A procession at the start of the enthronement service of the Most Rev. Justin Welby as archbishop of Canterbury inside Canterbury Cathedral in Canterbury, Kent, on March 21, 2013. Photo courtesy Anglican Communion News Service/The Press Association

2 percent of English ministers say humans invented God

CANTERBURY, England (RNS) A new survey finds 16 percent of the Church of England’s licensed ministers are unclear about God, and 2 percent think God is a human construct.

The survey of 1,500 Anglican clergy in England, Scotland and Wales conducted by the international market research agency YouGov, suggests the church’s leadership is confused about the nature -- even the very existence -- of God.

A procession at the start of the enthronement service of The Most Reverend Justin Welby as Archbishop of Canterbury inside Canterbury Cathedral in Canterbury, Kent. Photo courtesy Anglican Communion News Service/The Press Association

A procession at the start of the enthronement service of the Most Rev. Justin Welby as archbishop of Canterbury inside Canterbury Cathedral in Canterbury, Kent. Photo courtesy Anglican Communion News Service/The Press Association

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Older clergy were more likely to hold unorthodox beliefs than younger clerics. Nearly 90 percent of those ordained since 2011 believe in God compared with 72 percent of those who became priests in the 1960s.

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.

The church’s governing body, the General Synod, does not take action against such views and clergy are left relatively free to deviate from doctrine without punishment.

The Independent newspaper quoted Alison Ruoff, a lay member of the General Synod, saying she could not understand how someone could be a priest at the same time as not believing in God.

“Clergy just preach social clap-trap these days,” she said. “We expect better from them.”

The Westminster Faith Debates, a series of public forums that tackle the latest research on religion and values, commissioned the survey.



  1. It’s easy for those who don’t believe to be priests, unfortunately. They are paid well, they get free housing and stipends, tons of vacation time, and are in a position of honor before all. In many cases, all they have to do is butter people up and run ceremonies, offering some niceties as sermons. Unfortunately this is what Jesus referred to in the Pharisees of his day – calling them hypocrites who live for the praise of others, according to ceremonies & rules taught by men and not based on the Word of God which points us to his story of redemption. Teachers of Scripture are held to the highest account at the end before Christ – I hope this survey will be a wake up call that yes — beautiful music, ornate churches, and picnics are all wonderful things, but if they aren’t rooted in the celebration of God bringing restoration to humanity through Jesus Christ, they are empty.

  2. Julie-Amen/very well said! People can sing songs and still go to hell cause
    Jesus said many will say to Me Lord,Lord and not enter heaven! Many in
    church today live like they don’t believe in God/there is no God cause the
    Bible says if you say you love Jesus then don’t follow the Bible/religion no
    Truth is in you! Jesus said you are one of Mine only if you follow Me and
    why do you call Me Lord and not do as I say so we need to Repent/follow!
    It doesn’t matter how spiritual people are if they aren’t Biblical they’re lost!
    Luke 13 says we must bear good fruit! The fruit is of Repentance because
    good works don’t save/non-believers do good works so we must Repent!
    Two guys were next to Jesus on the Cross. Only one guy went to heaven!
    Why is that? Only one guy Repented/had a change of hear about his sin.
    Bible says Repent and believe the Gospel to be saved! We all must Repent!

    Ephesians 5:18 says don’t get drunk and 1 Corinthians 6:10 says that all
    drunkards go to hell including people who still get drunk with strong wine
    cause the wine Jesus made was new wine/diluted plus the Bible also says
    don’t get drunk with strong wine/don’t get drunk with wine it’s debauchery!
    People have premartial sex then get married but never Repent/agree that
    premarital sex is wrong! Many say something mean then laugh after like
    that makes it okay or they say that “I was just joking” to try to cover it up.
    Being mean/sharp tongues,gambling,jealousy are all also wrong as well
    as pride,liars,sleeping around,people who take the Lords name in vain.
    Many only want to talk about gay marriage and/or abortions so they don’t
    have to face their own sin. 1 Corinthians 6:9-12 lists all swindlers,thieves,
    drunkards,slanderers/gossips,coveters/the greedy,the sexually immoral,
    idolaters right along with homosexuals so all sin is bad. We must Repent!

