Sunday, September 09, 2007

Mr Dale's religious survey

Cranmer is intrigued by the results of a ‘religious survey’ conducted by Mr Iain Dale, inquiring into the religious views of the readers of his blog. He states that it was not scientific, but that 500 people participated, which is indeed a sizeable proportion of those who actively participate in the blogosphere. Mr Dale’s statistics are useful insofar as his readership tends to consist of politicos with a broad spectrum of philosophy and allegiance.

There are some interesting observations to be gleaned both from the questions framed by Mr Dale and the responses they elicited. Each of his summaries is italicised, followed by Cranmer’s reflections:

45% of you believe in God, 36% of you are atheists and 19%, like me, are agnostic

The 45% who profess belief in a deity is massively beneath the national average. In the 2001 census, just over 70% professed the Christian faith. Around half of the non-white population were Asians of Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi origin. A further quarter were black, and fifteen per cent of the non-white population were from the mixed ethnic group. About a third of this group were from white and black Caribbean backgrounds. If one includes this proportion, among whom there is generally a higher level of faith adherence, one is looking at almost 80% of the entire population of the UK who believe in God.

That only 45% of Mr Dale’s readership believe in God would appear to indicate that the majority of political aficionados tend to reject the ultimate source of their authority, the one from whom the Law proceeds, and the one who defines moral standards of behaviour. The figure for agnosticism is on a par with the census figure (16%), but significantly this statistic includes professing atheists or those who profess no religion. That 36% identify themselves distinctly as atheists is a colossal (and concerning) proportion.

Of those that 'believe' 66% are Anglican, 24% Catholic, 2% Jewish, 1% Muslim, 1% Buddhist, 1% Sikh, 6% Other

In common with most religious surveys, Mr Dale avoids the word ‘Protestant’; indeed, it would appear that there was no such box to tick. This may have been a little theological and historical ignorance, but time and again Cranmer notes that the term has fallen into disuse and become an object of derision. The BBC used to frequently juxtapose the term ‘Protestant’ with ‘terrorist’, yet one never heard the phrase ‘Catholic terrorist’. Cranmer covered some time ago the views of Tony Blair on Protestants, which he juxtaposed with ‘bigotry’ (again, the term ‘Catholic bigot’ appears to be considered oxymoronic). In 1998, The Catholic Herald stated: Protestantism, once the foundation of our ‘glorious constitution in Church and State’, is now something preached in small, back-street chapels and among the fanatic fringes of Northern Ireland's criminal classes. It has become the battle cry of murderers.

Yet while Roman Catholics in the UK constitute 11% of the population, they account for 24% of Mr Dale’s readership. This might indicate that Roman Catholics tend to be more politically savvy, and yet Muslims tend to be even more so. Their 1% ranking (as against constituting almost 3% of the population of the UK), indicates that Mr Dale’s blog is probably ‘hideously white’, and that his attempts to ‘reach out to ethnic minorities’ are having about as much effect as the Tony Lit campaign had in Southall.

53% pray, 7% more than once a day, 13% once a day, 15% a few times a week and 18% less frequently

If only 45% believe in God, it would appear that almost half of Mr Dale’s agnostics are inclined to pray. Theirs is undoubtedly a U-boat faith – one that surfaces in times of trouble.

77% believe that politics and religion are best kept separate

This is a convenient mantra, and chimes with the secularism of the age, but it ignores completely that the two are irrevocably fused. Religious adherence demands political involvement: in a democracy, one has a duty to vote for ‘the lesser evil’, and encourage policy formulation consistent with one’s worldview. For Protestants, Roman Catholics, Jews, Muslims and Sikhs, political action stems from faith. It is fatuous to pretend otherwise, and repressive to enforce the false division.

78% believe the Prime Minister should give up his right to choose bishops

The surrendering of Prime Ministerial power under the royal prerogative to choose diocesan bishops is historic. But there is a more concerning issue which underlies this development, and that is quite simply that the existing hierarchy of the Church of England has already demonstrated its inability to choose its leaders. A further concentration of powers will lead simply to a self-perpetuating cabal. The reason there are so few Evangelical Protestants in the Church of England hierarchy is that very few are deemed to be theologically, spiritually, or pastorally in tune with the ‘mainstream’ of Liberal-Catholicism. It is therefore the Liberal-Catholic wing which will dominate all future appointments, and it will ensure that it retains that power. It appears that an overwhelming majority of Mr Dale’s readership would (inadvertently) also favour a logical consequence of this proposal, which is that the Prime Minister might take steps to remove the right of bishops to take their seats in the House of Lords. This is antithetical to Conservatism, but wholly consistent with Labour's constitutional vandalism witnessed over the past nine years.

53% believe the Church of England should be disestablished

Again, following Wales and Scotland, the arguments for this may be sound, but Cranmer is concerned at the complete lack of forethought, and the profound ignorance of history and of the constitutional implications. The Constitution of the United Kingdom is a delicate and precariously-blananced settlement. To hack away at the foundations risks the collapse of the whole house and order.

49% believe that religion is a force for good in society

Therefore a (slight) majority believe it to be neutral or a force for evil. Which explains why:

34% believe that most wars have been caused by religious forces

This is a sub-GCSE level of assertion. Wars are not caused by ‘religious forces’, but by the corruption and sin of the human heart. It seems convenient to ignore the millions of deaths that have been caused by the propagation of atheistic creeds.

39% believe in an 'afterlife'

This is surprisingly low, and baffling in the context of 45% believing in God. What do the other 6% believe God does with the human spirit? Snuff it out? To believe in God and to reject the afterlife is illogical, not least because belief in his existence establishes precisely that there is something more, and there is not a major belief system on the planet that advocates the extermination of the spirit by an infinite God. This statistic also does not accord with one of the principal features of postmodernity, which tends to embrace the spiritual dimension of life. The era has logically followed the modern shift away from a theology of redemption to a theology of creation; from a Christocentric theology to a theocentric theology; from a theology of God’s redemptive acts and promises in history, to a theology of the state of things in their natural order as being the final expression of God’s will. The gospel’s focus on the doctrines of sin and repentance are supplanted by the doctrine that what is, is essentially good and right. This changes the proclamation of the Church from a call to transformation according to the image of Christ, to one of God’s affirmation of his creation without any further need for change. All paths therefore lead to the afterlife. That only 39% of Mr Dale’s readership believe this might indicate that ultimately those who are active in politics do not believe they shall give account to their Maker.

What a surprise they shall have.

31 Comments:

Anonymous James Mawdsley said...

"Wars are not caused by ‘religious forces’, but by the corruption and sin of the human heart."

Cranmer speaks gold!

9 September 2007 at 10:27  
Anonymous Voyager said...

You do give Iain Dale's Blog too much credence. It is frankly desultory and permeated with political researchers and advertising types with bored computer programmers idling away their employers' time.

It is too flaccid and much of the commentary puerile, so whether they believe in Astroturf or Baal interests me little. The principle of the Christian Church seemingly lost in the era of "inclusivity" and "membership" is that Christians were not really part of the prevailing cesspit but stood above it reaching to higher things, but assisting those who clambered out of the cesspit to attain those higher things......was it Oscar wilde who quipped..."We are all of us in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars" ?

C S Lewis had a very good little letter on the nature of most humanity was to move from swill bin to watering hole without a thought to the world around or the world beyond...he phrased it more elegantly, but for most people life is just something that happens and then the lights go out.

Christianity was supposed to be above that - with a priesthood set apart - full-time living off the tithe and not encumbered by labouring in the world of corruption and vice, but to rise above it by being purer than their flock and the interlocutor with God -isn't that the main theme in Leviticus - the Book of the Levites ?

That modern Christianity in the West has become commercialised and simply another badge to wear is a common feature of Neo-Pagan infiltration throughout the centuries, which is why the splinters go off and become more ascetic.

Protestantism is the Underground Church which grows fast outside the husks of the Bureaucratic Church of Mediocrity and Establishment Inertia.

Protestantism is the force in Korea and it is only the dying breeds of West Europeans shuffling to the grave over-laden with electronic gizmos and bloated posteriors that think Protestants are invisible...it is West Europeans that are dying out

9 September 2007 at 10:35  
Blogger Manfarang said...

The survey question lumped Protestant and Anglican together.
This of course completely ignores the Free Churches.But what would you expect from a Tory blog.

9 September 2007 at 10:54  
Anonymous nedsherry said...

...reject the ultimate source of their authority, the one from whom the Law proceeds, and the one who defines moral standards of behaviour.

God, as theists never seem to understand, does not define moral standards. Unless they are arbitrary and He can define them as He chooses, which very few theologians have ever believed, they are logically independent of Him. God may well be the ultimate source of punishment and reward, but that is another matter.

9 September 2007 at 12:14  
Blogger Snuffleupagus said...

You are too funny Your Grace. But you confuse me. You say you are agnostic, which brings a smile to my face. But then you end your post talking about surprise. What agnostic believes they will have to give account to their Maker when they die?

9 September 2007 at 12:16  
Blogger Cranmer said...

Ms Snuffleupagus,

You are too funny.

Wherever have you gleaned that His Grace professes to be agnostic?

9 September 2007 at 12:30  
Anonymous CCTV said...

they are logically independent of Him

Q.E.D. ?

9 September 2007 at 13:11  
Anonymous Ken Stevens said...

Your Grace,
If God necessarily works through Man, can one not presume that the C of E hierarchy is better placed to choose its leaders than a Prime Minister appointed by an entirely non-theological process and who may or may not be C of E or indeed of any religion? Should you feel that the hierarchy are jokers, perhaps this merely demonstrates that He has a sense of humour.

I realise that our State religion is a [word I can't remember that sounds like rastafarian but isn't] one. However, I have not been able to get my head round the concept of bestowing powers of theological grace & favour on a non-adherent by virtue of the lay office occupied.

I approach this topic on an entirely abstract logical basis, without implying defence of the particular C of E personalities.

Given that I have not even given thought to the question of God's existence to the extent that I could even categorise myself so specifically as atheist or agnostic, I am not best placed to meddle in matters theological. Nevertheless, as a C of E "fellow traveller" (i.e. a nominal hatch, match & dispatch Christian), and given the role of an Established Church in the governance of my nation, I feel able to dabble in this aspect.

Yours humbly ( or however one is supposed to grovel to an Internet Eminence!)

9 September 2007 at 16:51  
Anonymous Voyager said...

I think Ken Stevens you want the word Erastian as in Erastian Church.....do you ?

9 September 2007 at 16:53  
Anonymous Ken Stevens said...

Voyager
... that's the word!!!!
Ta

(I couldn't remember enough of it even to Google or pray for inspiration!)

9 September 2007 at 16:56  
Blogger Ttony said...

"Yet while Roman Catholics in the UK constitute 11% of the population, they account for 24% of Mr Dale’s readership. This might indicate that Roman Catholics tend to be more politically savvy (...)"

It's more likely that the Catholics who are denizens of the blogosphere are simply more conservative. Most Catholic bloggers lean fairly strongly to the traditionalist view of their faith: this may be indicative of a more Conservative political point of view.

9 September 2007 at 17:39  
Blogger Snuffleupagus said...

Sorry Your Grace - I wasn't paying attention. You were quoting Iain Dale. It all makes sense now. But you remain funny all the same.

9 September 2007 at 18:52  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am embarrassed to say that, like Snuffleupagus, I read the following section and thought that “me” was Archbishop Cranmer.
45% of you believe in God, 36% of you are atheists and 19%, like me, are agnostic
I was perplexed and it coloured the rest of my reading. Could you put (Iain Dale speaking) after the “me”, because the misunderstanding is so very wrong

9 September 2007 at 18:59  
Anonymous Dr Mabuse said...

Could you put (Iain Dale speaking) after the “me”, because the misunderstanding is so very wrong

I don't think that will help at all....simply learning to read words on a page and understanding what they mean would help you so much more.....don't you think you should make the extra effort ?

