Soccer more important than Jesus? Religious views on Facebook.

Being British I am always stunned by the extent of religious influence among our immature cousins over the pond.  (I am also stunned when soccer is used to describe football but needs must.)

I am particularly shocked by the image given of the reach of the church in communities and of the fact that non-believers hide their atheism and have to encouraged to come out of the vestry.  Even in provincial England the churches have only a marginal influence on communities and certainly don’t have a monopoly over charity or community groups.

When it comes to religion in four facets of my life I still don’t see it being significant.  These areas are family, work, leisure and community involvement.

Yes my family is religious, with my mother holding a significant position in the Methodist Church.  Some of my brothers and their families are regulars in church but my wife and children only go, under protest, to weddings, funerals and special events.

Away from my family religion is hardly a topic, except when I am criticising it!  I know the beliefs of none of the dozen people on my team at work only that several have anti-religious views.  I am not sure any attend church  Within my cricket club I know there are some who are religious with one actually running another team in a league for churches.  The ironic thing about this is that he supplements his squad by drawing on the Pakistani strength in the game with a link up with a local mosque!

My community work primarily revolves around the charitable trust linked to my local football club.  There funding for any projects usually demands inclusion and so means any overt religious influence is prohibited.  That doesn’t stop work with churches and other projects with a religious background but faith has never been a factor, except to rule out a leaning to any specific religion.

Rather than me existing in a faithless world it is more probable that it is more a question of religion not being a significant factor in my dealings with people.  However this is a bit of an assumption so I am turning to somewhere that my friends and contacts have stated their religious beliefs- Facebook.

The social media site gives me a sample of 178 friends.  It is worth stating how these were selected.  Unlike twitter where I select the influential for their quality of opinion, I know all of those on Facebook.  I do not request friendship, or respond positively to requests unless I know the person.  I do however usually accept requests from supporters of my football club because I have a public role there and have met them even if I wouldn’t call them personal friends.  That said there is no bias among the selection based on my beliefs or because I have any direct friends based on my beliefs.

This means that about 70% of my Facebook friends live in or around my town with the rest in the UK with the exception of a couple in the States and a handful in continental Europe.  There is a range of ages but the skew towards the young due to the demographics of Facebook and the inclusion of football friends and those linked to my daughters.  There is a large majority of male friends due to a bias among football fans and the fact that most of my cricket friends are fellow players.

Facebook offers the opportunity in your profile to offer information about your personal philosophy- this includes religion.  Only 41% of my friends included such information.  I don’t know whether this percentage is unusual but note that some I consider the most religious to have not expressed a preference.  I know there is an established trend to complete a box and express a positive that usually skews UK census information so I did think almost 60% not completing this a little odd.

This leaves 68 entries for religion that I can consider:

20 non-religious of which 9 named my football team as their “religion”

19 Atheist

8 Christian (excluding Catholics)

8 anti-religious

5 Catholic

3 Jedi

2 Agnostic

2 Humanist

1 spiritualist

For me this gives three-quarters that specify a religion offer a joke or no deity as that religion.  This rises to almost 80% if you also include the Jedis despite this being as equally valid a religion as Christianity.  The Pope will probably be content that those pesky Jedis still rank just below his lot.

I would be interested to know whether this lack of region (only 7% admitted they followed an established religion) is a factor on Facebook.  For my, mostly British selection, it is at odds with responses in the Census.  Particularly I would be interested to know whether there is a UK/USA difference.

Bottom line: in a sample of 178 Facebook users more see their religion to be Chesterfield Football Club than profess to be Christian!


Views: 130

Comment by Peter Whiteley on December 2, 2011 at 3:39pm

In terms of the use of "Soccer", I am aware of the usage in English public (private) schools and in 'varsity cirles.  However my Club has a long history on the cusp of the Sheffield and Association rules in the nineteenth century.  My local paper only used the word "soccer" once to mean football before the first world war.

I didn't mean to underplay the role of the "Force" in British theological culture but did see the Jedi movement as either an attempt to undermine religion or the census.  I would put it on a par with the Flying Spaghetti Monster and hope not to be struck down by his noodly appendages for saying as much.


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