21 December 2006

In the 2001 census more than sixteen percent of the population of Cornwall said that they had no religion. Some of those would be children whose parents decided for them, just as the religious believers included children whose parents decided for them. Anyway, that’s about 83 000 people in Cornwall who have no religion.

The religion question in the census was asked in a way that encouraged people to give themselves a religion and did not distinguish between a religion in which one was brought up and what one believed now: What is your religion? It would have been more neutral to ask, Have you got a religion now and if so what is it? That would have produced a more informative answer. The religion question was also juxtaposed in the census with questions about ethnicity and that juxtaposition was likely to increase the numbers ticking a Christian religion box.

The British Humanist Association (BHA) published in November this year the results of an IPSOS Mori poll. One can read it here.

This poll shows that thirty six percent subscribe to three distinct humanist beliefs as opposed to the religious counter-beliefs.

These humanist beliefs are: science rather than religion can best enable us to understand the universe; morality is grounded in human nature alone rather than religion; decisions about right and wrong should be made on what the effects and consequences are for people and society rather than on religious teachings.

Extrapolated to Cornwall, thirty six percent suggests that about 150 000 adults in Cornwall are humanists – or at any rate have a humanist outlook.

PS The Guardian daily newspaper published a poll on 23 December 2006 which showed that sixty three percent of Britons say they are not religious: that works out at about 260 000 adults in Cornwall. However, since more than half the people who called themselves Christian say they are not religious, I’m not sure what the words “religious” and “not religious” mean here.