9 September 2007 at 20:32  
Anonymous nedsherry said...

they are logically independent of Him

Q.E.D. ?


If you're asking for proof, it was supplied in what you cut:

God, as theists never seem to understand, does not define moral standards. Unless they are arbitrary and He can define them as He chooses, which very few theologians have ever believed, they are logically independent of Him.

Can God define moral standards as He pleases? If He cannot, they are logically independent of Him.
If He can, He could make murder and rape moral, forebearance and chastity immoral. Which I presume few theists would accept.

9 September 2007 at 23:05  
Blogger GM said...

A most excellent commentary, not that you require my validation - or anyone else's for that matter.

Just a couple of observations. I agree with you that politics and religion are irrevocably entwined, although that still leaves us with a need to respond to Paul's injunction in Romans 13, and indeed Jesus' own comments, indicating the seprateness of His kingdom work and the secular politics of the current creation.

Second, you speak of a low number of Evangelicals in the Church of England. Those who are seeking to hold the line are hardly helped by intemperate attacks like this one (www.guardian.co.uk/religion/Story/0,,2090016,00.html) from fellow ministers such as the vicar of Putney.

Anyway, more power to your elbow and whatever ghostly contraptions you use to produce this feast of a blog.

9 September 2007 at 23:21  
Anonymous Cleast Intwood said...

Your Grace,

I am one of the illogical 6% who answered that they believe in God but do not believe in an afterlife. At the moment I think that is the only honest answer I can give. As someone who has only quite recently acquired religious faith of any sort, I am not convinced by the idea of Heaven, and that is what I felt was being asked by Mr Dale's question. That is not to say that I believe that God has no purpose for us; I suppose at the moment I am closest in belief to the old Stoic philosophy that we are part of the divine cosmos. That may ultimately be an untenable position, but I am still exploring the issues of Christian theology.

Thank you for producing this blog, it is one of the more stimulating sources as I continue my quest for the truth.

10 September 2007 at 01:32  
Anonymous James Mawdsley said...

nedsherry said: "If [God] can, He could make murder and rape moral, forebearance and chastity immoral."

Pope Benedict addressed this confusion in his excellent address at Regensburg on 12 Sep 2006.

If God is pure "will", as Muslims seem to believe, then yes God can do evil and man must surrender.

But God is "logos", Reason. The morality which flows from His nature is intelligible to us, and because He is goodness, so is that morality.

Morality is not logically independant of God any more than logic is independant of God. Both stem unalterably from His Divine nature.

10 September 2007 at 07:36  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you've made a mistake in your anaysis of Catholic numbers: It's 24% of the 45% who belive in God i.e. 10.8%.

So just to clarify
36% are Atheists
29.7% are Anglican
16% are Agnostic
10.8% Catholic
1% Jewish,
>1% Muslim,
>1% Buddhist,
>1% Sikh
2.7% Other

There was no way of stating if you were an Atheist and Agnostic (my own position).

Regards,

Ioan

10 September 2007 at 10:48  
Blogger Greg said...

Cleast Intwood said...

As someone who has only quite recently acquired religious faith of any sort, I am not convinced by the idea of Heaven, and that is what I felt was being asked by Mr Dale's question.

That's where I started - it's a great and wonderful journey of discovery. I wish you well. As Paul says "Test everything"

10 September 2007 at 10:50  
Anonymous nedsherry said...

James Mawdsley said...

nedsherry said: "If [God] can, He could make murder and rape moral, forebearance and chastity immoral."

Pope Benedict addressed this confusion in his excellent address at Regensburg on 12 Sep 2006.

If God is pure "will", as Muslims seem to believe, then yes God can do evil and man must surrender.

But God is "logos", Reason. The morality which flows from His nature is intelligible to us, and because He is goodness, so is that morality.

Morality is not logically independant of God any more than logic is independant of God. Both stem unalterably from His Divine nature.


Thanks for backing my point. 'Both stem unalterably...' This means that God cannot alter them either because... wait for it... wait for it... they are logically independent of him. 2+2=4 whether or not God exists. Murder is wrong whether or not God exists.

