Secularising selfhood: what can polling data on the personal saliency of religion tell us about the scale and chronology of secularisation in modern Britain?

Publication type

Journal Article

Published in

Journal of Beliefs and Values


Clive D. Field

Publication date


Sample surveys on the personal saliency of religion provide an
additional lens on the scale and chronology of secularisation in Britain
from the 1960s to the present. Six self-rating measures have been
derived from both non-recurrent and serial surveys: religiosity (binary
questions), religiosity (non-binary questions), spirituality versus
religiosity, importance of religion, importance of God, and difference
made by religion. The methodological advantages and disadvantages of
such sources are explored. Descriptive and tabulated results suggest the
very religious have never numbered more than 10% and the tipping-point
for the majority of Britons self-identifying as non-religious came in
the 1990s, with religious decline quickening after the Millennium.
Saliency of religion indicators present one of the bleaker pictures of
the extent of secularisation, worse than affiliation or belief in God
data, with self-assessed non-religiosity in Britain higher than in most
other Western European countries.

Volume and page numbers

36, 308-330





Psychology, Religion, Social Change, Societies and Surveys