Christianity declines to minority religion in England and Wales for the first time in history: ‘Not a huge surprise’

By | November 30, 2022

The number of Christians in England and Wales has fallen below half the population for the first time in census history, according to government statistics released on Tuesday.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that 46.2% of the English and Welsh population, or around 27.5 million people, labeled themselves as “Christians” in 2021, according to the Daily Telegraph.

The figure marks a precipitous decline of 13.1 percentage points from 2011, when 59.3%, or approximately 33.3 million people, adhered to the UK’s established religion. In the 2001 census, nearly 72% of all respondents indicated that they were Christians.

While still ranking first among respondents when asked about their religion, “Christian” was closely followed by those who adhered to “no religion”, totaling 37.2% or 22.2 million people, which represents an increase sharp from 25.2% or 14.1 million people in 2011. Only 15% of respondents said they had no religion in 2001.

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The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby leads the opening service of the 15th Lambeth Conference at Canterbury Cathedral in Kent on July 31, 2022.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby leads the opening service of the 15th Lambeth Conference at Canterbury Cathedral in Kent on July 31, 2022.
(Gareth Fuller/PA Images via Getty Images)

All other religions grew in adherents, according to the census, with the number of Muslims rising from 4.9% to 6.5% of the population between 2011 and 2021, and the number of Hindus increasing from 1.5% to 1 .7%.

Scotland and Northern Ireland, the other two countries in the UK, report their census data separately and are not included in the statistics.

The Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, who serves as a second-tier clergyman in the Church of England, said the dwindling number of Christians “wasn’t a huge surprise”, according to the Daily Telegraph, but noted that Christianity remains ” the greatest movement on earth” and “still issues a challenge to us, not only to trust God to build his kingdom on earth, but also to do our part in making Christ known”.

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The Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, said the UK's declining rates of Christianity are

The Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, said the rates of decline for Christianity in the UK “are not a huge surprise”, but noted that the religion remains “the biggest movement on Earth”.
(Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)

“We’ve moved beyond the era when many people almost automatically identified as Christian, but other surveys consistently show how the same people are still searching for spiritual truth and wisdom and a set of values ​​to live by,” he said.

Andrew Copson, who serves as chief executive of the charity Humanists UK, noted that “the dramatic growth of the non-religious” has made the UK “almost certainly one of the least religious countries on Earth”.

“One of the most striking things about these results is how the population is at odds with the state itself,” he said. “No state in Europe is as religiously configured as we are in terms of law and public policy, while having such a non-religious population.”

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Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip during the Maundy Service led by the Bishop of Worcester Dr.  John Inge at Christ Church Cathedral on March 28, 2013 in Oxford, England.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip during the Maundy Service led by the Bishop of Worcester Dr. John Inge at Christ Church Cathedral on March 28, 2013 in Oxford, England.
(WPA Pool/Pool via Getty Images)

The Church of England is the established religion in the country, with some bishops being members of the House of Lords, the upper house of Parliament. The British monarch is required to take an oath upon accession to “maintain and preserve the Protestant religion and Presbyterian church government” in Scotland.

Falling rates of Christianity in the UK mirror similar trends in the US A Pew Research Center and General Social Survey report published in September found an increase in American adults leaving Christianity to become atheists, agnostics or “nothing in particular”.

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The study predicted that if the number of Christians under 30 abandoning their faith accelerates beyond the current pace, adherents of the historically dominant religion in the US could become a minority by 2045.

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