Census figures show Christianity in sharp decline while belief in Islam dramatically increases

More than one in 10 under-25s in the UK now describe themselves as Muslim

Heather Saul
Saturday 18 May 2013 09:12 BST

A fresh analysis of the 2011 census has shown that Christian faith in the UK is declining rapidly amongst the British-born population, whilst belief in Islam has dramatically increased.

A report published by the Office for National Statistics revealed that the percentage of people following a Christian faith dropped from 71.7 per cent in 2001 to 59.3 per cent in 2011. More than one in 10 under 25s in the UK now describe themselves as Muslim.

Figures for Christianity were boosted however by the 1.2 million foreign-born Christians residing in the UK, such as Polish Catholics and evangelicals from countries such as Nigeria.

Meanwhile, the percentage of the people who have no religion rose from 14.8 per cent to a quarter of the population.

This fluctuation is being attributed to both ageing Christians, a quarter of which are aged 65 and above and younger Muslims, half of which are under 25. Rising levels of immigration across England and Wales over the last decade are also believed to have contributed, with the 2011 census showing 600,000 more foreign-born followers of an Islamic faith.

Christianity is still the most prevalent faith in England and Wales and has 33.2 million followers, but such a rapid decline could suggest that it may lose its place as the most popular religion amongst Britons within the decade.

A spokesperson for the Church of England said that despite the analysis, the UK was still a “faithful nation.”

“Christianity was the largest religious group in England and Wales with 33.2 million people – 59 per cent of the population. The second largest group was Islam with 2.7 million people – 5 per cent of the population. Combined with other religions, these figures show that as a nation we are overwhelming a faithful nation.”

Keith Porteous Wood, executive director of the National Secular Society said that young people may perceive Christianity as unattractive because it "lacks relevance to their lives".

Keith added: "They particularly dislike the church's failure to treat women equally and its obsessional war against homosexuality. Most young Catholics despair at their church's attitude to contraception and abortion.

“Because the young are abandoning the churches, congregations will continue to dwindle and age. Christian Research projects Anglican and Catholic church attendance in Britain will drop below 200,000 jointly by 2050.”

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