Religious data from the United Kingdom
From 2008 until now
According to reporter Ruth Gledhill, the document
Religious Trends published by Christian Research estimates that:
|By 2035, 1.96 million Muslims -- double the number
attending today -- will be attending mosques. They will outnumber Christians
who attend churches.|
||Church attendance in Britain is declining so fast
that the "Church of England, Catholicism and other denominations will
become financially unviable." By 2030, the total number of Anglican churches
in the UK will drop to 10,000 with an average attendance of only 35 persons per congregation.|
||By 2050 only about 0.9 million Christians will go
to church. There will be only 3,600 churchgoing Methodists, 87,899 members
of the Church of England (Anglican), 101,700 Roman Catholics, 4,400 Presbyterians,
123,000 Baptists, and 168,000 independent Christians.|
||Intensified calls for disestablishment of the Church of
England, which has been the state church for centuries, will likely result.|
Martin Salter, the Labour Member of Parliament for
Reading West and a member of an Reading inter-faith group, said:
"I think all faiths could be treated equally under
our constitution. These figures demonstrate the absurdity of favoring one
brand of Christianity over other parts of the Christian faith and the many
other religions that grace our shores."
Hazel Blears, the UK Communities Secretary said:
"We will look at these findings very closely.
Britain is a secular democracy with a strong Christian tradition, but many
faiths have a home in Britain."
David Voas, a professor of population studies at the
Institute for Social Change at the University of Manchester, said:
|"The difficulty is in retaining the children who
have churchgoing parents. So long as churchgoing is something that gets you
laughed at, so long as there is a social stigma attached to being a
churchgoing young person, it will be difficult to reverse the trend."|
||For young Muslims, "Being religious is a way that
you show you are different, that you are proud of your heritage. One of the
ways young Muslims assert their identity is by being more observant than
their parents." 1|
Reporter Sarah Miloudi reports that, according to the
same study, church attendance in Wales could decline to less than a quarter of
its current level by 2050, from 200,000 to fewer than 40,000. Elsewhere in the UK it is
predicted to fall by a similar percentage:
- In England from three million to 700,000.
- In Scotland it is expected to
decline from 550,000 to 140,000 in the same period.
The study notes that
members of the Methodist and Presbyterian denominations are mainly over 65 years-of-age, are dying
off, and not being replaced. A church merger between the two faith groups is predicted.
Lynda Barley, head of research for the Church of
England, disagreed. She said that her church felt there was “no reason” to believe attendance
would drop as predicted.
The Anglican Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, noted that the role of the church in
today’s society is changing. Church attendance is no longer a good measure of
its effect on society.
The Rev James Karran of the Ararat Baptist Church in
Whitchurch, Cardiff, and of the non-denominational pub church, Solace, said:
"I have read about some figures of where we will be
in terms of church going in the next few years. The church is seen as
outdated and irrelevant. I do not think this is the case, and I think the
Christian message of hope still has a lot to say. I think a lot depends on
how this message is put across, as people see the old church buildings and
10 AM starts for services. ... [They] don’t want that. The church is only just
starting to realize things need to be done differently. It will take a few
years before we know if this has worked." 2
Results from the European Social Survey:
This survey is conducted every two years. One of the questions asked is:
"Do you consider yourself as belonging to any particular religion or denomination?"
Results for UK over the interval 2002 to 2008 indicate a slight negative trend:
A slim majority of adults in the UK appear to be a member of the "NOTA" group: those NOT Affiliated with any faith group.
Also, many of those who claim to belong to a faith group have never darkened the doorway of a faith group in decades. Similar declines in affiliation and trends towards secularization are apparent in other western European countries. 3
2009: A poll commission by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and conducted by ComRes:
The poll was synchronized with the introduction of a new BBC program called "Faith Diary" in early 2009. Adults were asked whether society:
"... should respect and be influenced by UK religious values."
Just under two thirds of persons sampled agreed.
A similar percentage agreed with the statement that:
"... religion has an important role to play in public life."
Robert Pigott, the religious affairs correspondent for the BBC wrote:
"... our poll tallies with other research findings -- that the proportion of people identifying themselves as atheists has not grown from its low base," despite the growth of what are seen as secular social values." 3
Professor David Voas, while at the Cathie Marsh Centre for Census and Survey Research in Manchester, said that the percentage of those who identified as Christians in the latest government census were a very uncertain and wavering number. He suggested that a full half of the adult population qualify only as what he called
Voas believes that they have:
"... only a vaguely defined notion of a 'divine entity'... [which makes] little difference to their lives". 3
He views the other half as non-adherents: people who may still pray but who believe in some type of "higher power" rather than a personal deity. They either do not go to church or attend church only to observe life transitions: baptisms, marriages, and funerals.
With such a large group of UK adults having such a vague idea of a deity who has little impact on their lives, it might be an excellent opportunity for someone to promote Deism in the country. Deism is a belief system that involves a God who created the universe and its laws, started it up, left, and hasn't been seen since. It was a very popular belief system among the founders of the United States.
Ekklesia suggests that:
"... this complex picture fits with a society in transition from an established settlement where Christianity dominated public life, ("Christendom"), to a mixed belief society where convictions are more contested - as recent public ... [arguments] about religion show."
Ekklesia's Simon Barrow commented:
'A dispassionate look at accumulated [UK] research over the past few years would indicate that institutional religion is on the decline, that strong belief commitment has devolved into less established forms, that the 'spiritual but not religious' constituency has grown, that a majority are vague and uncommitted in their beliefs, and that a secular mindset has grown without a significant increase in affiliation to explicitly non-religious groups.'
'People want faith and belief to be beneficent. They dislike extremism and domineering forms of religion, but neither do they want to see it simply excluded from public life. Perhaps the positive message to Christians and others is that they need to show the value of what they have to offer through practical example, not through trying to grab power and influence for themselves.'
Ekklesia has argued that the demise of a top-down 'Christendom' order should not be seen negatively by the churches, but as an opportunity to rediscover a more authentic, liberating Christian message and practice - one that Barrow says 'has often been obscured or defaced by the collusion of official religion and governing authority'." 3
Results of the 2015 government Census:
The census found that the largest religious grouping in the UK were those of no religion. They total 49% of the adult population, a near majority. Smaller groups included 42% who identified as Christian; 5% as Muslim; 3% as of other religions. One percent did not state a preference. 4
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Ruth Gledhill: "Churchgoing on its knees as
Christianity falls out of favour," The Times, 2008-MAY-08, at:
- Sarah Miloudi, "Church attendance in Wales
‘plummeting’" Western Mail, 2008-MAY-09, at:
- "Mixed picture emerges on British attitudes to religion in public life," Ekklesia, 2009-FEB-24, at: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/ Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 England & Wales License.
- "Religion in the United Kingdom," Wikipedia, as on 2016-MAY-22, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/
Copyright © 2003 to 2016 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2003-FEB-19
Latest update: 2016-MAY-27
Author: B.A. Robinson