Interesting facts about clergy in the UK

A recent survey found that a surprisingly large number of clergy in the Church of England do not believe in a god or are doubtful.

There are about 19,500 licensed ministers in England’s established church whose supreme governor is Queen Elizabeth II.

Interpreted nationwide, the YouGov survey shows there are around 390 licensed ministers who do not believe in God and as many as 3,120 who are unsure about the existence or nature of God.

But what was particularly intriguing in the survey was that older clergy were more likely than the young to hold these unorthodox beliefs. While this goes against the general trend of younger people being more skeptical of religion than the older religion, we should not expect this to hold true for the clergy.

After all, people join the clergy because they are believers. I have suggested before that the more one learns about religion and the more one is confronted with the contradictions posed by the existence of suffering along with a loving god, the more likely disbelief is likely to creep in. And it is older clergy who have had to deal with this a lot and over time their faith can be worn down.

Interestingly, there has been a recent increase in the number of young people in England joining the priesthood in both the Church of England and the Catholic Church, a trend not seen in the US or the rest of Europe.


  1. says

    After all, people join the clergy because they are believers

    Or, it’s a job.

    It was common in France from the Renaissance on that families with sons would divide the patrimony: 1st son is groomed to be heir, second goes into the military, third the priesthood. That’s how Cardinal Richelieu — who was much more suited for the military — wound up a cardinal. He was completely uninterested in religion but that was how the cards turned up.

    I’d be willing to bet that there are a number of people who go into holy orders knowing it’s complete bullshit. Certainly, those who are educated in a religious tradition (e.x.: the Jesuits) are exposed to enough counter-faith that they’d have to be exceptionally stupid or in great denial to maintain faith.

  2. Matt G says

    I have met several young people who have expressed interest in becoming clergy, and I think part of the appeal is the idea of having authority over others (many of these kids display resentment of authority, interestingly; perhaps they only resent not having it themselves…). What could be more appealing for a certain kind of person than unearned authority! I would love to see psychological profiles of people who go into this profession.

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