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UK census 2022: Christians now a minority in England and Wales for first time - Leon Neal/Getty© Leon Neal/Getty/Photo Courtesy

 

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) results show that 46.2 per cent of the population (27.5 million people) described themselves as 'Christian' in 2021. This marks a 13.1 percentage point decrease from 59.3 per cent (33.3 million people) in 2011. 

 

The census data also shows that every major religion increased over the ten-year period, except for Christianity. 

Despite this decrease, 'Christian' remained the most common response to the question about religion. 'No religion' was the second most common response, increasing to 37.2 per cent (22.2 million) from 25.2 per cent (14.1 million) across the ten-year period.

The Archbishop of York, the Most Rev Stephen Cottrell, said it was "not a great surprise" that there is a declining number of Christians in the UK, but it was important to remember that Christianity is "the largest movement on Earth". 

However, Humanists UK said the Census "should be a wake-up call which prompts fresh reconsiderations of the role of religion in society".

Other results from the census show that in 2021, 81.7 per cent (48.7 million) of usual residents in England and Wales identified their ethnic group within the 'White' category - a decrease from 86.0 per cent (48.2 million) in the 2011 Census.

The next most common ethnic group was 'Asian, Asian British or Asian Welsh', accounting for 9.3 per cent (5.5 million) of the overall population. This ethnic group saw the largest increase from 2011, up from 7.5 per cent (4.2 million people).

Researchers also found that the most common main languages other than English (English or Welsh in Wales) were: Polish (1.1 per cent, 612,000), Romanian (0.8 per cent, 472,000), Panjabi (0.5 per cent, 291,000), and Urdu (0.5 per cent, 270,000). 

Responding to the religion data, the Archbishop said: "It’s not a great surprise that the census shows fewer people in this country identifying as Christian than in the past, but it still throws down a challenge to us not only to trust that God will build his kingdom on Earth, but also to play our part in making Christ known.

"We have left behind the era when many people almost automatically identified as Christian, but other surveys consistently show how the same people still seek spiritual truth and wisdom and a set of values to live by."

The Archbishop added that Christianity continues to play a major role in secular society, especially during the current cost of living crisis.

"This winter - perhaps more so than for a long time – people right across the country, some in desperate need, will be turning to their local church, not only for spiritual hope but practical help," he said. 

"We will be there for them, in many cases, providing food and warmth. And at Christmas millions of people will still come to our services." 

'UK is one of the least religious countries on Earth'

However, Andrew Copson, the chief executive of Humanists UK, said the "biggest demographic change in England and Wales of the last ten years has been the dramatic growth of the non-religious. They mean the UK is almost certainly one of the least religious countries on Earth".

He added: "No state in Europe has such a religious set-up as we do in terms of law and public policy, while at the same time having such a non-religious population. 

"Iran is the only other state in the world that has clerics voting in its legislature. And no other country in the world requires compulsory Christian worship in schools as standard.

"The law has failed to keep up with the pace of change, and as a result, the enormous non-religious population in England and Wales face everyday discrimination – from getting local school places to receiving appropriate emotional support in hospitals. 

Other results from the religion data show that between 2011 and 2021, the Muslim population increased from 4.9 per cent to 6.5 per cent (2.7 to 3.9 million), the Sikh population grew from 0.8 per cent to 0.9 per cent (423,000 to 524,000), and the number of Buddhists rose from 0.4 per cent to 0.5 per cent (249,000 to 273,000). 

Furthermore, the number of Hindus increased from 1.5 per cent to 1.7 pre cent (818,000 to 1 million), and the Jewish population rose from 265,000 to 271,000 (both at 0.5 per cent). by Gabriella Swerling, Ben Butcher, The Telegraph

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