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School pupils believe we have souls…but they’re less sure there’s a God

Martin Saunders

11 Nov, 2016


This 2016 study found that half of English school pupils believe they have a soul. But they're less convinced about the existence of God.


Over half of English secondary pupils believe they have ‘a soul’, according to a new survey. The study, shared by Professor Berry Billingsley at the British Educational Research Association (BERA) in September, also revealed that just over 50% agreed with the statement “I believe that life has an ultimate purpose”. However, belief in the almighty was less common in the survey of 670 pupils: only 45% said that they thought there was an actual God.

Another 45% said that they definitely didn’t believe in God, while 10% said they were unsure. Professor Billingsley’s study of 14-17-year-olds in eight English schools revealed that 54% of respondents agreed with the statement ‘I believe human have souls’. Of the remainder, only 23% actively disagreed with this idea, with the rest unsure.

Prof Billingsley, of Canterbury Christ Church University, asked the students 43 questions about science and religion. She told BERA that the results suggest that young people believe there is more to their identity than what is being presented to them in science lessons. In her words: “Teenagers do not feel that science – as they experience it via the media and in lessons they attend – is enough to explain to them what it means to be a person. Many therefore embrace this notion of something beyond it: a soul.”

She added: “When you construct a question in science, you are designing a study that draws on observations carried out in the natural world. As such the question of whether or not there is a supernatural god is beyond science to resolve.”

The figure for belief in God among 14-17 year-olds is significantly lower than the national average of 67 per cent, recorded during the last UK census, which took place in 2011.

This is an edited version of a post which first appeared on SchoolsworkUK

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