A friend pointed me to a fascinating political commentary blog – The Wardman Wire – where the blogger Matt Wardman has done some statistical research into various claims of British humanists (by ignoring the rather bombastic claims of their websites and digging around the entrails of their annual reports). In no sense can one argue pro or con any philosophical or theological position’s validity by the number of its adherents – after all there was a time when the entire population of the Christian church was handful of rather unprepossessing men and women. No idea where this guy is coming from, but it makes some pretty interesting reading. Have a look at his post – but here is a digest of what he’s discovered:
British Humanist Association Claims (assuming a UK population of 60 million and that no British Humanist members live abroad):
- 17 million UK citizens are Humanists = 36% of national population
- That is of course just over 1 person in 3
British Humanist Association Membership (on the basis of its 2005 annual report)
- Rose from a meagre 4151 to a resounding 5138
- This means that there is an exact ratio of 1 per 11678 UK citizens = less than 0.01% national population
National Secular Society (on basis of interviews with president Terry Sanderson that Matt Wardman has dug up)
- 1999: 500 members
- April 2004: 6000 approx
- April 2005: 7000 approx
Now let me stress – this is not trying to argue for any moral superiority or intellectual validity from these stats (for statistics are never really reliable guides, are they). But it does throw into some doubt the pervasive view that theism in general and Christianity in particular are on the wane in Britain. Why don’t the powers, institutions and think-tanks get a grip on this instead of clinging to their vain hopes of building a secular utopia in this green and pleasant land.
Am certainly not suggesting that this is the only Christian denominational grouping around, and i fully accept that these figures are not necessarily altogether helpful since they are based on electoral roll membership (which anyone can sign for whatever reason although they do need to go to a church occasionally, even if only once a year!). But it is the denominational grouping I’m part of and not an insignificant figure:
Diocese of London Electoral Roll membership (Church of England):
- 1992: 45,000
- 2002: 64,000
- 2006: 69,000
This is despite a claim from the National Secular Society (in a 2007 report on Bishops in House of Lords) which states:
Church attendance has been in decline for the last six decades to the point that 98% of the population are not in a CofE pew on an average Sunday – yet the bishops claim to speak for us all.
Now that may be fair enough on the role of bishops in the House of Lords – but it is hardly a fair and professional use of the stats, is it? But take this one:
The only apparent statistical blip in the relentless decline in church attendance has been children attending. Humanists for Labour, January 2007
From these stats alone, it shows that 1% of the entire UK population are actually Anglicans living in the Diocese of London! (Which actually only covers London north of the Thames – see map of the diocese with its 5 subdivisions – the Diocese of Southwark covers the area south of the river.) Oh and by the way, children can’t sign an electoral roll form. And while the first report is about Anglican bishops, they do have a role representing (for better or worse) all the other denominations like Catholics, Baptists, Free Churches, Pentecostals etc etc in London, let alone in every other city of the country.
Call me a cynic, but they surely can’t be twisting the stats to suit their own ends can they? No – of course not. I can’t imagine why they’d want to do that…