The new portrait of a much less Christian population could have profound implications in Britain, given the Church of England’s deep ties to British traditions and government.
King Charles III could bring new approach to Defenders of the Faith
The British monarch, now King Charles III, is the “Defender of the Faith” and “Supreme Governor of the Church of England,” and 26 church bishops sit in Parliament’s House of Lords, where they pass laws.
Tens of thousands of Anglican churches still dot the landscape in Britain, where ‘pub and parish’ have traditionally been the heart of village life. But many of these churches are struggling.
The government’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) said Tuesday that 46 per cent of the population in England and Wales (27.5 million people) identified themselves as ‘Christian’ in 2021, up from 59 per cent (33.3 million people ) in 2011.
“No religion” was the second most common answer, rising from 25 percent (14.1 million) in 2011 to 37 percent (22.2 million people). Figures for Scotland will follow later.
“We are past the era when many people almost automatically identified themselves as Christians,” Archbishop Stephen Cottrell said in a statement to the census.
Cottrell didn’t see the numbers as a defeat but definitely as a challenge, adding that “other polls keep showing how the same people are still searching for spiritual truth and wisdom and a set of values to live by.”
He continued, “It’s no great surprise that the census shows fewer people in this country identify themselves as Christians than in the past, but it still challenges us not to just trust God to call forth his kingdom but also to do our part in making Christ known.”
In their census report, the ONS researchers wrote that there are many factors that may contribute to Britain’s changing religious composition, “such as different aging patterns, fertility, mortality and migration”.
Response to the census was voluntary, and the question was broad: “What is your religion?” Experts warned that many respondents may have religious views or spiritual beliefs that were not captured by the survey.
However, the census results are visible to anyone attending a Sunday church service in England. Community membership has declined in many settings and participants are distorting the elderly. And in major cities, many church buildings have been converted into community and arts centers, concert halls, and even condominiums.
An analysis of Church of England data by the Telegraph newspaper found that 423 churches were closed between 2010 and 2019.
The same data shows that 940 churches were closed between 1987 and 2019. The total number of churches that remained standing was about 15,500, the newspaper reported.
The census revealed further changes.
The proportion of people who identify themselves as Muslim (from 4.9 percent to 6.5 percent) and as Hindu (from 1.5 percent to 1.7 percent) has increased. Britain’s new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is Hindu. The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is a Muslim.
Andrew Copson, chief executive of Humanists UK, said in a statement: “These results confirm that the biggest demographic shift in England and Wales over the past decade has been the dramatic growth of the non-religious. They mean Britain is almost certainly one of the least religious countries on earth.”
Copson’s group advocates decoupling religion in Britain from the House of Lords to the classroom, where a third of public schools in England are Christian.
“No state in Europe is as religious in terms of law and public policy as we are, while at the same time having such a non-religious population,” Copson said, adding that the numbers “should be a wake-up call.” Appeal that stimulates new reflections on the role of religion in society.”
Why some of Europe’s least religious countries are shaped by the Christian beliefs of politicians
In light of these changes, Charles reaffirmed his role as Supreme Governor of the Church of England upon his accession to the throne, but also said: “I feel a duty to respect those who follow other spiritual paths, as well as those who seek to live their lives in accordance with.” secular ideals.”
The declining number of people in England and Wales who identify themselves as Christian stems from extensive surveys of religious practice in Western Europe, where the Vatican in Rome served as the heart of the Catholic faith and Germany was the original source of Protestant Christianity.
In a landmark review, a 2018 Pew Research Center survey found that today 71 percent of adults identify themselves as Christian and 22 percent attend religious services monthly, although the vast majority of adults in Western Europe report being baptized.