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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege

Unprecedented Decline in Christianity

The latest Office of National Statistics Integrated Household Survey figures on religion reveal an extraordinarily rapid decline in Christianity in Britain. The figures, published this week, show that growing numbers of Britons are rejecting religious belief, with almost one in four now saying they have “no religion at all”

Keith Porteous Wood, NSS Executive Director, urged Ministers to reflect on the decline of religious belief as they sanctioned an ‘ever-increasing’ number of state funded faith schools, a move which was ‘marginalising the non religious’.”

Respondents throughout Britain were asked “What is your religion, even if you are not currently practising?” In 2011, 68.5% answered “Christianity”, compared with 71.3% in 2010. This roughly 3% decline over just one year is repeated over England, Scotland and Wales, building confidence in the figures. As might be expected, there was a reciprocal rise over the same period in the “no religion” category: 23.2% in 2011 compared with 20.5% in 2010.

As well as being surprised by this pace of change, many will also be astonished by the ranking of the nation’s scores on no religion, 2011 figures shown in descending order: Wales 30.6%, Scotland 27.2% and England 22.4%. And this similarly appears to be no fluke; the ranking was the same in the previous year.

There was also interesting material from the age profiles. The 25–34 age range was the one with the lowest proportion of Christians (55.4%) and the highest percentage of no religion (32.5%). The 65+ group predictably provided the highest percentage of Christianity (87.6%) and the lowest figure for the no religion (8.4%). Also notable was that 7.9% of the under 16s were Muslims. (All figures for Britain.)

The Telegraph reported our reaction: “Keith Porteous Wood, executive director of the National Secular Society, said the ONS findings reflected ‘the long term decline in church attendance’. This is projected to continue ‘as the young practically desert the churches and congregations rapidly age’, he said. Mr Porteous Wood urged Ministers to reflect on the decline of religious belief as they sanctioned an ‘ever-increasing’ number of state funded faith schools, a move which was ‘marginalising the non religious’.”

Yet even these results pale in comparison with an Ipsos-Mori poll of 1,129 adults inCanadarevealed that only 53% of respondents expressed a belief in God, as opposed to 90% six years ago. Thirty-three percent who identified themselves as Catholic and 28% of those who go to church weekly also said they were atheists. Forty-seven percent said religion did more harm than good.

Meanwhile, the latest Church of England statistics for 2009 reveal that attendance is continuing to plummet. In 2009, average attendance in the Church of England went down from 1,144,600 to 1,130,600 a change of one per cent. Baptisms (both infants’ and believers’ baptisms) were also down as were confirmations, marriages and Easter and Christmas services.

Published Fri, 30 Sep 2011