Religion and spirituality
In winter 2006 we asked you some of the vastest and potentially overwhelming questions we as humans ever consider. Do we believe in God? How do we define spirituality? And does religion have a positive impact on the world? It's over to you.
- Approximately 180 people participated in the survey;
- Just over half of the respondents were female;
- 20-21 year-olds were the best represented age group;
- 4% of respondents were under 16 and 21% were over 25
Your beliefs are core to religion and spirituality, but how many of you and your friends talk about them openly? Often the word 'personal' is central to how people feel about their beliefs, so it's interesting to reveal the split between people who do and don't have them based on this survey. Overall 45% of you told us you have some kind of religious belief while 50% don't.
- I believe in a God: 34%
- I'm agnostic: 26%
- I'm an atheist: 24%
- I believe in some other being: 7%
- I believe in more than one God: 3%
Some of you felt too confined within these options and offered alternatives:
"I'm theoretically pagan."
"I believe more in Pantheism, that 'God' is everything physical and spiritual. The table is as much a part of 'God' as the clouds and human emotion."
"Know and believe don't mean the same to me."
"I believe in fate a yin-yang kind of Karma thing- but not a 'being' or 'God' as such, just a natural harmony of the world."
"It's beyond definition and discussion."
We were also interested to know if you hold more specific religious beliefs. Your responses were in line with the proportion of you who said you believe in a God or other kind of being. 43% said you believe in life after death and 45% said you believe in sin. 30% were unsure about life after death, while only 16% were unsure about whether sin exists.
The definition of spirituality is extremely subjective and is reflected in your diverse understandings of its meaning. Here are some of your interpretations:
"A desire to seek truth as it pertains to a being greater than yourself. A desire to better yourself and your communities."
"Being comfortable with your surroundings and at peace with the way the universe works."
"Being connected to something other than yourself, whether that be a god/goddess/other spiritual figure/the earth."
"Spirituality is the synchronicity of heart and soul and the deeper understanding of life's journey."
Two in 10 of you have kept the religious beliefs you were brought up with, while the rest of you have made your own way in the spiritual world. But what religions have you embraced?
- None: 34%
- Church of England: 20%
- Other Protestant Christian: 11%
- Other Christian: 11%
- Roman Catholicism: 10%
- Islam: 4%
- Hinduism: 2%
- Buddhism: 1%
This excludes the proportion of you who said you were atheist (24%)
The vast majority of you would not convert to a religion for your partner (62%) while one in ten (11%) would. Those of you who said you wouldn't convert are divided into three camps. The largest proportion (38%) said you would never want to be a member of a religion. 19% said your own religion was too important and 5% said you could never be with someone of a different faith. Of the 11% who said you would convert for your partner, 8% said it would be in name only and you wouldn't actually change your beliefs.
Religion in society
Very few of you (4%) thought religious leaders should have an influence over all areas of government policy. Four in ten (43%) thought they should have some influence, but only over issues relating to religion. 36% Thought religious leaders should have no influence over government policy at all.
The majority of you (46%) aren't opposed to faith schools as long as pupils aren't excluded on the basis of their faith. But nearly a third (28%) don't agree with them. 7% of you believe that only Christian schools should be allowed in the UK as it is a Christian country.
Perceptions of religion
Religions that you are wary of include Christianity, Islam and Scientology. 22% of you said conflict and violence were the reason for your suspicion, 14% were concerned about oppression, 12% thought that specific people were to blame rather than the religion itself and 6% were worried about the poor treatment of women.
Does religion make the world a better place?
22% of you believe that it does. Here are some of your thoughts:
"It reminds people of values and boundaries."
"Most religions strive for peace."
"It offers a support network."
"It brings unity as whole."
On the other hand 47% of you believe that religion generally makes the world a worse place to be. Below are some of your suggested reasons why:
"It's a form of segregation."
"A lot of wars, arguments and terrorism occur with religion as the excuse. Without religion these would happen less or people would be more honest about why they were fighting."
"Religion creates natural conflict and disharmony among people."
"People do silly things for their religion."