What Theos Didn’t Report
Having dismantled Theos’s latest survey, I thought it would be productive to offer an alternative executive summary, a sort of executive minority report, pointing out all the interesting things they kept quiet about or played down because they didn’t fit their preferred narrative. I think these are far more revealing than the things they wanted to focus on, and my commentary, while cheeky and slightly biased, is only intended to be the flipside of Theos’s own spin.
- Less than half (49%) of religious believers, and just 39% of all people, believe in a soul. This shows surprisingly strong support for a materialist view of existence, even among those who would be expected to have a belief in life after death.
- Life after death is only believed by 42% of believers, reinforcing this finding. Overall, just 32% of all respondents believe there’s anything waiting for us after we die.
- Among the religious, only 21% believe in a personal God, a figure which drops to 13% overall. That such a basic religious belief is held by so few casts doubt on the long-term future of religion as a force in society.
- Even using the broadest, most undefined terms, only 64% of religious people believe spiritual forces can have any effect on anything.
- While prayer is a common practice, only 27% of believers (17% overall) believe it can actually achieve anything. The far more common view of prayer is akin to meditation and mindfulness, making you feel better but not changing anything other than your own state of mind.
- Practical belief in the ability to heal is even lower than this. Despite some positive responses in theory, just 15% of religious people have visited someone with a specialism or a gift for healing. Overall, the figure is just 11%.
- Believers are reluctant to claim that a higher power of any sort intervenes in nature, with only 26% attributing miracles to divine intervention, a figure which drops further to 17% across the whole population. Instead, 48% of religious people (42% overall) take the pragmatic materialist view of miracles as events we can’t currently explain.
I find these figures to be a lot more interesting and revealing than those which have been dutifully parroted in the media today. A significant number of people have some sort of spiritual belief, but the true extent of religious belief is much less than might be expected, and certainly less than Theos would like to admit.