Saturday, May 28, 2016

Reasons for the decline of religiosity in UK and Europe

Paul Stenning wrote 'Good News' to the local Bournemouth news report of the analysis by Stephen Bullivant of St Marys Catholic University in Twickenham, London of the British Social Attitudes (BSA) Surveys (1983 - 2014).

I wrote that:
"In a nutshell, over the past three decades Anglicans have decreased at the expense of 'No religion', 'Other Christian' and 'Non Christian'. Catholics are unchanged. 
Over the past three decades: 'Anglican' (44% in 1983) have declined 1% each year. 'No religion' (39% in 1983), 'Other Christian' (6% in 1983) and 'Non-Christian' (2% in 1983) have each increased by about one third of 1% each year.
For the past 31 years, on average each year, according to Bullivant report: "Anglican' declined 0.8% (2014 19.0%); 'No religion' increased 0.3% (2014 47.9%); 'Other Christian' increased 0.3% (2014 15.6%); Non-Christian religion increased 0.2% (2014 8.6%). 'Catholic' are unchanged (1983 8.2%, 2014 8.0%)."

Also, "Levels of religiosity have declined over the past three decades and are likely to decline further, mainly as a result of generational replacement.

One in three (31%) in 1983 did not belong to a religion, compared with one in two (50%) now. 

The largest decline has been in affiliation with the Church of England, which has halved since 1983 (from 40% to 20%).

This change – which is likely to continue – can be explained by generational replacement, with older, more religious, generations dying out and being replaced by less religious generations. There is little evidence that substantial numbers find religion as they get older."

Why are we less religious than we used to be? How can we explain this decline in religiosity? The decline in religious affiliation is strongly influenced by being brought up in a religion, and links to levels of religious attendance. 

Does the decline in religious affiliation result from a lifecycle effect (with each individual generation’s attitudes following a particular pattern throughout their lifecycle), a period effect (with a particular event or way of thinking affecting all or some of society at a particular point in time) or a generation or cohort effect (with more religious generations dying and being replaced by less religious ones)? 

To explore these possibilities, respondents were grouped into nine ‘generations’ and their levels of religious affiliation were analysed at four points in time (see Table 12.7 attached below). 

There is no evidence of a lifecycle effect – that is, as people grow older they become more or less religious. Non-affiliation remains relatively stable as each generation ages; for example, 30 per cent of those born between 1936–1945 did not follow a religion in 1983 (when they were aged 38–47 years), compared with 31 per cent in 2010 (when they were 65–74 years). 

Could the decline in religious affiliation be attributed to a period effect? At a time of plummeting trust in politicians and banks, might public cynicism have extended to religious bodies, perhaps spurred on by scandals within the church, such as the sex abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland? There is some evidence of a decline in religious affiliation between 2000 and 2010, particularly for those generations currently aged in their mid-30s to mid-60s. This trend is likely to be very recent and needs further analysis. 

However, by far the most marked differences occur between cohorts – indicating that the decline in religious affiliation in Britain has primarily been brought about by generational replacement. In 1983, for example, 55 per cent of those born between 1956 and 1965 (then aged 18–27) did not belong to a religion, compared with 12 per cent of those born before 1915 (then aged 68+). By 2010, 65 per cent of the youngest generation (born between 1986 and 1992 and then aged 18–24) did not belong to a religion, compared with 24 per cent of the oldest generation (born between 1926 and 1935 and then aged 75+6).

The result of continual generational replacement is that, overall, the proportion of the population who does not belong to a religion continues to rise.

Edited from.

From Voas 2009, I noted "each generation, in every country surveyed in Europe, is less religious than the last... the magnitude of the fall in
religiosity during the last century has been remarkably constant across the continent."