London more religious than rest of Britain, report finds

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London is more religious and socially conservative than the rest of Britain, confounding perceptions of the capital as liberal and secular, research shows.

People in the capital pray more and attend more religious services than those in the rest of the country, according to the survey. It also found Christian Londoners help their neighbours more than their non-religious counterparts, are more likely to volunteer for a charitable initiative, and are more likely to make charitable donations.

However, a significant minority feel marginalised because of their faith, the research for the Christian thinktank Theos found. It says: “It sometimes seems as if there are two cities in London: one sacred, one secular. Certainly, there is considerable value divergence.”

The proportion of people identifying as religious is 62% in the capital, compared with 53% in the rest of Britain – a profile likely to be driven by immigration and diaspora communities, according to the thinktank’s report, Religious London: Faith in a Global City.

One in four Londoners attends a religious service at least once a month, compared to one in 10 outside the capital; and 56% of Christians in London pray regularly, as against 32% of Christians in the rest of Britain.

Londoners are nearly twice as likely to say sex before marriage is at least sometimes wrong (24% compared to 13%), and are more likely to say the same about same-sex relationships (29% compared to 23%). On assisted suicide in the case of an incurable illness, 38% of Londoners says it is at least sometimes wrong, compared with 27% outside the capital. The polling was conducted by Savanta ComRes.

In a foreword to the report, Elizabeth Oldfield, director of Theos, writes: “London is, wonderfully, a global city, and can justifiably claim to be one of the most diverse in the world. We shouldn’t be surprised, then, by the findings of the Religious London project (though I suspect many will be).

“We think of London not only as a cultural, political and economic hub, but also as England’s liberal heartland. In such a diverse city, however, no single story is the whole story. The truth is that London is complicated: it is … liberal in terms of many social values overall, but also has substantial and intense pockets of traditionalism which mean that, on many so-called ‘moral’ questions, London is more conservative than other parts of the country.”

According to the report, the biggest Christian denomination in London is Catholicism (35% of the Christian population), followed by Anglicanism (33%). Pentecostals (7%) and Orthodox Christians (6%) have a more significant presence than outside the capital.

The report found a more substantial non-Christian religious presence in London than elsewhere, with a fifth of London’s population identifying with a non-Christian religion, in contrast to 7% in the rest of Britain.

Roughly one in 10 Londoners identify as Muslim, compared with less than 2% outside the capital, and “all non-Christian religious groups have population concentrations in London, confirming its status as a gateway city”.