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Farewell to faith

July 2013 | by Rod Badams

The future pattern of religion in England and Wales is starkly set out in new figures from the 2011 census, published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in May.

These latest statistics (see p. 4) describe a religious demography increasingly different from the traditional pattern of nominal Christianity which had characterised twentieth century Britain.

The ONS findings, published in December 2012 and reported in the February 2013 issue of Evangelical Times, had already revealed a reduction in the proportion of the population claiming to be Christian — down from 71.7 per cent in 2001 to 59.3 per cent in 2011.

The more recent data represent a more detailed analysis of this headline statistic. For the first time, a British census identifies religious profession by age group, breaking down into 21 age categories the answers to the voluntary census question, What is your religion? 

Two nations

The result is that, in a single table of figures, two nations can be seen alongside each other. The religious outlook of the over-40s is still much the same as the traditional pattern — substantially nominally Christian. In this group, 70.1 per cent profess to be Christian, 2.3 per cent Muslim and 17.2 per cent have no religion.

From the under-40 age bands, however, emerges a strikingly different religious outlook. Only a minority (48.8 per cent) identifies with Christianity, and there are more than three times as many Muslims (7.3 per cent) and nearly twice as many people without any religion (32.8 per cent).

      Christianity’s decline is most pronounced in the 20-29 age-group, which represents 13.8 per cent of the total population. In this age band, the proportion claiming to be ‘Christian’ falls to a low of 45.3 per cent and professing no religion is at a high of 36.8 per cent.

There are pockets of the country where the departure from Christianity is significantly more pronounced. London, for instance, has almost 11 per cent fewer ‘Christians’ and nearly three times the proportion of Muslims, than the population as a whole.

In the 20-29 age-group the city of Norwich has nearly twice as many people with no religion (56.1 per cent) than claim to be Christian (31.0 per cent). In Brighton and Hove the proportion of ‘Christians’ (30.2 per cent) is even lower, while 55.2 per cent have no religion.

Leaders

Since many of our country’s future leaders will come from among the students of Oxford and Cambridge Universities, the religious outlook of the 2011 student body is significant.

For all their intellectual brilliance, the Oxbridge mindset is significantly less Christian than that of the nation as a whole. At Cambridge, nearly half (48.7 per cent) those aged 20-29 have an entirely secular view of life.

In the overall figures, the under-20 age groups contain a higher proportion of Christians, and a lower proportion of people without a religion, than the 20-29 age group. However, figures for the under-20 bands are not as meaningful as for older groups, since the census answers for many children and young people involved will probably have been completed by their parents.

The 28.5 million women of England and Wales are shown to be more religious, and more Christian, than the 27.6 million men. The percentage of the women claiming to be Christian is 62.7, compared with only 55.7 per cent of men. Only 22.3 per cent of women profess to have no religion, compared with 28.1 per cent of men.

Islam

The rise of Islam is powerfully documented in the latest statistics. While only 30.8 per cent of those professing to be ‘Christian’ are under the age of 30, 58.5 per cent of the Muslims in England and Wales are under 30.

This creates the basis for a considerable natural rise in the Muslim population in the coming years. It is already happening in Tower Hamlets (population 254,096), where in the under-20 age groups, the population is 59.2 per cent Muslim and only 16.7 per cent ‘Christian’.

Of the various ethnic groups identified in the figures, it is not the white British which has the highest proportion (63.9 per cent) of people claiming to be Christian. This figure is trumped by the Afro-Caribbean group with 69.1 per cent.

Night

A minor statistic in the census figures shows that the number of pagans in England and Wales increased by 88 per cent to 79,473 between the 2001 and 2011 censuses. Although this is still a small group, its growth is another symptom of the ignorance which currently abounds in the UK.

Readers wanting to study aspects of the latest analyses for themselves will find all of them available free on-line (www.nomisweb.co.uk). In February 2013, ET described the headline statistics as depicting ‘Sunset Christianity’. These latest detailed breakdowns show that the sun is more deeply set than we imagined.

If all the changes recorded between the 2001 and 2011 censuses were to continue in the same direction, at the same rate, a 2021 census would show ‘Christians’ fallen to 48.9 per cent, Muslims risen to 7.7 per cent and those without religion grown to 42.7 per cent.

Over the next 10 years, many things could happen to change all this. One such could be the outpouring of the Spirit of God in mercy and grace upon our nation, placing the Bible back at the heart of our society. For this we must pray.

Rod Badams

 

Data from the 2011 census

Total population:

Age band

All categories

Christian

Muslim

Other religions

No religion

Religion not stated

 

 

England and Wales

Number

%

Number

%

Number

%

Number

%

Number

%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All

56,075,912

33,243,175

59.3

2,706,066

4.8

1,991,410

3.6

14,097,229

25.1

4,038,032

7.2

0-39

28,490,453

13,894,776

48.8

2,080,331

7.3

1,159,008

4.1

9,356,671

32.8

2,102,217

7.4

40-plus

27,585,459

19,348,399

70.1

625,735

2.3

832,402

3.0

4,740,558

17.2

1,935,815

7.0

                             

 

 

London:

London

All categories

Christian

Muslim

Other religions

No religion

Religion not stated

 

Age band

Number

Number

%

Number

%

Number

%

Number

%

Number

%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All

8,173,941

3,957,984

48.4

1,012,823

12.4

816,023

10.0

1,694,372

20.7

692,739

8.5

0-39

4,926,700

2,104,561

42.7

754,944

15.3

485,928

9.9

1,162,895

23.6

418,372

8.5

40-plus

3,247,241

1,857,773

57.2

257,879

7.9

330,095

10.2

583,298

18.0

274,367

8.4

                           

 

 

Oxford and Cambridge:

20-24 age band

All categories

Christian

Muslim

Other religions

No religion

Religion not stated

 

 

Number

%

Number

%

Number

%

Number

%

Number

%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

England & Wales

5,267,401

2,429,535

46.1

325,263

6.2

207,415

3.9

1,940,162

36.8

365,026

6.9

Oxford

30,856

11,726

38.0

1,509

4.9

1,296

4.2

13,902

45.1

2,423

7.9

Cambridge

24,790

8,369

33.8

969

3.9

1,253

5.1

12,085

48.7

2,114

8.5

                                   

 

All figures are quoted, and tables reproduced, some in revised formats, by permission of the Office for National Statistics (ONS)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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