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Thursday, 12 April, 2001, 16:01 GMT 17:01 UK
One third believe in Easter story
Statue of Jesus
The resurrection is central to Easter celebrations
One third of Britons still believe in the resurrection story as told in the gospels.

National survey findings also suggest that half believe there is another explanation for the central tenet of Christianity that Jesus was physically resurrected from the dead after three days in the tomb.

A poll was conducted among 1,000 adults for the April issue of the Fortean Times, a journal of the supernatural in Britain.

It suggests that Welsh people are, by some distance, more religious than their English or Scottish counterparts.

Son of God, as featured in BBC TV series
Son of God has attracted more than 6m viewers

A total of 43% of the Welsh believe in the biblical version of the resurrection compared with 33% of the English and 39% of Scots.

Only 33% of the Welsh believe there is an alternative explanation for the resurrection compared with 47% of English and 35% of Scottish respondents.

The research suggests that British women are significantly more religious than British men, with 37% believing in the resurrection compared to 29% of men, while 43% of women maintain there is an alternative explanation as against 54% of men.

Only 23% of people in the 16 to 24 age group believe in the resurrection story.

The corresponding figure for the over-65 age group was just over a half.

It is a challenge for the Church to be relevant to Christians as well as to wider society

Catholic Church spokesman

The survey suggests that a small fraction of those who profess a belief in the resurrection will go to church this Easter.

About 2.5m people will attend a church service, but the survey suggests 20m believe in the resurrection.

A spokesman for the Catholic Church in England and Wales said: "A number of people believe but do not feel they need church.

"It is a challenge for the Church to be relevant to Christians as well as to wider society."

Tom Wright, the BBC's special adviser on religion and Canon Theologian at Westminster Abbey, said he was pleasantly surprised by the survey results.

We are always told we live in a scientific age, but the interest in the spiritual is as strong as ever

Tom Wright
He told BBC News Online: "There is a lot of mis-information about the resurrection. Many think it is just a conjuring trick by God, but it is really the dawn of God's new age for mankind.

"We are always told we live in a scientific age, but the interest in the spiritual is as strong as ever.

"If people look for the deeper meaning in life through Jesus's resurrection, that can only be good news."

About 3m people will attend church services this Easter

In the latest issue of The Spectator magazine, most of the Church of England's 43 diocesan bishops surveyed answered "yes" when asked if they believed in the physical resurrection as a historical fact.

Easter Sunday coincides with the concluding part of the BBC's three-part documentary series Son of God.

Co-series producer Michael Wakelin said more than 6m viewers watch the programme.

He said: "Whatever people believe, Jesus is still an iconic figure and people will always be interested in him.

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