Over half of Britons have no religion

The number of Britons who describe themselves as having no religion is at its highest ever.

According to the British Social Attitudes Survey more than half (53%) of the British public now describe themselves as having “no religion”, up from 48% in 2015.

The proportion of “non-believers” has increased gradually since the survey began in 1983, when the proportion saying they had no religion stood at 31%.

The decline in religious affiliation is hitting the Church of England particularly hard. Just 15% of people in Britain consider themselves Anglican, half the proportion who said this in 2000.

The proportion of people describing themselves as Catholic has remained relatively stable – at around 1 in 10 – over the past 30 years.

And around 1 in 20 (6%) of people belong to non-Christian religions.

The fall in religious affiliation has been driven by young people. In 2016, seven in ten (71%) of young people aged 18-24 said they had no religion, up from 62% in 2015.

There has been a decline in religious affiliation among all age groups between 2015 and 2016, but among the oldest people, those with no religion are in the minority. Four in 10 people aged 65-74 say they have no religion and this drops to 27% of those aged 75 and over.

Roger Harding, Head of Public Attitudes at the National Centre for Social Research, said:
“This increase follows the long-term trend of more and more of us not being religious. The differences by age are stark and with so many younger people not having a religion it’s hard to see this change abating any time soon. The falls in those belonging to the Church of England are the most notable, but these figures should cause all religious leaders to pause for thought.

“We know from the British Social Attitudes survey that religious people are becoming more socially liberal on issues like same sex relationships and abortion. With falling numbers some faith leaders might wonder whether they should be doing more to take their congregation’s lead on adapting to how society is changing.”

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