Poll shows atheism strong among Britain's youth
A new YouGov survey suggests the decline of religious belief in Britain will continue for some time
New data published this week by the polling organisation YouGov shows that Britain's youth are continuing to reject religious belief in large numbers.
The poll, which takes a wider look at the beliefs and attitudes of a sample group aged 18-24, found that 38 per cent of those surveyed selected "I don't believe in any God or greater spiritual power" as the most appropriate response to the question "Do you believe in God?" This was the most popular answer, followed by "I do" (25 per cent), "I don't, but do believe there is a spiritual greater power" (19 per cent) and "I don't know" (18 per cent).
In addition, the poll shows that many young people in Britain have a negative perception of religion. Asked whether they "think that religion is more often the cause of good or evil in the world", 41 per cent agreed, with only 14 per cent saying it is a cause for good. Thirty-four per cent answered "Neither or both equally" and 10 per cent "Don't know".
The poll also found that 73 per cent of respondents support the same-sex marriage reforms – 54 per cent "strongly support" the change in the law and 19 per cent "tend to support" it.
Taken alongside larger surveys, including the 2011 Census, which found that 25 per cent have no religion, and the annual Social Attitudes Survey, which in 2011 found that half of Britons are non-religious, the YouGov poll suggests that secularisation is continuing at pace in the UK.
It is also interesting to note that 38 per cent of respondents reject the notion of any "greater spiritual power". Although polls have consistently shown that conventional religion is on the wane, researchers (including the sociologist Linda Woodhead, who was interviewed in New Humanist last year) have suggested that the turn away from religion may not, for many people, represent a complete rejection of spirituality, with "New Age" beliefs growing in popularity.
While the YouGov poll in no way invalidates that thesis (it's of note that only 6 per cent fewer respondents were "spiritual" as opposed to conventionally religious), it does suggest that, for a significant proportion of young people in Britain, "non-religious" does essentially amount to atheist.