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Census finds Christians now a minority in England; non-religious grow

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby in Westminster Abbey, London,  November 11, 2018. (Paul Grover/Pool photo via AP)
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby in Westminster Abbey, London, November 11, 2018. (Paul Grover/Pool photo via AP)

Fewer than half the people in England and Wales consider themselves Christian, according to the most recent census — the first time the country’s official religion has been followed by a minority of the population.

Britain has become less religious — and less white — in the decade since the last census, figures from the 2021 census released today by the Office for National Statistics reveals.

Some 27.5 million people or 46.2 percent in England and Wales described themselves as Christian, down 13.1 percentage points from 2011.

“No religion” rose by 12 points to 37.2 percent or 22.2 million, while Muslims stood at 3.9 million or 6.5 percent of the population, up from 4.9 percent before.

The next most common responses were Hindu (1.0 million) and Sikh 524,000), while Buddhists overtook Jewish people (273,000 to 271,000).

The other parts of the UK, Scotland and Northern Ireland, report their census results separately.

Secularism campaigners said the shift should trigger a rethink of the way religion is entrenched in British society. The UK has state-funded Church of England schools, Anglican bishops sit in Parliament’s upper chamber, and the monarch is “defender of the faith” and supreme governor of the church.

Andrew Copson, chief executive of the charity Humanists UK, said “the dramatic growth of the non-religious” had made the UK “almost certainly one of the least religious countries on Earth.”

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