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Secularising selfhood: what can polling data on the personal saliency of religion tell us about the scale and chronology of secularisation in modern Britain?

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Sample surveys on the personal saliency of religion provide an additional lens on the scale and chronology of secularisation in Britain from the 1960s to the present. Six self-rating measures have been derived from both non-recurrent and serial surveys: religiosity (binary questions), religiosity (non-binary questions), spirituality versus religiosity, importance of religion, importance of God, and difference made by religion. The methodological advantages and disadvantages of such sources are explored. Descriptive and tabulated results suggest the very religious have never numbered more than 10% and the tipping-point for the majority of Britons self-identifying as non-religious came in the 1990s, with religious decline quickening after the Millennium. Saliency of religion indicators present one of the bleaker pictures of the extent of secularisation, worse than affiliation or belief in God data, with self-assessed non-religiosity in Britain higher than in most other Western European countries.
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Keywords: Great Britain; religiosity; saliency of religion; sample surveys; secularisation; spirituality

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: School of History and Cultures, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK

Publication date: September 2, 2015

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