2016: Terry Eagleton, Distinguished Professor of English Literature at Lancaster University, delivers the ninth annual Theos lecture
Post-religious Britain?: The faith of the faithless
28th November 2012
Post-religious Britain? looks at what people of no religious faith believe, arguing that this group is much more interesting and complex than has long been thought.
Using data from three recent sources, the report focuses specifically on three groups – atheists, people who never attend a religious service, and people who place themselves in the ‘no religion’ category – showing that although each shares certain sociodemographic characteristics, these groups are not identical to one another.
In spite of their rejection of religiosity, either in belief, behaviour or identity (or some combination of all three), research shows that many of the “faithless” still demonstrate patterns of religious and spiritual belief and behaviour that one would not normally expect.
For example, over a third of people who never attend a religious service express a belief in God or a Higher Power, nearly a quarter of atheists believe in a human soul, and around a fifth of non-religious people believe in the supernatural powers of deceased ancestors.
Post-religious Britain? concludes by arguing that the traditional division of people into religious and non-religious camps is unsustainable, that 21st century Britain is marked by religious and spiritual pluralism rather than by secularism, and that more research is needed into the faith of the faithless.
Nick Spencer is Research Director at Theos | Holly Weldin has recently completed postgraduate work in political ethics at King’s College, London.