Dawkins Foundation Survey – analysis

In my last post I talked about the rise in toxic secularism, and how I feel it will it only create greater religious division within British society.

This secular crusade is being championed by Richard Dawkins, and The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. They’ve issued several press releases in the last week or so, and Dawkins has himself given a number of interviews – all in order to disseminate the findings of their survey  Religious and Social Attitudes of UK Christians in 2011“. 

All of which is fair enough – except that I don’t think they’re giving a particularly balanced version of its findings.

Take this:

One of the headline announcements of the Dawkins Foundation has been that only 28% of Christians chose “I believe in the teachings of Christianity” as a reason for putting ‘Christian’ on the census – but using this to infer “and those who picked the other answers don’t believe in the teachings of Christianity” is just not supported by the data.

What we really want to know is how many people are actively ‘being Christian’ – and there are answers on the survey that tell us that. People who think that being Christened matters. People who currently attend Church  as well as those who state a belief in the teachings of a Christian faith.

It’s also worth dividing the rest into people who are ‘lapsed Christians’  – people who think of themselves as Christian, and might even follow a largely Christian lifestyle but don’t really do any Christian ‘stuff’ – and those who are ‘Christians by association’ – those whose children and partners are Christians.


We’re still dividing the ‘census Christians’ into distinct groups – but what we aren’t doing is saying “Ahhh – only 28% of you picked the real Christian’s answer – the rest of you aren’t proper Christians after all!”

The Dawkins Foundation are also stating that few Christians attend Church – and while it is true that “Apart from special occasions such as weddings, funerals and baptisms, half (49%) had not attended a church service in the previous 12 months” – that also means that 51% had and if you notice on the graph it also means that nearly 25% of British People had as well.

I also dislike the insistence on ‘apart from special occasions’ – regular worship is, I’m sure, an important part of Christianity – but so is celebrating special occasions in a manner appropriate to their faith, and this is utterly discounted by the survey. We could also note from the earlier chart than only 4% of Christians define themselves as such by churchgoing.

There’s a similar issue caused with the question on  Bible study, where Bible study as part of a church or prayer meeting is discounted – but what counts as a prayer meeting? A meeting of Christians who read the Bible together?

It’s just bad statistics.

Ultimately though, my biggest problem with the way the Dawkins Foundation is releasing the data from their survey is in this statement:

UK residents who think of themselves as Christian show very low levels of Christian belief and practice

It’s the first line of their February 14th press release, and it completely misrepresents the data they actually received – which  could be better described like this:

I’m not accusing Richard Dawkins (or his Foundation) of outright lying. I am accusing them of collecting and releasing their data with an agenda.

That’s not surprising really – most people (and especially organisations) have an agenda. What is surprising is that an atheist organisation appears to have the agenda of proving that people who say they are Christian aren’t ‘proper’ Christians. That they have taken it upon themselves to define Christianity – and that they’ve chosen some pretty narrow definitions (more narrow than the Catholic Church, in a couple of cases…)

Considering that the Dawkins Foundation claims it wishes to “overcome religious fundamentalism, superstition, intolerance and suffering”, it might want to start looking a bit closer to home – because they seem to be perfectly happy spearheading a campaign of religious intolerance…

I’m not a Christian – but nor am I capable of standing back and allowing someone to be openly intolerant of another’s beliefs without speaking out.

Especially when we’re talking about British belief, which is generally pretty innocuous – at least at present; if Dawkins’ crusade carries on, I fear we’ll find British religious zealotry increasing in opposition.

5 thoughts on “Dawkins Foundation Survey – analysis

  • 19th February 2012 at 20:25

    Did you hear Giles Fraser giving RD what for on Radio 4. There’s some comment and a link from this Huff Post article. Much entertainment for us evangelicals 🙂

    • 19th February 2012 at 20:34

      The most amusing bit of that is Dawkins saying ‘oh god’ when he can’t remember….

  • 2nd March 2012 at 13:29

    So, on the graph of how often people who consider themselves christian actually attend church, not including “special occasions”, there is a bar for “Christmas/Easter only”. What is Christmas to christians if not a special occasion? Or did they perhaps only include that on the graph because the bar is smaller than the others, thus making their point more credible to those who don’t actually pay attention.

    • 2nd March 2012 at 13:50

      There’s definitely a lot of deliberate obfuscation going on with the structure of the survey and the data being released – exactly the sort of thing which makes it obvious this information has been released to further a deliberate agenda, not as a genuine study of religious attitudes in Britain (which might actually be interesting)

      It’s disappointing.


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