New research has found that faith group members are more likely to be socially active and politically left wing.
The research claims that 55 per cent of people who hold a religious belief placed themselves on the left of the political spectrum, this compares with just 40 per cent on the right. This directly opposes commonly held thinking that the religious are conservative and right wing.
The report 'Faithful Citizens' by think tank Demos was published this week. Their findings are based on the UK Citizenship Survey and the European Values Survey, two separate studies on the views of over 10,000 participants here in the UK and over 70,000 across Europe.
The report author, Jonathan Birdwell believes that the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, with his progressive beliefs and religious convictions, may be far more representative of the religious community than many may think.
Jonathan says: "Progressives should sit up and take note. Their natural allies may look more like the Archbishop of Canterbury than Richard Dawkins. Progressives would find higher levels of support against rising economic inequality among religious individuals than their secular counterparts."
The research also goes on to claim that people with religious beliefs are more likely to be actively involved in their community than their non-religious counterparts: they are more likely to volunteer and more likely to donate to charity. It is also claimed that they are more likely to be welcoming of immigrants as neighbours and place greater value on equality than the non-religious.
Jonathan Birdwell says: "Religion and politics in Britain do not interact in the sectarian way that we are used to seeing the USA – Britain's religious population is in fact more tolerant toward immigrants and foreign migrants than its secular population and is more likely to prioritise equality over freedom."
The report suggests that progressive politicians in the UK should seek to work with faith groups. It argues that this could be an important strategy for the Labour party as it takes on the next general election. In the foreword to the report, the Rt Hon. Stephen Timms MP said:
"The progressive cause is often cast as being in opposition to the religious one. This report shows that in fact, in many areas, they agree.
"Faith group members will be key in any future, election-winning, progressive coalition. In working to renew its policies after election defeat ... Labour can draw new energy and inspiration from engaging with faith groups."
April 12th, 2012 - Posted & Written by Riyaza Rodriguez