December 12, 2012
New Census Reignites Debate over British Christianity's Future
Past decade sees 4 million fewer Christians, 6 million more agnostics.
According to fresh data from the United Kingdom's once-a-decade census, the number of residents of England and Wales identifying as Christians dropped 13 percent since 2001. However, Christians still make up 59 percent of the total population.
But with nearly. 14.1 million people—a quarter of the population and 6.4 million more people than before—professing no religion at all, some analyses suggest that Christians could fall below majority status to a plurality by 2018.
But the new Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has remarked that Christianity is not "fading away" anytime soon, citing "a dramatic rise in the number of people visiting cathedrals, for prayer or reflection as much as the architecture."
Arun Arora, director of communications for the Archbishop's Council, also says the census data could stem from more "cultural Christians" willing to identify themselves as religiously unaffiliated.
The census also indicates that the number of Muslims has nearly doubled, jumping from 1.5 million in 2001 to 2.7 million in 2011.
(Editor's note: This article has been updated for clarity to reflect that the census data refers only to the populations of England and Wales.)