UK military mainly Christian, but non-believer numbers growing

Religious affiliation among the United Kingdom’s military personnel is markedly higher than in wider society.

According to figures released to The Telegraph under the UK’s Freedom of Information Act, almost 83 per cent of military personnel identified as Christian in 2012.

This figure came from almost 180,000 members of the forces who gave data to an internal system used to record information like next of kin details.

The Church of England was by far the highest affiliation given.

In a 2011 census, only 59 per cent of the UK population identified as Christian, and only 46 per cent did so in the British Social Attitudes Survey the following year.

The latter survey had Christian affiliation in British society on a par with those who said they had no religion.

But in 2013, the number of UK military personnel identifying as Christian had dropped by 10 per cent in 18 months.

At the same time, the number describing themselves as “secular “ or “no religion” rose by almost nine per cent.

Part of the reason for the changes is cuts in numbers of military personnel.

But the National Secular Society calculated that the proportion of UK secular or non-religious servicemen and women would match that of Christians by 2032.

Society president Terry Sanderson said: “The rates of decline in Christian and increase in non-religious affiliation are so significant they can no longer be ignored.”

“I call for an urgent and unvarnished re-examination of the appropriateness of the pervasive religious ethos in the armed forces.”

Mr Sanderson called for consideration of how the needs of non-religious military personnel can be better catered for.

Across all the British defence forces, there are only 650 Muslims and 80 Jews.

There are only 130 Sikhs in the British Army, compared with 100,000 at the end of the Second World War.

Meanwhile, in the United States, a secular group has protested the US Navy’s recent decision to reject a humanist chaplain, Jason Heap.

No branches of the US military currently have explicitly non-theistic chaplains.


Additional reading

News category: World.

Tags: , , ,