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World News

A 'God brand' problem as survey finds UK has fewer believers than most other countries

by Donna Birrell

People in the UK are less likely to believe in God than people in almost any other country in the world according to a new survey.

The poll of 24 countries by the Policy Institute found that belief in God among UK adults has declined by more than a quarter since 1981. Then, three-quarters of the surveyed UK adults said that they believed in God, compared with just under half (49 per cent) in 2022. The study of more than 3000 adults in the UK found that only China, Japan, South Korea, Norway and Sweden had fewer people who believe in God.  

People in the UK are also less likely to believe in life after death than those of several other European countries – although this has remained at about 45 per cent.

Chine McDonald who is Director of the think tank Theos gave Premier her reaction to the findings: “In some ways, I'm surprised by how stark I guess the decline has been since 1981.

“In 1981, when the study was done, 75 per cent of Britons said they believed in God, but now it's 49 per cent. But there are some really interesting things going on beneath the headlines.

“The fact that belief in life after death has remained pretty much consistent over that time is interesting. Even though in the UK, belief in life after death is lower than most other countries, it's remained consistent. So we haven't seen that steep decline in belief in life after death, as you have it with God. So what does that tell us? It tells us that perhaps there's a God brand problem. Clearly people have some kinds of spiritual beliefs that are non-material, not just about science. And that's why belief in life after death continues and remains. But perhaps people think that science has disproved God.”

The study found that belief in heaven among UK adults fell over the same period, from 57 per cent to 41 per cent. In 2022, about one quarter (26 per cent) said that they believed in hell — a figure largely unchanged.

Chine McDonald adds: “Alongside that, you see the decline in religious affiliation, as we saw in the census last year. So perhaps there's a problem with the institutions rather than these ideas that are about the spiritual battle, something else going on beneath the surface.

“Since the 1980s we have seen more negative stories about Christianity and the church, in the media and in public life than we do the positive. Now, we would love to reverse that in some way to try and get into the places where people might have negative perceptions about Christianity and show not just the good things that Christians are doing in their communities, but how a Christian vision for what it is to be human is actually really good and exciting. So hopefully, we can reverse the God disbelief.”

The full report can be found here :'s-changing-attitudes-to-religion.pdf



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