Losing the Faith: Christians in Minority in England and Wales

Christian in London
A worshipper on Ash Wednesday in London, February. Data from 30 years of the British Social Attitudes survey shows the number of people who identify as having no religion outweighs the number of Christians. Peter Macdiarmid/Getty

The number of people in England and Wales who say they are of no religion outnumbers those who identify as Christian for the first time.

According to new research, around 48.5 percent of those surveyed in 2015 said they had no religion, compared to the 25 percent that said the same in the 2011 census.

Those who identified themselves as Christians, including Anglicans, Catholics and other denominations, made up 43.8 percent.

The percentage describing themselves as Anglican slid from 44.5 percent in 1983 to just 19 percent in 2014.

In the same year, Catholics made up 8.3 percent, other Christians were 15.7 percent and those of non-Christian religions were 7.7 percent.

The data is from 30 years of the British Social Attitudes survey, although the report—Contemporary Catholicism in England and Wales—did not include Scotland or Northern Ireland.

Stephen Bullivant, senior lecturer in theology and ethics at St Mary's Catholic University in Twickenham, said there was a "clear sense of the growth of 'no religion' as a proportion of the population."

He told The Guardian: "The main driver is people who were brought up with some religion now saying they have no religion.

"What we're seeing is an acceleration in the numbers of people not only not practicing their faith on a regular basis, but not even ticking the box.

"The reason for that is the big question in the sociology of religion."

Bullivant suggested that a major reason for the change in numbers was that the Anglican and Catholic churches struggle to retain those who were brought up as Christians.

The report will be launched at the House of Commons on Tuesday.