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Less than half of England, Wales is Christian for first time in census history

The prevalence of Christianity is declining in England and Wales, according to the latest census data from the U.K. Office for National Statistics. File Photo by Hugo Philpott/UPI
The prevalence of Christianity is declining in England and Wales, according to the latest census data from the U.K. Office for National Statistics. File Photo by Hugo Philpott/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 29 (UPI) -- The prevalence of Christianity is declining in England and Wales, according to the latest census data from Britain's Office for National Statistics.

Religious identification is an optional part of the survey that about 94% of respondents answered in the 2021 survey, up from about 93% in 2011. Among those, about 46% or 27.5 million people described themselves as Christians. It is the first time a census has reflected less than half of the populations of England and Wales being Christian.

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No single religion surpassed Christianity in the survey. The second most common response to the question was "no religion," which accounted for about 37% of answers or 22.2 million people. This represents an increase of 12% over 2011 figures, when about 14 million people said they subscribed to no religion.

Linda Woodhead, a professor from King's College London, said selecting "no religion" does not mean a person does not have a belief system.

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"Some will be atheist, a lot will be agnostic -- they just say, 'I don't really know' -- and some will be spiritual and be doing spiritual things," she said to BBC.

The changes in Christianity and "no religion" responses were greatest in Wales, where "Christian" was chosen at a 14% lower rate and "no religion" was chosen at a 14.5% higher rate.

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London has the most diverse religious makeup, according to the census. More than 25% of respondents described their religion as one other than Christian.

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"One of the most striking things about these census results is how at odds the population is from the state itself," Andrew Copson, chief executive of Humanists U.K., told the Guardian.

"No state in Europe has such a religious setup as we do in terms of law and public policy, while at the same time having such a non-religious population."

Religion was introduced as a voluntary part of the census in 2001. There was an option to write in another religion not listed on the census. The most common write-in answer was "Pagan" with about 74,000 responses. Alevism, an Islamic tradition most common in Turkey, has 26,000 responses and the Indian religion Jainism had 25,000.

"Shamanism" saw the greatest increase in answers among other religions, climbing from 650 to 8,000 in the last decade.

Non-religious write-ins were led by "Agnostic" with 32,000 and "Atheist" with 14,000.

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