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Number of Christians in England and Wales falls to just over half of population

07 January 2022

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THE number of people in England and Wales who describe themselves as Christian is only slightly more than half the population, according to the latest government figures.

The figure has dropped to 51 per cent, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has reported — a fall of more than eight per cent since the 2011 census — the lowest yet recorded.

The survey, from 2019, also showed that no religion — including “Not stated” — was the second most common response, accounting for 38.4 per cent of the total. Christianity appears strongest in north-western England (59.4 per cent) and least strong in London (45 per cent). Only 47.4 per cent of men and 54.9 per cent of women, reported their religion as Christian.

Most other religions increased in number. Hinduism rose from 1.46 per cent to 1.65 per cent, Judaism from 0.47 to 0.55 per cent, and Islam from 4.83 per cent to 5.67 per cent. Buddhism remained static at 0.44 per cent, while Sikhism fell from 0.75 to 0.69 per cent. Just 10.6 per cent of the population follow a religion other than Christianity, but that rose to more than 25 per cent in London.

The flight from faith is more marked among younger people: 53.4 per cent of twenty-somethings say that they have no religion, compared with 27.1 per cent among people in their sixties. Among the over-80s, 81 per cent said that they were Christian, with just 14 per cent having no religion.

The ONS cautioned, however, against relying too heavily on the figures, as it could not quantify how much the figures represented an actual change or differences in data collection. The data sample for the 2019 figures was much smaller than for the national census.

The Director of Evangelism and Dis­ciple­ship for the Archbishops’ Council, Canon David Male, said before Christmas: “It’s encouraging that, in an age where people are less likely automatically to class themselves as ‘Christian’, more than half the population still do. We know from research that there is a willingness among younger generations to engage with faith, and for people of all ages the need for meaning and answers in life hasn’t stopped — particularly through times of challenge such as that of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This is why we are focused on supporting churches in their offer to those who are open to faith, but may not yet feel part of a church, to know that there is a place for them and they are welcome. As we approach Christmas, more and more people are engaging with their local church at this time of year, either in person or online, and it’s a wonderfully welcoming time to come and hear the Christmas story and the good news it brings to people of all backgrounds.”

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