Nearly one in five Britons is atheist, says poll

Stephen Fry pictured at the Tony Awards in June 2014. His popularity rose after he attacked religion in an RTE interview.Reuters

Nearly one in five Britons is now an atheist according to a YouGov poll for The Times published today.

The proportion of atheists is highest among younger generations, with nearly a third of those aged under 24 describing themselves as atheist, compared to just a tenth of those aged over 60.

The data also showed that public figures win approval for questioning the existence of God, while Christians struggle to speak openly about their beliefs.

Of more than 1,500 adults surveyed nearly half said they were Christian and four in 10 said they had no religion.

A third said that they did not believe in "any sort of god or greater spiritual power", nearly a third believed in God and a fifth believed in a spiritual power. Nearly half of those aged under 24 said they did not believe in any sort of god.

The Times also reported that both Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg and Labour leader Ed Miliband were seen more positively as a result of admitting they do not believe in God, while David Cameron, who is a practising Anglican, has experienced no difference in his popularity as a result of his faith.

Stephen Fry also had increased ratings after his recent attack on God.

David Voas, professor of population studies at Essex university, told The Times that Fry had "delighted" atheists. "Political leaders would want to avoid polarising opinion in that way, but again it's evidence of a sort that people can express strongly anti-religious views and receive more applause than disapproval," he said.