Number of Christians falls by 4 million

 

The number of Christians living in England and Wales has fallen by four million in the past decade, the 2011 Census reveals.

The data shows that numbers fell from 37.3 million in 2001 to 33.2 million last year.

The statistics emerged as the Archbishop of Canterbury claimed that English cathedral congregations had grown dramatically in recent years, debunking the “cliche” that the Church of England is fading away.

Census data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) also reveals the impact of immigration and European Union enlargement, showing a significant rise in the number of foreign-born residents living in England and Wales.

This has increased from 4.6 million to 7.5 million.

Guy Goodwin, the ONS’s director of census, said: “These statistics paint a picture of society and help us all plan for the future using accurate information at a local level.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg of census statistics. Further rich layers of vital information will be revealed as we publish more detailed data for very local levels over the coming.”

The second major tranche of information to be revealed from the 2011 Census shows the number of people declaring themselves to be atheists rose by more than six million to 14.1 million - almost double the figure for 2001.

This year’s questionnaire - sent to around 26 million households in England and Wales on March 27 last year - came after the British Humanist Association (BHA) ran a campaign in the run-up encouraging non-religious people to tick the “no religion” box on the census form.

The only voluntary question in the census related to religion and allowed people to declare themselves to be Christian (all denominations), Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, of no religion or to list themselves as belonging to any other faith.

Christianity came out on top, as in 2001, followed by Muslim, a box ticked by 2.7 million people or 4.8 per cent of the population, up from 1.8 per cent in 2001.

The data released today details the characteristics of people living in 348 local authorities across England and Wales, covering topics including ethnicity, country of birth, health and housing.

Of the 7.5 million people living in England and Wales who were born abroad, it showed that half of this number arrived between 2001 and 2011.

According to the census, the top five countries of birth were India, Poland, Pakistan, Ireland and Germany. This marks a departure from the make-up of the population in 2001 when Poland was not one of the 10 most commonly stated countries of origin.

The largest increase in ethnic group over the last decade was seen in the “White: Other” category where an increase of 1.1 million (to 2.5 million) was recorded.

This reflects more than half a million Poles who migrated into England and Wales during these years, the ONS said.

Questions relating to ethnicity and identity revealed a decline - of 0.4 million - in the number of people describing themselves as “White: British”. This group now makes up 80 per cent of the population, compared with 87 per cent in 2001.

But some two million respondents listed their partners or fellow household members as being of different ethnic groups - 47 per cent more than in 2001.

PA