UK REPORT: Anglicans in Decline, Islam and Atheism On the Rise

Pope Francis Meets Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby

Islam is the fastest growing religion in the United Kingdom, and the Church of England is in steep decline, according to the latest information released by the British Social Attitudes (BSA) Survey.

The newest BSA report shows that while 40 percent of people identified as ‘Church of England / Anglican’ in 1983, only 17 percent did so in 2014. This means that the number of Anglicans has dropped from 16.5m to just 8.6m over the past 30 years.

The numbers for Islam and atheism however are quite the contrary. Those who identified as Muslim grew from 0.5 percent in 1983, to 5 percent of Britain’s population today. This is an increase of nearly 1 million people, taking the running total to around 2.4m.

Atheism or agnosticism also appears to be on the rise in the UK, with 12.8m (31 percent) claiming to have no religion in 1983, and 24.7m (49 percent) stating the same in 2014.

But Catholicism seems to be holding up, with 4.1m followers in 1983, and 4m in 2014 – a statistic that may be explained by Catholic, eastern European migrants coming to Britain since 2004.

Lord Carey, a former Archbishop of Canterbury, said of the news: “These figures are a call to urgent mission. I have no doubt at all that the Archbishops, together with the whole leadership of the Church of England, are doing all they can to reverse this trend.”

Naomi Jones, head of social attitudes at NatCen Social Research, who conducted the study, said: “One explanation for this might be that the numbers of Catholic and non-Christian people in Britain may have been supplemented by migrants with strong religious beliefs.

“Another explanation could be that, in the past, religion played a more prominent role in people’s identity. We know from recent NatCen research that people are less likely than in previous years to see being Christian as an important component of being British.

“Therefore, fewer British people may feel that the Church of England is an important part of their identity nowadays.”

The news comes after the Church of England took steps to be more ‘modern’ such as the introduction of female bishops.


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