Just half of Britons now call themselves Christian after a ‘sharp decline’ in faith over past 25 years
Researchers describe a large proportion of the country as the “fuzzy faithful” who have a vague belief in God but do not necessarily belong to a particular denomination or attend services.
However, most people still say religion helps bring happiness and comfort, and regret its declining influence on modern society.
Professor David Voas, who has analysed the latest data, said: “More and more people are ceasing to identify with a religion at all.
“Indeed, the key distinction in Britain now is between religious involvement and indifference. We are thus concerned about differences in religiosity – the degree of religious commitment – at least as much as diversity of religious identity.”
His analysis, to be published in January by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen), looks at the results of 4,486 interviews conducted in the respected 2008 British Social Attitudes survey.
It shows that just 50 per cent of respondents now call themselves Christian, down from 66 per cent in 1983. NatCen said it confirmed “the sharp decline in religious faith in Britain.”
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At the same time, the proportion of Britons who say they have “no religion” has increased from 31 per cent to 43 per cent. Non-Christians, including Muslims and Jews, now represent 7 per cent of the population, up from 2 per cent, 25 years ago.
The steepest fall was among those who say they worship in the established religion, the Church of England, down from 40 per cent of those who call themselves Christians to 23 per cent.
Official Church attendance figures show that average Sunday attendance was 978,000 in 2007, compared with 1.2m in 1983.
Prof Voas said: “The declining Christian share is largely attributable to a drift away from the Church of England.”
The proportion of Roman Catholics declined only slightly from 10 per cent to 9 per cent.
Further questions showed that 37 per cent of Britons either do not believe in God or are unable to say if a supreme being exists, while 35 per cent have a definite belief in God or belief with occasional doubts.
Only 7 per cent described themselves as very religious, and 62 per cent said they never attended services in a place of worship.