A 2021 census by the Office for National Statistics revealed that Christians are now a minority in England and Wales, with fewer than half of the population revealing themselves to be Christians.
According to the census, Leicester and Birmingham are the first UK cities with minority-majority population. Britain has become less religious and less white in the decade since the last census, the report said.
The Guardian reported that the census revealed a 5.5 million drop in the number of Christians and a 1.2 million rise in the number of people following Islam, bringing the Muslim population to 3.9 million. The changes equate to a 17 per cent fall in the number of Christians and a 44 per cent increase in the number of Muslims, the publication said. 1.7 per cent of the population identified themselves as Hindu, up from 1.5 per cent.
More than one in three people, 37 per cent, said they had no religion, up from 25 per cent in 2011. It was the second most common response after 'Christian.' The other parts of the UK, Scotland, and Northern Ireland report their census results separately.
Secularism campaigners said the shift should trigger a rethink of the way religion is entrenched in British society. The UK has state-funded Church of England schools, Anglican bishops sit in Parliament's upper chamber, and the monarch is the defender of the faith and supreme governor of the church.
Andrew Copson, chief executive of the charity Humanists UK, said the dramatic growth of the non-religious had made the UK almost certainly one of the least religious countries on Earth.
“One of the most striking things about these results is how at odds the population is from the state itself,” he said. No state in Europe has such a religious set-up as we do in terms of law and public policy, while at the same time having such a non-religious population.
Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell, one of the most senior clerics in the Church of England, said the data was not a great surprise, but, was a challenge to Christians to work harder to promote their faith.
“We have left behind the era when many people almost automatically identified as Christian, but other surveys consistently show how the same people still seek spiritual truth and wisdom and a set of values to live by,” he said.
According to the report, across the two countries, 81.7 per cent of the population is now white, including non-British, down from 86 per cent in 2011, 9.3 per cent is Asian British, up from 7.5 per cent, 2.5 per cent is Black, Black British, Black Welsh, Caribbean-African and African, up from 1.8 per cent, and 1.6 per cent are other ethnicities, The Guardian reported.
According to the report, minority ethnic people now make up more than half the population in Birmingham, 51.4 per cent. 20 years ago, 7 out of 10 people described themselves as white in Birmingham, UK's second largest city.
The Guardian quoted the census deputy director, Jon Wroth-Smith, saying, “The census showed the increasingly multicultural society we live in” but added that despite the rising ethnic diversity “nine in 10 people across England and Wales still identify with a UK national identity, with nearly eight in 10 doing so in London.”
(With PTI inputs)