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Journal Article

Three puzzles of non-religion in Britain


Publication date



Non-religious people tend to be male rather than female, to be better educated than average, and to live in particular areas. Each of these findings contains a puzzle that we address using data from Great Britain. Male infants are slightly more likely than female infants to be described by their parents as having no religion. To explain this phenomenon, we show that there is an association between the religious labels attached to girls and boys and the characteristics of their mothers and fathers, respectively. A positive correlation between education and non-religion is often taken for granted. Among young adults in Britain, however, the relationship is reversed. The reason lies in the former religious polarisation of the graduate population. The final puzzle is why so much local variation in secularity is evident. We examine the extent to which these contrasts are the result of demographic and socio-economic differences.

Published in

Journal of Contemporary Religion

Volume and page numbers

27 , 29 -48





University of Essex, Albert Sloman Library Periodicals *restricted to University of Essex registered users* -


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