In the week running up to census day on Sunday 27th March the BBC website has run two overblown stories obviously designed to encourage the number of people ticking ‘No Religion’ in the 2011 census return. This campaign by the BBC coincides with the British Humanist Society’s hysterical campaign to increase the ‘No Religion’ response after the last census revealed that 75% of UK citizens claimed to be Christians.
Yesterday the BBC website ran the post ‘Two-thirds of Britons not religious, suggests survey’. This grossly exaggerated claim was made by – surprise, surprise – the British Humanist Society after conducting an on-line poll!!! Not a random telephone or street poll, but an on-line poll. That wasn’t self-selecting then! And this on-line poll only canvassed 1,900 respondents! What a ludicrously flimsy survey on which to base the claim that two-thirds of British are non-religious. Obviously the BBC doesn’t care just so long that they have a story to give prominence to the BHS campaign.
Today we have a new census story on the BBC website, ‘ Religion may become extinct in nine nations, study say.’
‘A study using census data from nine countries shows that religion there is set for extinction, say researchers. The study found a steady rise in those claiming no religious affiliation.’
This wild speculation is based on ‘a mathematical model’ that’ attempts to account for the interplay between the number of religious respondents and the social motives behind being one…The team then applied their nonlinear dynamics model, adjusting parameters for the relative social and utilitarian merits of membership of the “non-religious” category.’ Right, that’s simple and easy to measure then!
In fact, towards the end of the report the BBC admit that the claim of religious extinction is based on a mathematical model and not the real world:
‘”Obviously we don’t really believe this is the network structure of a modern society, where each person is influenced equally by all the other people in society,” he said. However, he told BBC News that he thought it was “a suggestive result”. ”It’s interesting that a fairly simple model captures the data, and if those simple ideas are correct, it suggests where this might be going. ”Obviously much more complicated things are going on with any one individual, but maybe a lot of that averages out.”
The sociologists, and BBC, make the mistake of linking numerical populations with religious vitality. The history of Christianity shows that individuals and small numbers of followers have radical, creative influence on the life and expression of Christian faith.
Protect the Pope comment: It’s obvious that the editorial team of the BBC have decided that in the week running up to census day that they will seek to raise the profile of ticking ‘No Religion’ in the 2011 census. Is it legal or professional for a public body to seek to influence the outcome of a national census?