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British youth showing surprising increase in religiosity since pandemic began


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John Burger - published on 12/30/20

End-of-year survey points to use of internet as boosting Gen Z's faith.

There might be something of a spiritual revival taking place in Great Britain, and it might be starting in a way one would least expect.

The coronavirus pandemic that began a year ago has taken a toll on people’s belief systems in the U.K., but some segments of British society are appearing to be surprisingly more religious than expected. 

Members of Generation Z, who are in their late teens and early 20s, are more likely to believe in God than millennials, who are in their late 20s and 30s, according to polling that “suggests the trend for younger people being less religious is changing,” the Times reported. 

The surprising uptick in faith among Generation Z might be due to the fact that it is easy for young people to access information about faith on the internet and find like-minded people online, the newspaper said. “Experts said they faced less ‘stigma’ from their peers for being open about their religious beliefs and may have been driven to think more about them during the pandemic,” the Times explained.

The end-of-year appraisal of British religious life came from a survey by the U.K. polling institute YouGov, which found, however, that the overall proportion of people citing faith in God or some kind of “higher spiritual power” fell from 49% to 44% between January and November. And the proportion of atheists and agnostics increased from 51% to 56%.

The survey “found that those aged over 60 were most religious, with 36% saying that they believed in God,” the Times reported. “This fell to 26% of 40- to 59-year-olds and fell again to 19% of 25- to 39-year-olds.”

The figure increased for the youngest age group, to 23% of 16- to 24-year-olds. This was a rise from 21% in January, when the question was asked of 18- to 24-year-olds.The past three times YouGov has asked the question, in August and January 2020 and August 2019, the youngest age group was the least religious.

“Religion experts said it was hard to tell from a single survey if a new trend was emerging, but Linda Woodhead, a professor of religion and society at Lancaster University said that young people now faced less ‘stigma’ over their religious views,” said the Times. 

“I know from my students that the internet has made it easier to search and find people like you,” Woodhead told the Times. “What we want to see sociologically is whether the internet will make peer-to-peer a more important factor [in being religious] than parental transmission.”

Stephen Bullivant, a professor of the sociology of religion at St. Mary’s University, Twickenham, told the newspaper that the YouGov figures “buck the long-term expectation” that age groups get “progressively less religious” as they get younger and said there was likely to be a larger proportion of 16- to 24-year-olds who were born into “relatively religious” households from “Muslim, immigrant Catholic or black Christian” families.

Basilica of Our Lady of Walsingham

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