News from Europe

Half of British people think religion does “more harm than good” to society

The University of Birmingham conducted a new survey, funded by the Templeton Religious Trust, to investigate people's religious beliefs.

Over 2,000 people from seven different countries – the UK, the USA, Argentina, Australia, Canada, Germany and Spain – took part in the poll. With the exception of the USA, citizens in most countries were on the opinion that religion has negative effects on society. In the UK 50% of the interviewees thought that religion is harmful, whilst only 13% thought the same about science.  

Those who are not religious feel stronger about the so-called “adverse effect” of religion – making 68% of the UK population. In the USA perspectives vary, with 40% seeing positive outcomes and 42% seeing negative ramifications of religion to society.

The study also focused on people’s opinions on hypothesises about the genesis of creation. The findings show that even those who identify themselves as religious or spiritual do not always agree with “creationism”.  Only 12 % of the UK’s citizens are in support of this viewpoint. The highest support of “creationism” is among people in the USA, scoring 24%.

The survey found that in all countries studied the majority of participants were aware of the concept of evolutionary science. A high percentage of people agreed with the statement: “evolutionary processes can explain how all organisms, including humans, have developed and continue to develop.” Naturalistic evolution seems to be the most common view in all countries surveyed, apart from the USA, where God-guided evolution was the most frequent perspective. However, this is in contrast with previous studies, which have found creationism to be the most common view in the USA (e.g. Gallup, 2019).

According to Dr Jake Scott, from the Institute for the Impact of Faith in Life, the results indicate a decline of religious culture in Western societies: “It’s a good representation, I think, of the Western world where faith has declined in its public standing. But it doesn’t ask questions, or it hasn’t surveyed, for example, Israel, or Iran, or places where, you know, there is an established state religion. It doesn’t even ask these questions in places like Poland, where there is quite an obvious connection between faith and public life. So I think it’s an attempt to understand the declining influence of religion in the Western world. But I think it would be perhaps a stretch to assert this beyond that. I think the research raises an interesting question about people’s understanding of faith in public life.”


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