This article follows from an exchange in the commenting section of an article where a commenter claimed: “Btw, jails contain criminals of which 99% claim to be religious.” When I challenged him on his clearly exaggerated and generalised (hence false) statement, he responded that Google is my friend. So I followed his advice, spent some time with my friend and discovered some pretty nifty stuff.
Most of the information in this section comes from the British Religion in Numbers (BRIN) website. BRIN is affiliated with the University of Manchester. They used census data for general population stats and government data for the prison stats, with links to the various references. These include the Office for National Statistics, which provides census data.
According to the 2001 census done in England and Wales, 71.7% of the population indicated a Christian affiliation. Those indicating “no religion” made up 14.8% of the population and those who did not indicate any affiliation a further 7.7%. It wouldn’t be too far off the mark to assume that the majority of the latter group is also non-religious. That means up to 22.5% of the England and Wales population was non-religious in 2001.
The 2011 census data looks a little different. Indicated Christians in England and Wales are down to 59.3% while those indicating “No religion” increased to 25.1% and those who did not indicate any religious affiliation decreased slightly to 7.2%. This means that up to 32.3% of the English and Welsh population is potentially non-religious.
Put differently, in table form, it looks like this (and I hope the formatting pulls through):
Apart from the increase of the Muslim population in England and Wales (most likely through immigration, rather than conversion), the trends are very much aligned with the increased secularisation seen in our country, as well as the rest of Europe.
We have seen the demographics in terms of religiosity in the general population, but what does that picture look like for the incarcerated section of the English and Welsh population? The data for this section comes from the Ministry of Justice. In 2008, according to the Local Inmate Data Base, prisoners with no religious affiliation made up 33.31% of the total inmate population, whereas Christians made up 50.29%. Incidentally, for 2001, these numbers were 30.92% and 59.16% respectively. We can clearly see these numbers following the same general trend as the national demographics with the percentage Christian prisoners decreasing and the percentage of non-religious prisoners increasing. Pretty much what one would expect with changing national demographics. Nothing funny about that at all. To further illustrate the point, the percentage Muslim prisoners increased from 7.47% in 2001 to 11.77% in 2008, also very much in line with demographics.
As mentioned earlier, all the information in this article is referenced by hyperlink and come from official sources.* There are some people frequenting this forum that won’t like the numbers presented and based on that they will call me a liar or even worse, a Christian. If you have a problem with my analysis, you are welcome to go to the source material yourself. Everything is referenced. If I erred in my analysis, please show me where and I will gladly rectify. Chances of that are slim though, because group number divided by total number is not particularly difficult, especially in Excel.
If you don’t consider the sources adequate, then you need to provide sources that are more authoritative than official government figures.
Anyhow, it is clear as daylight to anyone who is literate that there is a more or less demographically representative part of the English and Welsh prison population that are not religious. Significantly more than the claimed 1% anyway. This means for the UK at least, the statement that 99% of inmates are religious is false. As soon as I get numbers for other countries, which will most likely be the USA, I will put that in article form as well.
How about religiosity among esteemed scientists in the UK?
In some of the historic articles on MyNews24, prison religiosity statistics are usually closely followed by the religiosity stats of scientists, almost as if scientist is the antonym of prisoner. I have seen a comment being made that 97% of Fellows of the Royal Society are atheist. Given the exaggerated nature of numerous such past claims and also simply because of who said it, I decided to see if it could be confirmed. A recent study published in 2013 in the peer reviewed journal Evolution: Education and Outreach entitled Eminent scientists reject the supernatural: a survey of the Fellows of the Royal Society gives us the numbers associated with the study in question.
I quote from the article: “Professed current religious affiliation reflected a large shift towards non-belief led by agnostics/atheists/none (198: 79.5%), Anglican (24: 9.7%), other Christian (11: 4.4%), Jewish (5: 2.0%), and Roman Catholic (4: 1.6%), with some missing data (6: 2.4%).” In case it is unclear, the first number in the brackets is the number of responses in that category and the next is the percentage of the total sample corresponding to the number of responses.
For the study, 1174 Fellows were invited to participate in a survey of attitudes toward religion and 248 Fellows replied. The question of whether that is statistically representative, I will leave to statisticians. It did pass peer review, so it should suffice.
Therefore 79.5% of the Fellows of the Royal Society classify themselves as atheist/agnostic/none. This is quite a bit less than the 97% atheists one often sees quoted, but still disproportionately large when compared to the 34.21% of the population who do not consider themselves religious. Whether this proves that atheists/agnostics/nones tend to gravitate towards the sciences or whether scientific studies make atheists/agnostics/nones of people is a topic for another day’s discussions. What is clear though is that the upper echelons of the scientific community tend to be a significantly more godless group than the general population.
Once again, if I made a mistake in my writing, please show me where, as well as what the correct figures should be and I will gladly correct. Properly referenced of course. Merely saying I am wrong – like certain people are wont to do – is insufficient. Until that happens, can we in future please communicate the correct figures? No-one needs to lie, exaggerate or disseminate incorrect information in order to ram home a point.* For those who like to claim that I write unreferenced articles: when you click on the blue words in the article you go straight to the specific reference, as with all my previous articles where I referenced something.