The number of Britons who believe in God has fallen by four percentage points in under two years, a new survey on religious attitudes has found, leaving atheism to pull significantly ahead.
A YouGov poll for The Times found that the number of people professing a belief in God has dropped from 32 per cent in February 2015, when the question was last asked, to 28 per cent today. At the same time, those who say they don’t believe in any god or higher spiritual power has risen from 33 per cent to 38 per cent, putting atheism ten points ahead of belief in a deity.
The poll of 1,595 adults, taken on December 18 and 19, also found that the proportion of people who don’t believe in God but think there may be some sort of higher power has remained static at 20 per cent, while 14 per cent said they don’t know.
Men are far less likely to believe in a deity – 50 per cent of men rejected any notion of God or a spiritual power, against 28 per cent of women who did the same.
Younger people are also significantly less likely to believe in God: 46 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds reject the notion of any form of deity, as do 43 per cent of 25 to 49-year-olds, 38 per cent of 50 to 64-year-olds, and 25 per cent of those aged 65 and over.
The Midlands and Wales show the most allegiance to the idea of a god; 31 per cent of people living in those regions profess atheism. The figure in London is 44 per cent.
And leave voters are far more likely to believe in some sort of deity than those who voted to remain within the European Union: 45 per cent of people who voted to remain do not believe in any god or spiritual being, against 35 per cent of those who opted to leave.
Britain has been showing a steady decline in faith of around one per cent a year for the last couple of decades. In 1991, the British Attitudes Survey found that 50 per cent of Brits believed in God, using a slightly different question. By 2008 this had dropped to 35 per cent.
That drop is roughly in line with the decline in church attendance over the same period, which has dropped by about 14 per cent over the last decade, prompting the Church of England to instigate the “renewal and reform” programme which seeks to bring women and ethnic minorities to the fore in British churches.
But the huge drop of four per cent in under two years signifies a turbo-charging of Britain’s decline in faith, at a time in which there are renewed calls for a greater sense of purpose in Western life than mere capitalism.