GOD AND THE CHURCH: THE FACTS (INCLUDING THE LEAST RELIGIOUS PLACE IN BRITAIN)

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The Independent Culture
In 1990, 71 per cent of the British population said they believed in God, as did 95 per cent of those living in Northern Ireland.

The largest denomination in Britain is the Anglican Church, which stood at 26.1 million in 1995. This is almost half (45 per cent) of the population of Britain. In 1995, there were also 5.7 million Roman Catholics, 2.6 million Presbyterians, 1.3 million Methodists and 600,000 Baptists. In total, 65 per cent of the British population has some affinity to a Christian religion.

However, committed members represent but a fraction of these figures. In 1980, all churches combined had 7,550,000 members; by 1985, this figure had fallen to 6,980,000; by 1990, it had further tumbled to 6,690,000; and by 1995, to 6,360,000. It is predicted to slump to 5,950,000 by 2000.

Assuming present trends continue, then in the 20 years 1980 to 2000, the Anglican church's membership will have fallen by 27 per cent, the same drop as in Roman Catholic mass attendance.

Orthodox churches, of which the Greek Orthodox Church formed 94 per cent of membership in 1995, are the only institutional churches growing in Britain.

The Presbyterian Churches, of which the Church of Scotland formed 64 per cent of membership in 1995, are declining faster than the Anglican and Catholic churches. This is not only true for their membership, but also for their church buildings, whose numbers will have dropped 15 per cent between 1980 and 2000, and their ministers, who will have dropped by 31 per cent.

Other organisations are faring badly too. Trade union membership will have fallen 4 per cent between 1980 and 2000; the Guide movement's membership was down 1.2 per cent between 1981 and 1995, and the Scouts' 0.5 per cent. Membership of the National Trust, however, rose 5.8 per cent.

While England has 62 per cent of church members, it has 77 per cent of the churches and 80 per cent of ministers, reflecting the residual strength of the church in Scotland which has 18 per cent of the membership, but only 8 per cent of the churches and 9 per cent of the ministers.

Women have a higher disposition for religious belief than men. Women are also most likely to have no doubts, or, if they do, still to hang in there. In a 1995 survey, 27 per cent of women, but only 18 per cent of men, agreed with the statement that "I know God really exists and I have no doubts about it".

Just over half the children born in Britain are likely to be baptised in a church.

In 1993, 49 per cent of marriages took place in a religious building, 48 per cent in 1994, and 47 per cent in 1995. When both parties are marrying for the first time, then, in 1995, 64 per cent of those marriages took place in a religious building.

In 1996, 638,900 people died in Britain and 95 per cent of them were despatched with a funeral including a Christian ceremony.

About 19 per cent of the adult population attend church each week, but almost double that figure claim to be regular attenders.

Church attendance in the East Midlands, Yorkshire and Humberside regions is the lowest in Britain.

The Local Authority Districts which have the smallest percentage attending church are Blyth Valley in Northumberland (3 per cent), and Castle Point in Essex, Boston in Lincolnshire, and Lichfield and Tamworth in Staffordshire (all 4 per cent). The highest percentages are in Ribble Valley in Lancashire (26 per cent), West Devon (23 per cent) and South Staffordshire (22 per cent).

The number of religious books being published in the UK has risen rapidly since 1993, when 2,600 were published. In 1994 the figure rose to 3,300, and in 1995 it jumped by a further 33 per cent to 4,400 (although it dropped back to 4,300 in 1996).

In 1982 there were 314 religious bookshops in the UK; today there are 550.

Since 1980 an average of six new churches have opened every week, but seven per week have closed.

All statistics are from the 1988/99 `UK Christian Handbook: Religious Trends', published by Christian Research and Paternoster Publishing, price pounds 25.

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