall into this category. However, as is backed up by other data, these people on the whole believe in God or some kind of spiritual being, as well as other beliefs; sometimes from Christianity, sometimes not. Even so, the majority of those who are not committed followers still identify with Christianity because of its moral teaching, which they also tend to associate with the bible as a moral guide. However, this cannot be taken by Christians as support for traditional views on homosexual rights, abortion or the place of Christianity as a state religion; most who say they are Christian do not support these things. But neither can it be claimed, as Dawkins attempts, that this shows these people see religion as something for private and not public life.
If Dawkins’ argument – that the majority of people who ticked ‘Christian’ really can’t be seen as such – is true, those who can be seen as committed Christians are still a larger group than those who share his secular atheist views, and far larger still are those who see Christianity as important for moral guidance. This means that far from showing that Christianity should have no role in public life this survey makes a good case for a role for Christianity as part of national moral debate, supported by about 40% of the population, far more than those who identify with secular atheism which at best accounts for 15% based on other survey data.