For the first time in the history of the United Kingdom census, less than half of the population of England and Wales describe themselves as “Christian.”
The new data, released Tuesday by the Office of National Statistics, shows that 46.2 percent of the population in England and Wales calls themselves “Christian,” a major decline from the 59.3 percent who answered that way in 2011.
“Despite this decrease, ‘Christian’ remained the most common response to the religion question,” the Office of National Statistics said.
There are 27.5 million Christians in England and Wales, a decrease from 2011 when there were 33.3 million Christians, according to the report.
“No religion” was the second most common answer, with 37.2 percent answering that way compared to the 25.2 percent in 2011 who said they had no religion.
The Muslim population in England and Wales has increased from 4.9 percent in 2011 to 6.5 percent today.
London, the report said, is more diverse than the rest of the United Kingdom.
“London remains the most religiously diverse region of England in 2021, with over a quarter (25.3 percent) of all usual residents reporting a religion other than ‘Christian’; the North East and South West are the least religiously diverse regions, with 4.2 percent and 3.2 percent, respectively, selecting a religion other than “Christian,’” the report said.
The question on religion was added to the census in 2001, the Office of National Statistics said.
“In the census data, religion refers to a person’s religious affiliation,” the office said. “This is the religion with which they connect or identify, rather than their beliefs or active religious practice. As the question is voluntary, be cautious when comparing figures between different areas or between censuses because of varying response rates.”
Percentages are “calculated out of the overall population as opposed to out of the population who answered the religion question,” the office said.
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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.