West Europe

The numbers behind the church’s decline in the UK

Credit: British Social Attitudes Survey

The decline of Christianity in the UK has reached record proportions according to new statistics released this week by the British Social Attitudes Survey. People with religious faith are outnumbered in Britain in the widest gap recorded by the annual study.

The proportion of Britons declaring they have no religion has risen from 48 per dent in 2015 to 53 per cent last year.

The first Social Attitudes Survey in 1983 found that 69 per cent of the 3000 surveyed declared a religious faith. Since then there has been steady decline to 49 per cent in 2009 and 47 per cent today.

In particular young people, aged between 18 and 24,  are most likely to declare that they have no religion. In 2015, 62 per cent of young people said they had no religion and this increased to 71 per cent last year. But those without no religion are in a minority among older age groups.

The Church of England Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Rev Stephen Cottrell said he was troubled by the decline but called on the church to continue to share its teachings on “justice and peace”.

“We will get on with living and sharing that vision with a few dozen people, a few thousand people, or a few million people.”

The Church of England takes a particular ‘hit’ in the survey. The proportion of people describing themselves as ‘Anglican’ (Church of England) had dropped from 30 per cent in 200- to 15 per cent last year and only three per cent of 18-24 year-olds.

But the Bishop of Liverpool, Paul Bayes, claimed to welcome the fact that people were more “honest” and said they had no religion “rather than casually saying they are C of E”.

There is better news for the Roman Catholic Church with the proportion of Catholics remaining stable between eight and 12 per cent from 1983 to 2016. Other Christian groups have held their own unchanged at 17 per cent.

Secularists called for a rethink on the Establishment of the Church of England in the British constitution. The National Secular Society said Bishops should no longer be included in the House of Lords, the second chamber of Parliament.