by Karen Faulkner, Worthy News Correspondent
(Worthy News) – A new census shows the number of people identifying as Christian in England and Wales has fallen below 50% for the first time, although researchers say this does not mean Britain has turned its back on religion, Christian Today (CT) reports. The census also shows that the percentage of the English and Welsh population who said they had no religion rose sharply from 25.2% in 2011 to 37.2% in 2021.
The census report shows that today only 27.5 million (46.2%) of the population of England and Wales identify as Christians, compared to 33.2 million people in 2011, CT reports. Meanwhile, the percentage of people identifying as Muslim rose from 4.9% in 2011 to 6.5% in 2021.
Nevertheless, the Bible Society’s Head of Research, Dr. Rhiannon McAleer, said in a statement that religious identity in England and Wales is still “mainstream” and that the reduction in those identifying as Christian may have explanations other than a turning away from God.
“It may be that people are less willing to wear a label that doesn’t accurately describe them. It’s not necessarily that they have lost a genuine and heart-felt faith,” McAleer said. “There’s also far more permission for people to admit that they don’t identify as Christians; they don’t have to claim a faith they don’t actively hold in order to win social approval.”
Carried out with YouGov, the census also showed that the number of people identifying as atheist has decreased, while the number of those who say they believe in God has stayed the same over the last decade, CT reports.
“Religious practice and identity – both Christian and non-Christian – is mainstream, and policy-makers cannot assume that religious voices should be absent from the public square,” McAleer said.
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