Friday, 13 June 2014

Church of England in Terminal Decline

Figures compiled and published in British Social Attitudes 30 (2013 Edition) make grim reading for mainstream religions in Britain. Self-identification with religion shows that affiliations to the Anglican churches (Church of England, Church in Wales and Church of Scotland) have halved from 40 percent to just 20 percent between 1983 and 2012.

Only one in five Britons now identify with the established church whose bishops are appointed nominally by the Queen, but, for all practical purposes by the Prime Minister, and some of whose bishops sit by right in the upper chamber of the UK bicameral parliament without ever having stood for election even by the Anglican congregations.

At the same time, the proportion of self-identifying as having no religion has increased from 31 percent to 48 percent, having briefly topped 50 percent in 2009. 'No religion' is now the largest demographic group by far and even outstrips all the Christian groups added together. The only groups to increase over this period have been 'Other religions' which includes Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, etc of whatever sect, tripling from 2 percent to 6 percent, and 'Other Christian' group, which includes Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, United Reformed, Calvinist, Quaker, Plymouth Brethren, Mormon, etc, remained static and 'Catholic' declined marginally from 10 percent to 9 percent.

Bad those these figures are for the Anglican Church, the underlying trends must be giving them nightmares, especially those who earn their living from it. Of course, one has to be cautious about making accurate forecasts from trends, they are after all only trend and tend to become less accurate over time, representing only a best estimate, but these trends have been consistent now for 29 years. Projecting them forward for another 25 years (i.e. one generation) from the current year to 2039, and assuming a linear trend, we get a forecast guaranteed to spread gloom throughout the Anglican community in Britain - affiliations to the Anglican Church in Britain will be less than 1 percent of the population. Long before that stage is reached, the church will cease to be a viable entity having neither congregations to minister to nor clergy to minister to them.

On current trends, 'Anglican' will be the smallest demographic group, being outdone by all three other religious groups.

Meanwhile, 'No religion' will have reached the mid 6os, approaching two-thirds of the population.

As I said earlier, one has to be cautious about making form predictions from simple trends but these figures, especially those for 'No religion' are strongly supported by figures taken from a more detailed survey published in British Social Attitudes 28:

Those self-identifying as having no religion is almost exactly in line with the forecast for 2039 and tends to be hugher with each succecive generation. It might be tempting to assume that people tend to become more religious as they get older. However, the next chart shows otherwise.
In fact, religious attitudes and affiliations formed by the age of about 20 tend to be stable throughout life rarely deviating by more than a few percentage points. There are no crumbs of comfort to be gleaned from these figures for religion, least of all for Anglican Christianity. Given that only about 50 percent of children from actively religious parents tend to follow their example whilst only about 3 percent of children from non-religious parent will become religious. The next generation will be born to parents, 64 percent of whom are openly non-religious.

At some point in the next ten years or so, affiliation with the Anglican Church in Britain will fall below 10 percent of the adult population on it's way to de facto extinction, and will no longer be able to ignore the fact that its moral authority was long since lost, as was its smugly arrogant assumption of the right to guaranteed seats in our legislative body. The next head of state will inherit the title of Defender of the Faith with little or no faith to defend. He will he titular head of an irrelevant church with which almost no-one identifies and which few people will mourn the passing of.

It is time to disestablish the Church of England, to remove its bishops, and those of other religions who sit in the House of Lords by virtue of the positions of leadership of their respective faiths, to end its involvement in state-supported schools and to cut it loose from public subsidy and exemption from corporation tax on the considerable income derived from its investments in property, banking and industry. There is no justification for a faith subscribed to by only one in five Britons to be given special privileges over and above the rest of us. It's time to privatise the Church of England and allow it to find its place in the market-place for ideas, ethics and morals.

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  1. The moderate likeable chap Rowan Williams who never really came across as a zealot retired. Guess what? Having known about those stats you mention the C of E then instal a right old bible thumper to finish the job.

    1. Rowan Williams? It's Rowan Atkinson who should be put in charge of the Church of England. He can play a fake clergyman more appealing than the real ones, and if the C of E has no future as a serious religion, it could try to exploit the market for parody religions like the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

    2. Should adopt St Jude as its patron saint - patron saint of lost causes.

  2. Wonderful news and statistics! The same trends can be seen here in Sweden. Look here: .

    The number of church members in Sweden is steadily going down. From 95.2% in 1972 to 65.9% in 2013. And the trend is still being on the right track (seen from an atheistic perspective).

  3. Yeah! Can't Rowan Atkinson become archbishop for the Church of Sweden as well? Like a religious joint venture project.

    I just love this video clip, where a dyslectic and nervous Rowan Atkinson worships The Holy Goat. See: .

  4. In the Facebook group "WHY ATHEISM" there's at the moment a debate going on about the future of religion. Why not join that FB group? (Rosa is one of the moderators.)

    Now to my real "message": Also here in Sweden religious affiliation is on the decline. The number of so-called "nones" is steadily increasing. But does that mean that the Swedish society is becoming less religious? It depends of course on how religiosity is defined. From my point of view unaffilated people shouldn't be called non-religious. A majority of the "nones" call themselves "spiritual". Another appropriate term for them might be "woo"-believers, i.e. they embrace New Age ideas and quasi-religious dogmas such as Spiritualism/Spiritism, believing in ghosts/spirits, Wicca, Shamanism, Healing, NDEs, a non-local mind/consciousness, a Cosmic Intelligence etc. And such beliefs are NOT secular (according to me). Instead they belong to what is called magical/religious thinking, a kind of reasoning based on emotions, intuition, gut feeling and other associative (= non-logical) thinking methods (all this typical of gullible preschool children).

    So I'm afraid that declining affiliation just means that the number of (spiritual) woos are on the rise. BTW: Here's an interesting article about the "nones": .

  5. Here's another good news: . An article with the following headline: Archbishop Justin Welby On Anglican Communion: ‘There Is A Possibility That We Will Not Hold Together'.

    The archbishop admits there are at least two major divisive issues that threatens to break up the Anglican Communion: 1) The Anglican Communion might not hold together because of strong disagreements on the ordination of women as bishops; and 2) The same goes for the question if the Anglican Communion should allow full rights or not also for LGBT people.

  6. As a Yank I'm not familiar with the way the British Parliament is run, but is there some way to get a petition going or have a member of parliament propose an dissolution of non elected posts? Surely non-elected representation should be contrary to the ideals of a country with the semblance of democratic representation?


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