Losing our religion: Less than half identify with organised faith

PUBLISHED: 17:20 06 September 2017 | UPDATED: 17:20 06 September 2017

The King James Bible. Picture: Archant Archive

The King James Bible. Picture: Archant Archive


For the first time, more than half of people in the UK do not identify as religious, according to the British Social Attitudes survey.

The number of people describing themselves as having “no religion” has risen from 48 per cent in 2015 to 53pc this year, in the survey of 2,942 adults.

The proportion of non-believers has increased gradually since the survey began in 1983, when the proportion saying they had no religion stood at 31pc.

Just 15pc of people in Britain consider themselves Anglican, half the proportion who said this in 2000.

Those identifying as Catholic has remained relatively stable – at around one in 10 – over the past 30 years.

Of the six per cent belonging to other faiths, half were Muslim and a third were Hindu, with Jewish, Sikh, Buddhist and other groups making up the remainder.

Just over 70pc of those aged 18 to 24 who took part in the survey said they had no religion, while 73pc of people aged 75 and over said they were religious.

Roger Harding, of the National Centre for Social Research, which produced the survey, said it should give “all religious leaders to pause for thought”.

He said: “This increase follows the long-term trend of more and more of us not being religious.

“The differences by age are stark and with so many younger people not having a religion it’s hard to see this change abating any time soon.

“The falls in those belonging to the Church of England are the most notable, but these figures should cause all religious leaders to pause for thought.

“We know from the British Social Attitudes survey that religious people are becoming more socially liberal on issues like same sex relationships and abortion.

“With falling numbers some faith leaders might wonder whether they should be doing more to take their congregation’s lead on adapting to how society is changing.”

Paul Kaufman, chairman of the East London Humanists, said: “I can’t say I’m surprised by the results. I think a lot of people are more likely to say what they think now rather than feel like they have to keep quiet.”

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