United Kingdom: Research published today shows that a significant proportion of churchgoers are not believers. Further, an excuse widely used by churches to justify their interference in the lives of non-members—that many people believe without attending church—has also been shown to be a load of old bollocks.
David Voas of the University of Manchester and colleagues report that the number of people who have a real faith is now smaller than the number of people who passivelybelongto a religion. That undermines a cherished tenet of churches in Britain: that many people implicitlybelieveeven if they don't explicitly belong.
And there’s worse news for anyone hoping to impose their beliefs on their children:
The study, based on a 14 years of data from 10,500 households, found that parents played a powerful role in the transmission of religious belief. But even if both parents held strong beliefs, there was only a 50-50 chance that their children would carry on believing.
In houses where only one parent had strong feelings about faith, children were much less likely to believe. On the other hand, two non-religious parents had no trouble passing on their lack of faith. In effect, attendance fell away steadily with each generation.
Although believers tend to have more children, this rate of failure means they’d need to have at least five children per couple to see even a modest increase in belief. It won’t necessarily be the same beliefs though.
Whatever the parents' beliefs, one child in 12 will join a denomination not supported by either parent.
Study refutes faith in silent majority—The Guardian, 16th August 2005.