10 September 2007 at 11:25  
Anonymous Voyager said...

2+2=4 whether or not God exists.

Not true.... 2 + 2 = $ because MAN says so. It is an analytic statement.

Man created the concept "2" and made the number two positions forward from "2" to be "4".

There is no truth in 2 + " = 4 and I wonder why you picked such a tautology...it is a closed system.

I could equally well make 2+2 equal N or Orange or Tree....it is entirely a matter of convention.

You are entering the Kantian World....you have a facile "belief" =in objective knowledge - and frankly 2 + 2 =4 is not proof of anything....indeed when contemplating Infinity it suggests small-mindedness

10 September 2007 at 13:29  
Anonymous Tanfield said...

Your Grace,
Wasn't it Disraeli who said that "there are lies, d--------d lies and statistics!" ?

10 September 2007 at 14:40  
Anonymous nedsherry said...

Not true.... 2 + 2 = 4 because MAN says so. It is an analytic statement.

You're confusing symbols with ontology.

There is no truth in 2 + " = 4 and I wonder why you picked such a tautology...it is a closed system.

Mathematics is indeed tautologous and a closed system. It's tautologous because its results are governed by fixed rules and "closed" because nothing can alter those rules or results.

I could equally well make 2+2 equal N or Orange or Tree....it is entirely a matter of convention.

The symbols are a matter of convention; the underlying ontology is not. If 2+2=Orange, what 'Orange' refers to must be ontologically equivalent to what '4' refers to.

You are entering the Kantian World....you have a facile "belief" =in objective knowledge - and frankly 2 + 2 =4 is not proof of anything....indeed when contemplating Infinity it suggests small-mindedness

I'm not talking about knowledge, I'm talking about necessity. Our knowledge of mathematics may err or be incomplete; 'mathematics' itself cannot and isn't.

10 September 2007 at 17:57  
Anonymous Alexandrian said...

The way that Mr Dale lumps together Hindus, Baptists and Jedi Knights as "others" leads me to feel that he doesn't take quite enough advice on matters religious from your Grace.

10 September 2007 at 18:59  
Anonymous Voyager said...

You're confusing symbols with ontology.

Not me...you.

God is Infinity - nothing encloses or envelops - everything exists within

Simple truisms like 2 + 2 = 4 are trite

10 September 2007 at 21:44  
Anonymous nedsherry said...

You're confusing symbols with ontology.

Not me...you.

God is Infinity - nothing encloses or envelops - everything exists within

Simple truisms like 2 + 2 = 4 are trite


Would e^(i * pi) = -1 be better? You support my case by terms like 'truism' and 'trite'. Number governs all, from the most basic to the most complex, and surely you know the importance Plato places on mathematics. αει ο Θεος γεομετρει ; My point is that God is subject to necessity and that logic, like morality, is logically independent of him.

11 September 2007 at 15:31  
Anonymous Voyager said...

My point is that God is subject to necessity and that logic, like morality, is logically independent of him.

That is based upon a simple predicate that you believe God is a subset of your mental grasp....in short that Infinity is a subset of your cognition.

You can raise e to whatever power you wish and set it at any virtual number that satisfies your desires, but it is simply a result of your learning that it is so.

12 September 2007 at 08:47  
Anonymous Voyager said...

Number governs all, from the most basic to the most complex

Essentially mechanistic...but fine if you have no knowledge of literature, art, or any other sensory capacities....

12 September 2007 at 08:53  
Anonymous nedsherry said...

Number governs all, from the most basic to the most complex

Essentially mechanistic...


Essentially a vacuous response. Did you recognize the quote?

but fine if you have no knowledge of literature, art, or any other sensory capacities....

Okay, you say you're not Jewish, but is your mother tongue English?
'Sensory capacities' would tend to suggest not. You're obviously ignorant about maths, so I might as well be talking about music to the deaf.

12 September 2007 at 17:35  
Anonymous nedsherry said...

P.S. For γεομετρει read γεωμετρει.

12 September 2007 at 17:38  

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