Survey: Half of Britons Atheist, Only 38% Christian, Islam on the Rise

Carl Court/Getty

The British Social Attitudes survey has revealed that those professing a Christian faith have fallen to a record low, while more than half of Britons profess no faith and the number of those professing adherence to Islam is on the rise. The BSA also revealed that acceptance of gay sex has fallen for the first time since the height of the 1980s AIDS crisis.

Conducted by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen), the survey of 2,884 people in 2018 found that there has been a “dramatic decline” in the number of people identifying as a Christian in the past 35 years.

In 1983, two-thirds (66 per cent) of people said they were Christian, that number hitting half the population in 2008, and just over a third, 38 per cent, in 2018. Only one per cent of 18- to 24-year-olds identify as belonging to the Church of England.

The survey also found that the only faiths which are notably growing in the UK are Christian Pentecostalism — likely due to immigration from West Africa — and Islam, which grew from one per cent in 1983, to three per cent in 2008, to six per cent in 2018.

NatCen’s 2016 saw that for the first time, half (50 per cent) of the population claimed to have no religion, with that figure rising to 52 per cent in 2018.

The survey’s authors would not commit to stating that the UK had become a ‘secular’ nation, but did say that while religion may be declining, “it is also diversifying and deepening, as some believers, like non-believers, become more committed to their worldviews. This means a world in which there may be significant tension between the political and social attitudes of the religious and non-religious, meaning faith is likely to remain an important part of our national conversation.”

The survey also measured other aspects of British social attitudes, including sex before marriage, where in 1983, 42 per cent said there is nothing wrong with sex outside marriage, compared to three-quarters in 2018.

Notably, the BSA survey found that for the first time since the AIDS crisis, acceptance of gay sex has fallen. Since 1987, acceptance had been rising steadily until 2017 to 68 per cent, dropping to 66 per cent in 2018.

“The liberalisation in attitudes to sexual relationships observed since first recorded by BSA in the 1980s appears to be slowing down,” NatCen observed, adding that “while social norms have changed, there is a significant minority of the population who remain uncomfortable with same-sex relationships, and as such we may have reached a point of plateau”.

The statistics revealing the drop in acceptance of gay sex came as Muslim parents have restarted protests at a Birmingham primary school over its teaching of young children about same-sex relationships.

Parkfield school announced that it had modified its “no outsiders” curriculum into “no outsiders for a faith community”, but Muslim parents claim that the lessons still promote homosexuality. Leading a protest outside of the school on Tuesday, parents’ spokesman Jay Hussain said the school is “not respecting our religious beliefs”.

“We are not against anyone expressing their sexuality or being homosexual if that’s what they want. We have no issue if Mr Moffat [the headteacher] wants to put on a dress, or dance around like a ballet dancer, or put on a skirt, we have no issue. We have an issue with teaching that nonsense to our kids,” Mr Hussain said.

Parent Parent Ali Yassir told BirminghamLive: “They [teachers] tell us our beliefs are wrong, that it is not good to believe what we do. This is not right. Children are confused by being told that gay relationships are okay. It is not okay for us.”


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.