Majority in UK identify as Christian as numbers wane

Numbers from the 2011 census in the United Kingdom show that a majority, 59%, identify as Christian and 25% claim no religion.  

Just 10 years ago, 73% said they were Christian and only 14% reported having no religion.

From the BBC

A spokesman for the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales said: "The overall decrease in the number of self-identifying Christians is consistent with recent social attitude and social value surveys.

"While this is a challenge, the fact that six out of 10 people in England and Wales self-identify as Christians is not discouraging. Christianity is no longer a religion of culture but a religion of decision and commitment. People are making a positive choice in self-identifying as Christians."

Robert Pigott, religion correspondent for the BBC, notes that the census allowed just enough space for a word or two about religious identity, and did delve into faith, belief, or practice:

By asking people to state their religion, or lack of it, the census was asking a complex question. But it allows only a one- or two-word answer, obscuring almost as much as it reveals about what has happened to religion during the past decade. Religion is about more than belief. It can be a badge of identity, an inheritance of upbringing or a statement of moral intent.

Rowan Williams, the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury, remained upbeat and suggested that the Church of England will adapt and flourish. He lamented over the recent defeat of attempts to allow women bishops, but remained hopeful, writing

“This is not the familiar story of a Church that’s fading away," he writes.

"It should make us think twice before signing up to that particular cliché.”

Referring to his own personal sadness at the defeat of moves to introduce women bishops, he tells how he sought solace in the silence of Canterbury.

“When the Church itself looks dysfunctional or muddled (yes, I have noticed), there are still things that don’t change,” he writes.

“A couple of days after the Church of England’s painful vote on women bishops, I was back in Canterbury, looking at the building and thinking, ‘Not even these past few days take away the open space, the possibilities’.

“The Cathedral still stands; Jesus really was born into this world, a flesh-and-blood fact that never goes away.” 

These numbers are released at a time when the UK considers legalizing same-sex marriage in a way that would prevent the Church of England from compulsion to perform those ceremonies.

Some data-crunchers predict that self-identifying Christians could be a minority in the UK as early at 2018.

Marie Rehbein
4 years 4 months ago
It's very difficult being part of a church of any kind these days given that they are repositories of fear, prejudice, and anger.  They are where people who cannot adapt to change find home while they repel those who are open to new ways of seeing and who are not needy.  What the British census wanted to know more than likely was how church-going the populace is rather than whether they believe Jesus is God.

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

Celebrating Mass was wonderful the first time I did it 63 years ago. It is, if possible, even more wonderful today.
John Jay HughesApril 27, 2017
House Republicans are making a last-ditch effort to “reform and repeal” the Affordable Care Act before the clock runs out on the Trump administration’s first 100 days on Saturday, April 29.
Kevin ClarkeApril 27, 2017
Death-row inmate Ledell Lee. A ruling from the state Supreme Court allowing officials to use a lethal injection drug that a supplier says was misleadingly obtained cleared the way for Arkansas to execute Ledell Lee on Thursday, April 20, 2017, although he still had pending requests for reprieve. (Arkansas Department of Correction via AP)
To take Holy Communion in the face of death is to say that it is fellowship, and not food, that matters most.
Terrance KleinApril 26, 2017
A man rides a bicycle past a billboard with an image of Pope Francis April 26 ahead of the pontiff's April 28-29 visit to Cairo. (CNS photo/Amr Abdallah Dalsh, Reuters)
“Peace be with you” was the message of the Risen Jesus to his disciples on the first Easter, and it is the message Francis will bring to the Muslim and Christian communities in this land.
Gerard O'ConnellApril 26, 2017