Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Percentage in England and Wales identifying as Christian falls to 59 per cent following 2011 Census

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The results of the 2011 Census, published this morning, show that the percentage of people in England and Wales identifying as Christian has fallen to 59.3 per cent, down from 71.8 per cent in 2001. Twenty-five per cent stated that they had "No religion", up from 15 per cent in 2001.

The key points from the religion section of the Census, as reported on the Office for National Statistics website, are as follows:
  • In the 2011 Census, Christianity was the largest religion, with 33.2 million people (59.3 per cent of the population). The second largest religious group were Muslims with 2.7 million people (4.8 per cent of the population).
  • 14.1 million people, around a quarter of the population in England and Wales, reported they have no religion in 2011.
  • The religion question was the only voluntary question on the 2011 census and 7.2 per cent of people did not answer the question.
  • Between 2001 and 2011 there has been a decrease in people who identify as Christian (from 71.7 per cent to 59.3 per cent) and an increase in those reporting no religion (from 14.8 per cent to 25.1 per cent). There were increases in the other main religious group categories, with the number of Muslims increasing the most (from 3.0 per cent to 4.8 per cent).
  • In 2011, London was the most diverse region with the highest proportion of people identifying themselves as Muslim, Bhuddist, Hindu and Jewish. The North East and North West had the highest proportion of Christians and Wales had the highest proportion of people reporting no religion.
  • Knowsley was the local authority with the highest proportion of people reporting to be Christians at 80.9 per cent and Tower Hamlets had the highest proportion of Muslims at 34.5 per cent (over 7 times the England and Wales figure). Norwich had the highest proportion of the population reporting no religion at 42.5 per cent.
The rise in the number of atheists comes in spite of a question widely believed to lead respondents towards selecting a  religion instead of the "No religion" option. The Census asks, "What is your religion?", and secular campaigners argue that this involves an assumption that those responding have a religion. In the run up to the 2011 census the British Humanist Association ran a high profile campaign to raise awareness of the fact that "No religion" can be selected by those with no religious affiliation.

When a less leading question is asked, surveys often reveal the proportion of Christians to be below 50 per cent. For instance, in 2011 the highly respected British Social Attitudes Survey, which asks "Do you regard yourself as belonging to any particular religion? IF YES: which?", found that 50 per cent of respondents had no religion, compare with 44 per cent who identified with a Christian denomination.
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