A survey of 2,060 people showed 53 per cent believe in life after death, 55 per cent believe in heaven and 70 per cent believe in the human soul.

The study carried out between October and November last year for the public theology think tank Theos also showed nearly four in 10, or 39 per cent, believe in ghosts and more than a quarter (27 per cent) believe in reincarnation.

A further 22 per cent believe in astrology or horoscopes and 15 per cent believe in fortune telling or Tarot, the research revealed.

Half of people in London, the highest proportion in the UK, believe in ghosts, the survey showed.

Scotland had the highest number of people who believe in fortune telling or Tarot at 18 per cent and Wales had the highest proportion of people who believe in reincarnation at 32 per cent.

Theos said the comparison with the 1950s was "especially striking".

In 1950, it said, only 10 per cent of the public told Gallup that they believed in ghosts, and just 2 per cent thought they had seen one.

In 1951, only 7 per cent of the public said they believed in predicting the future by cards and 6 per cent by stars.

But the organisation said the latest research showed an increase in scepticism about certain aspects of the supernatural.

In a 1998 Mori poll, 18 per cent of the public said they believed in fortune telling and 38 per cent in astrology. A further 40 per cent said they believed in ghosts, and 15 per cent said that they had personal experience of ghosts.

Theos director Paul Woolley said: "The enlightenment optimism in the ability of science and reason to explain everything ended decades ago.

"The extent of belief will probably surprise people, but the finding is consistent with other research we have undertaken.

"The results indicate that people have a very diverse and unorthodox set of beliefs.

"Our research may point to a slight increase in scepticism about aspects of the supernatural over the last 10 years."