THE number of Christians in England and Wales fell by 4.1
million in the decade since 2001, new figures published by the
Office for National Statistics indicate.
Data from the 2011 Census shows that 33.2 million people
described themselves as at least "notional" Christians.
The total included 1.2 million foreign-born Christians,
including Polish Roman Catholics, and Evangelicals from countries
such as Nigeria.
The Census also found that one third of professed Christians
attended church only for weddings, baptisms, or funerals, and
almost one quarter are over the age of 65. More than nine in ten
(93 per cent) are white.
In contrast, the number of those of the second-largest faith
community in Britain, Islam, rose by 2.7 million, and now represent
4.8 per cent of the English and Welsh population - up from 1.8 per
cent in 2001. Nearly half of all Muslims were born in the UK, and
almost half of them are aged under 25.
There was a marked increase in atheism, 6.4 million more people
claiming no religious ties, compared with 2001. The increase was
most marked among those aged between 20 and 44. The majority of
people with no religion were white, and born in the UK (93 per
The figures led to claims from secular groups that Christianity
had now dropped below "critical mass", and strengthened the case
for disestablishing the Church of England. The executive director
of the National Secular Society, Keith Porteous Wood, said that the
decline was "unstoppable". "In another 20 years, there are going to
be more active Muslims than there are churchgoers," he said.
But Dr David Coleman, Professor of Demography at the University
of Oxford, suggested that, while the changes were "very
substantial", they might simply indicate change in society "where
it is more acceptable to say that you are not religious or are not
A Church of England spokesman said: "These figures highlight the
diversity of Christianity in this country today, something which
has been increasing for decades, and shows the relevance of
Christianity to people from all backgrounds.
"These figures once again confirm that this remains a faithful
nation, and that the fall in the numbers identifying themselves as
Christians is a challenge; but - as you can see from the stability
of Church of England attendance figures - the committed worshipping
centre of the Church remains firm.
"The challenge to the Church is to reconnect with the