  3. There are Christians left in England? I thought that was against their Sharia Law both Islamic and Secular?

    There are Christians in England?

    Anyone know where they can be found above ground?

  4. 16% I submit, is a huge understatement. When I was 25, I still clung to the belief that somebody, somewhere knew the answers to the important questions. Around age 40, I finally abandoned that idea. It is no different for the clergy, except they must keep their skepticism to themselves if they wish to keep their jobs.

  5. Predictable responses from the armchair quarterbacks of religion. I’m a priest. I love Jesus. I love people and want to see them healed and made whole. I got into this because I felt called to share God’s Love with folks. But here’s the deal: To be a priest, I gotta deal with folks like you. Self-Righteous religious blowhards on the right. Smug self-satisfied cynics on the left. In the middle, folks with real problems. Kids on drugs. Cancer diagnoses. Poverty. Marriages. Divorces. Baptisms. Burials. There’s politics and hypocrisy in the Church. Politics and hypocrisy outside of the Church. With everything wrapped tightly in a Consumer Capitalist malaise where everything is judged by quantitative monetary value instead of qualitative spiritual value. So, do you really want to understand why it might be hard to maintain a vibrant faith in a simplistic God as a priest? Tell you what. Here’s some steps to follow: (1) Go through the half-decade hellscape of the ordination process, plunging yourself into seminary debt that will plague you for the rest of your life. (2) Get one of those great paying easy jobs you talked about. You know, the ones where you are lucky to get paid as much as a teacher, work 60-70 hour weeks (much of it at nights missing your family), and then go on vacation so you can get called back in the middle of it to do a funeral. (3) Read comments on blogs by smug useless know it alls about how you should have– or give up having– faith. Then tell me how you feel. Until then, may God bless your pointy little heads.

  6. Nathan-Bridle your tongue! Bible says if you have a sharp tongue your
    religion is worthless so I think you need to take a look in the mirror cause
    Jesus said many will say to Me Lord,Lord and not enter heaven! Hypocrites
    are in the church and they always will be. That’s why we need to preach all
    the Truth/against all sin not just gay marriage/abortion. We all must Repent!

  7. Nathan,
    Talk about self righteous hypocrisy!
    “…because I felt called to share God’s Love with folks.”
    Would you accept my actions based on the excuse that I felt called to do them?
    I share my love for others by goading them to think for themselves, not by telling them what to think. ( In humble imitation of Socrates) . My advice to you is to immediately resolve to be candid and open, and never deliberately misrepresent
    your views to anyone. If you can do that and remain a priest the you will have performed a modern miracle and will sleep soundly for the remainder of your life.

  8. 2 percent of English ministers say humans invented God..

    1OO% of God says he invented “Christian” Minister’s AND THEY ARE to be godly
    Even when it unpopular to be godly.

  9. I’m a Christian, and almost all my congregation are too. There’s 40 for you. Then my colleagues at the Protestant Truth Society, and we all have our heads well above the water. there’s more than you might credit, but of course the media never reports us.

    When parliament passed the ungodly same-sex marriage act the news reports didn’t even mention our presence outside the House of Commons, praying, singing, and putting up with the vile abuse of the homosexuals present (who were the ones warned and cautioned by police, not us, neither was that in the media reports).

  10. You get paid? Wow. That would be interesting.

    I don’t remember Paul being paid. Nor complaining about not having a lot, because his service was not of people, but of the Lord Jesus Christ. ‘…giving not less than everything.’

  11. The UK has turned much of the CofE into a pale imitation of the Church of Rome, so ritual is everything, and belief is irrelevant. What is more, if people think being Christ’s minister is a job then they don’t belong in it anyway.

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