Commenting on the latest BBC ComRes survey and an EHRC Ipsos-Mori survey, the think-tank Ekklesia says that complex picture emerging about different attitudes to religion and society shows a population in transition from an established settlement where Christianity dominated public life ("Christendom") to a mixed belief society where convictions are more contested - as recent public rows show.
Ekklesia's Simon Barrow commented: "A dispassionate look at accumulated research over the past few years would indicate that institutional religion is on the decline, that strong belief commitment has devolved into less established forms, that the "spiritual but not religious" constituency has grown, that a majority are vague and uncommitted in their beliefs, and that a secular mindset has grown without a significant increase in affiliation to explicitly non-religious groups."
He added: "People want faith and belief to be beneficent. They dislike extremism and domineering forms of religion, but neither do they want to see religion simply excluded from public life. Perhaps the positive message to Christians and others is that they need to show the value of what they have to offer through practical example, not through trying to grab power and influence for themselves."
Ekklesia has argued that the demise of a top-down "Christendom" order should not be seen negatively by the churches, but as an opportunity to rediscover a more authentic, liberating Christian message and practice - one that Barrow says "has often been obscured or defaced by the collusion of official religion and governing authority."
For more background on the changes taking place, see: Jonathan Bartley, 'Faith and Politics After Christendom' (Paternoster, 2006), available from Ekklesia here: http://tinyurl.com/d2n99k