A new analysis of the 2011 census by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that the number of Christians was falling 50 per cent faster than had previously been thought. Earlier analysis of the statistics showed only a 15 per cent decline, but the ONS found that this figure had been beefed up by 1.2 million foreign-born Christians.
Furthermore, the re-analysis showed that the majority of Christians were over the age of 60 and for the first time less than half of young people describe themselves as Christian. As a result the ONS has calculated that in a decade only a minority will classify themselves as Christians in England. Christianity is still the dominant religion in the UK with over 50 per cent of the population regarding themselves as believers.
However, this may be set to change as the British Muslim population has surged dramatically over the past 15 years, increasing by 75 per cent in England and Wales. The 2011 census puts the Muslim population of the UK at around 5 per cent, a total that has been boosted by around 600,000 Muslim immigrants who have arrived in the UK over the past decade.
Keith Porteous Wood, executive director of the National Secular Society, said to UK daily the Telegraph that the decline of Christianity is "inevitable.” "In another 20 years there are going to be more active Muslims than there are churchgoers,” he said.
Moreover the number of people identifying themselves as atheists has increased by 10 per cent, rising from 15 per cent to 25 per cent. The change has been dubbed as a "significant cultural shift” by the British Humanist Association, while the Church of England has shrugged off the statistics, maintaining they still retain a strong base of believers.
"While this is a challenge, the fact that six out of 10 people in England and Wales self-identify as Christians is not discouraging. Christianity is no longer a religion of culture but a religion of decision and commitment. People are making a positive choice in self-identifying as Christians,” said a spokesperson for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales told press in December.
In addition the census registered an increase in followers of Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism and Judaism.
‘Sleepwalking into segregation’
The rising number of immigrants and different ethnicities in the UK has given rise to increasing levels of segregation. Think tank ‘Demos’ has labeled the phenomenon ‘white flight’, citing the falling number of ethnic whites in areas where they are minorities.
Demos’ investigation revealed that new ethnic minorities like Somalis where moving into areas where older most established ethnic populations like Afro-Caribbeans had previously been dominant.
The population of London is indicative of the change in the British demographic with 600,000 white Londoners moving out of the capital in the past decade. In spite of the fact that the British capital’s population has grown by more than a million, the number of white British residents has decreased from 4.3 million to 3.7 million.
"We do have an integration problem,” said Demos director David Goodhart to RT. The "changing ethnic composition” of the British capital is causing a large exodus of ethnic white out of the city, he added.
Goodhart went on to say that the problem of integration was not confined to Great Britain and is prevalent all around the EU despite attempts to eradicate segregation.
"Part of the point of the euro was to disperse German power and prevent the rise of nationalism in Europe, but it has done precisely the opposite on both fronts. We now have serious national resentments in countries like Greece,” he stressed.
Trevor Phillips, the former chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission warned that the statistics did not spell good news for integration in the UK.