CHRISTIANS could become a minority in the armed forces in the UK
within the next 20 years, an analysis of Ministry of Defence (MoD)
The number of service personnel declaring themselves to be
Christians fell by three per cent in 18 months, while the number
describing themselves as secular, or of no religion, rose by almost
nine per cent. If that trend remains constant, the non-religious
will outnumber Christians by 2032.
The figures were produced by the National Secular Society, which
compared a series of MoD surveys of 180,000 service personnel
between April 2012 and October 2013.
Nevertheless, the figures, which were released last month under
the Freedom of Information Act, show that a religious affiliation
of some kind is still more prevalent in the military than it is
society at large.
In the 2012 inquiry, almost 83 per cent called themselves
Christians, compared with 59 per cent of the general population who
had called themselves Christian in the 2011 census. By October
2013, however, the proportion of service personnel regarding
themselves as Christians had fallen to 80 per cent.
Within the three services, soldiers are the most likely to be
Christians. About 86 per cent class themselves as Christian,
compared with 79 per cent in the Royal Navy and the Royal Air
Force, the April 2012 figures show.
The figures, released on the government website, were analysed
by the National Secular Society, whose president, Terry Sanderson,
said that the rate of decline in Christian affiliation in the
services, and the increase in non-religious affiliation, could no
longer be ignored. "I call for an urgent, unvarnished
re-examina-tion of the appropriateness of the pervasive religious
ethos in the armed forces," he said.
"It is time to consider how the non-religious can be better
catered for; for example, in the provision of counselling services
outside the chain of command, and in ceremonies for all troops
which are currently conducted as purely religious ceremonies."
The survey also revealed that 80 service personnel were Jewish,
130 were Sikhs, and 650 were Muslims.
An MoD spokeswoman said: "We want to create a workforce that is
drawn from the breadth of the society we defend, and that gains
strength from that society's range of knowledge, experience, and
"We recognise that religion is a personal matter, and give those
who wish to do so the opportunity to practise their religious
observances, provided their practice does not conflict with the
services' core values and standards."