Long known for its indifference to religion, Britain continues to become less and less religious, with a record 46 per cent of the UK adult population now espousing no religion whatsoever.
A new survey by researchers at Lancaster University reveals that only 42 per cent of Brits identify as Christians, despite the fact that England remains one of the last confessionally Christian nations in the world, with the Anglican communion enjoying official status as the state religion.
Britain, in fact, is one of only a handful of countries in the world that is swiftly moving from having a Christian majority to a ‘no religion’ majority, with only the Muslim faith bucking the trend toward implosion.
While the Church of England is only “one generation away from extinction,” as Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, warned earlier this year, Islam is quickly coming forward to take its place.
During the past two years the Church of England lost two million followers, whereas the number of Muslims in Britain grew by a million, according to NatCen’s British Social Attitudes Survey.
In 2012, Muhammed became the most common name given to baby boys born in London, and the second most common among newborn male babies across the entire UK and Wales.
The trend toward irreligiosity and Islamization has aroused the attention—and the fear—of many British, even among the least likely group: the godless. Even noted atheist proselytizer Richard Dawkins has expressed his concern that Britain’s loss of its Christian faith may not be such a good thing.
In a text making the rounds on social media, Dawkins admitted that Christianity may be the West’s best defense against aberrant forms of religion that threaten the world.
“There are no Christians, as far as I know, blowing up buildings,” he said. “I am not aware of any Christian suicide bombers. I am not aware of any major Christian denomination that believes the penalty for apostasy is death.”
“I have mixed feelings about the decline of Christianity,” Dawkins added, “in so far as Christianity might be a bulwark against something worse.”
The new study, which polled 1,500 people, reveals a precipitous drop in religious affiliation in a very short time. Just three years ago a similar survey found that 37 per cent of the British population had no religion, whereas the 2016 study indicates a figure of 46 per cent—a remarkable increase of nearly 25 per cent.
“No religion is the new norm, and there is every indication that its majority share will continue to grow,” said Linda Woodhead, professor of the sociology of religion at Lancaster University. “In terms of upbringing, no religion is particularly stick. We can see that 95 per cent of people with a ‘no religion’ upbringing retain that identity, whilst 40 per cent of those with a Christian upbringing lose a Christian identity.”
“It used to be quite common for people to identify as Church of England simply because they were English,” Woodhead said, “but now they’re more to think of themselves as having no religion.”
The results of the survey also indicate a marked correlation between age and religiosity, with the majority of over-60s saying they were Christian, while 56 per cent of people under the age of 40 said they had no religion at all.
One in three Muslims in Britain is under 15, however, and there are fewer elderly Muslims, with only 4 per cent aged over 65, compared with 16 per cent of the overall population.
As the fastest growing religion in the world, Islam is expected to pass Christianity by the end of the century and the number of Muslims will grow more than twice as fast as the world’s population from now until 2050, according to the Pew Research Center.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome