Christians now a minority in England for first time

30 November 2022

(Photo: Catholic Church England and Wales / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

England and Wales are now minority Christian countries, according to the 2021 census. The proportion of people who said they were Christian was 46.2%, down from 59.3% in the last census in 2011. In contrast the number who said they had no religion increased to 37.2% of the population, up from a quarter.

The Guardian reports:

England and Wales are now minority Christian countries, according to the 2021 census, which also shows that Leicester and Birmingham have become the first UK cities to have “minority majorities”.

The census revealed a 5.5 million (17%) fall in the number of people who describe themselves as Christian and a 1.2 million (43%) rise in the number of people who say they follow Islam, bringing the Muslim population to 3.9 million. In percentage-point terms, the number of Christians has dropped by 13.1, and the number of Muslims has risen by 1.7.

It is the first time in a census of England and Wales that fewer than half of the population have described themselves as Christian.

Meanwhile, 37.2% of people – 22.2 million – declared they had “no religion”, the second most common response after Christian. It means that over the past 20 years the proportion of people reporting no religion has soared from 14.8% – a rise of more than 22 percentage points.

The BBC reports:

It may feel like a pivotal moment, with the census showing fewer than half of people in England and Wales identifying as Christian, but for years social surveys have shown a rapid rise in those who define themselves as having no religion, often reporting that as the largest category – that is not the case in the census data.

With its very simple optional question, “What is your religion?”, the census does not illustrate the range of 22.2 million people in the “no religion” category; from those who do not believe in god at all to those who do in some form, or believe in the power of prayer and an afterlife or are spiritual in some way.

The trend away from faith is not something that is reflected in major non-Christian religions which all saw a rise, with more than 1.2 million more people identifying as Muslim in England and Wales in 2021 as compared to 2011. As with ethnicity, patterns of family size and immigration are seen as contributory factors.

Of those who chose to write in their answer under the “any other religion” option, the largest group identified as Pagan, with a tenfold rise from 2011 in those identifying themselves as Shaman.

The census results revealing that England is no longer a majority-Christian country have sparked calls for an end to the church’s role in parliament and schools. Another article by the Guardian reports that the census “triggered calls for urgent reform of laws requiring Christian teaching and worship in schools and Church of England bishops to sit in the House of Lords”.

James O’Brien reacts to Christianity becoming a minority religion | LBC

Census: Christians in England & Wales falls below half for first time

‘This is the biggest demographic shift in our country in decades’ – Andrew Copson

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