Letters from the Vicar

Letter from the Vicar – June 2023


A recent survey has found that belief in God among UK adults has fallen by more than one quarter since the 1980s. And yet belief in life a?er death has remained almost unchanged in those four decades. The research was conducted by King’s College, London, as part of its World Values Survey exploring social, poli?cal, economic, religious, and cultural values in 90 countries.

In the UK, the views of a random sample of just over 3000 adults from across the UK were taken in 2020,and his data was measured against 24 other countries and compared with results from 1981. The findings were published last month in a report-‘Lost faith; the UK’s changing a?tudes towards religion.’ In 1981, three-quarters of the surveyed UK adults said that they believed in God, compared with just under half (49 per cent) in 2022. Just five countries had a lower percentage of belief in God: China (17 per cent), Sweden (35 per cent), Japan (39 per cent), South Korea (41 per cent), and Norway (46 per cent). Belief in heaven among the UK adults fell over the same period, but less drama?cally, from 57 per cent to 41 per cent. The propor?on of people believing in life a?er death has remained at about 45 per cent, actually rising to 47 per cent in the past few years. Significantly though, our cultural a?achment to organised religion has con?nued to decline in the UK , even though belief in an a?er- life is holding up strong.

Reading a precis of the report, I found myself wan?ng to ask- ‘what sort of God do people not believe in, if many s?ll hope for an a?erlife? Can ‘belief’ precede faith? A?er all , we trust many things in life, before we discover that they are true, and can reasonably be relied upon. Is our general mistrust in ins?tu?ons like the Church confused with our ‘unbelief’ in God? And, if our growth as human beings is a journey, how can we reach our des?na?on without the journeying?

Notwithstanding the situa?on in the UK, two reassuring conclusions were drawn by the report: firstly that, while the prac?ce of organised religion in this country may be in decline, adherents, though fewer in number, are generally more dedicated in prac?ce. And secondly, this interna?onal survey showed that, while religion in the West and in some countries with dictatorships was in decline, this was by no means a global phenomenon and indeed it was growing in many countries around the world.


Revd Anthony Dickson