Figures in the 2001 census show there are more Spiritualists than Catholics
Forget the mystical tales of a land host to bards and druids — Wales is actually one of the least religious parts of the country, according to newly published official figures.
Statistics collated in the 2001 census but published in detail only recently reveal that more than 18 per cent of Welsh people listed their religion as “none” — 4 per cent higher than the national average and more than in any other region.
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Although more than two million Christians live in Wales, in percentage terms they make up only 71 per cent of the country, the second-lowest figure in Britain after London. Unlike in the capital or the West Midlands, however, Wales has a relatively small ethnic-minority population. The figures show that there are fewer Jews per capita in Wales than anywhere else and, in proportional terms, Wales has the second-lowest number of Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus. Of the 1,546,626 Muslims living in Britain only 21,739 live in Wales, the lowest Muslim population in the UK.
When the census was first published it showed that the majority in England and Wales — 71.1 per cent — still regarded themselves as Christian, with Muslims making up the second-largest religious group.
But analysis of those figures provide a fascinating geographical breakdown of the distribution of the country’s many different faiths.
Although in sheer numbers the North East has the fewest Christians, for example, in percentage terms it is the most Christian part of the country, with 80 per cent of the population identifying themselves as such.
London has a higher proportion of Jews, Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus than elsewhere, with only 57 per cent of the population calling itself Christian. The 103,870 Sikhs living in the West Midlands make up 1.97 per cent of the population, the highest proportion in the country. There are fewer Roman Catholics living in the North East than anywhere else, at just 0.03 per cent of the population. The South East has the highest percentage of Roman Catholics, at 0.4 per cent of the population.
The mysterious “Jedi Knights”, listed by the Office for National Statistics as the sixth most-popular religion in Britain, is the result of a hoax in which 390,127 students, encouraged by an internet campaign, registered themselves as fictional characters in the Star Wars films. But many genuine alternative faiths have taken root in England and Wales, the study found.
Spiritualism, the belief that the dead can be contacted through a medium, is the eighth-largest faith group, its 32,404 followers making it more popular than Roman Catholicism. Close behind are the 30,569 Pagans. The faith, based on a reverence for nature, draws on the traditional religions of indigenous peoples throughout the world and is thought to appeal to young people through television programmes such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The Pagan Federation of Great Britain states in its three main principles a “love for and kinship with nature”, a “positive morality” and a “recognition of the Divine which transcends gender”.
Spiritualism and paganism have particularly flourished in the South East.
The list also contains many offshoots of Christianity such as the Brethren, the Independent Methodists and the Christadelphians, a Bible-based church dating from the mid- 1800s with 2,368 members. Also strongly represented are the Jehovah’s Witnesses, with 70,651 adherents, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) with 12,722.
Britain’s cultural diversity also explains the large number of different faiths. Taoism, the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church have 3,532, 1,081 and 27,985 members respectively.