Friday, 12 July 2019

Declining Religion in UK

Religion Identity, behaviour and belief over two decades | British Social Attitudes 36 - Religion.

'Christian', as a self-identifier of religious belief, fell below 40% for the first time in 2018 in the UK, while 'non-religious' oustripped all the others combined at 52%.

Coincidentally, the UK voted to leave the EU by exactly the same percentage of those who voted as those who now state they have no religion. On the basis of that margin, the UK is now going through the most fundamental change in its constitution since the restoration of the monarchy in 1660.

The constitutional change as a result of 52% of people having no religion has been conspicuous by its absence. In Theresa May's words, nothing has changed. In this instance though, that statement is true.

The first three charts on the left show this net change vis á vis Anglican to no religion and particularly the marked decline in Anglicanism as a identifier, from 40% in 1983 to just 12% last year, with a 10 percentage point fall in the last 10 years. The relatively small change in Catholicism probably reflects in part the migration to the UK in recent years from the eastern European parts of the EU, especially from Poland, replacing those lost to no religion from the UK Catholics.

As Alice Roberts of Humanists UK points out, we still have religious privilege in politics, marriage and education. Even though Anglicans are now only 12% of the population and even a minority of Christians, the Anglican church is still the established church and its senior bishops still sit as of right in the non-elected upper chamber of our bicameral parliament.

This is ludicrously outdated and unfair to the 52% who are not religious, let alone the 88% who are not Anglican. This was hardly tolerable in 1983 when they were 40% of the population. Thirty-five years later it is anachronistic and undemocratic.

What appears to be a statistically stable figure is that of 'Other Christian', changing by only one or two percentage points over the whole period. However, the detail, as the third chart below shows tells a different story. What has happened here is a fall in the number of those self-identifying with one or other of the specific minor Christian churches such as Presbyterian, Methodist, etc, and a large increase in those self-identifying as non-specific 'Christian'. Interestingly, this non-denominational Christian group now out-numbers Anglicans.

Other surveys have shown, people are now tending to use the term 'Christian' not so much as a term of religious belief but as a cultural identifier in a society which is increasingly multicultural. Indeed, one Pew Research survey showed that a significant proportion of those self-identifying as 'Christian' do not believe in God!

The cause of this decline, which appears now to be terminal especially for Anglicanism in the UK is due mostly to the apparent inability of Christian parents to pass on their religion to the next generation compared to those with no religion (and Muslims, for that matter). 94% of those brought up by parents with no religious affiliation retain their status into adulthood, compared to just 47% of those brought up by Anglicans. Presbyterians do even worse at 38% while Methodists manage only 27%. Catholics and non-denominational Christians do better at 55%. Muslims to comparatively well at 93%.

Those brought up by two Christian parents have about a 50:50 chance of inheriting their parent's religion while those brought up by parents where just one is a Christian are about half as likely to be Christian as those brought up by two Christians.

In other words, Christianity in the UK seems to have a half-life of about one generation, losing about half its self-identified followers with each generation.

The final chart above shows the magnitude of the problem now facing the Anglican church in the UK. The lower the age-group the less likely people are to identify with Anglicanism. Long gone are the generations that gave the 40% figure of 1983; now even the oldest age-group is only at 33%. The childbearing generation is now below 5% and, as we have seen, this few percent only have a 50% probability of passing this on to the next generation.

It's time to accept the reality of the situation - Anglicanism is no longer the religion of the people. It's time to disestablish the Church of England.

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