Christianity remains dominant religion

Times Online (England), Feb. 14, 2003
By Ruth Gledhill and Richard Ford

Britain remains an overwhelmingly Christian country, with more than seven out of ten people stating this as their religion on their census form.

Islam was the second most popular religion after Christianity, with more than 1.5 million Muslims in England and Wales, or 3.1 per cent of the population.

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Almost 400,000 people, or 0.7 per cent, of the population, claimed to be “Jedis”, from the Star Wars films. This was more than the number who registered their faith as Jewish, Buddhist or Sikh. Most were concentrated in university towns and cities. Brighton and Hove is the Jedi capital of the UK with 6,480 or 2.6 per cent of its population claiming to be Jedi.

The highest proportion of Christians was in the North East, with more than eight out of ten people describing themselves so. The most Christian district in England and Wales was St Helens, Merseyside, where almost nine out of ten people, or 86.9 per cent of the population, ticked the “Christian” box.

Tower Hamlets in East London had the highest proportion of Muslims, with Islam claiming almost four out of ten, or 36.4 per cent, of the population. Westminster had the most Buddhists, Harrow the most Hindus, Barnet the most Jewish people and Slough the most Sikhs. The religion question was optional and Haringey in London had the highest proportion of people who chose not to tick the box.

Christianity was the biggest faith with 71.7 per cent of the population of England and Wales, or 37.3 million people. Throughout the UK, 42,558,000 people described themselves as Christian.

Islam was the second largest faith with 1,547,000 people in England and Wales and 1,591,207 throughout the UK.

There were 558,746 Hindus, 336,040 Sikhs, 267,711 Jewish people, 149,237 Buddhists and 157,000 from other religions throughout the UK. The Jedis were counted in with the 8,197,221 who ticked the “no religion” box. More than 4.4 million refused to answer the optional question.

The Church of England welcomed the figures. The Bishop of Lichfield, the Right Rev Keith Sutton, said: “These figures prove as a lie claims that England is no longer a Christian country. Clergy in my diocese baptise some 23 per cent of all babies before they are one year old. The Christian faith is still relevant to many, many people.

“But welcome as they are, the statistics are a wake-up call to all of us in Christian leadership. While the Christian faith remains relevant to the vast majority of society, the Church is clearly no longer seen as important.”

Iqbal Sacranie, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said that the findings were a landmark event and social history in the making. He said: “Up to now, Muslims have been statistically invisible, and thus easily marginalised. The census output is a strong signal to central and local government, social services and employers in particular that the needs of all sections of Britain’s multicultural society must be fairly and equitably addressed.”

In a joint statement, Professor Barry Kosmin and Professor Stanley Waterman, of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, said that they thought the number of Jewish people had been undercounted: “Nationally, 15.5 per cent of the population stated that they had no religion and 7.3 per cent did not answer the question. In other words, almost a quarter of the population did not provide a specific religious preference.

“This alone suggests that the number of Jews is undercounted. This was not unexpected and, in fact, there are grounds for suggesting that Jews may be more reluctant than others to answer a voluntary question on religion in the census. For historical reasons, many older Jews of Central and Eastern European background are reluctant to cooperate with government-sponsored counts of Jews.”

Snapshots of our life and times

Women make up 84 per cent of employees in personal services (care assistants, childminders and hairdressers)

Men make up 66 per cent of managers, senior officials and professionals

The proportion of people who own their homes has risen from 67.6 per cent to 68.2 per cent between 1991 and 2001

A higher proportion of people own their houses outright in Wales (34 per cent) than in England (29 per cent)

10 per cent of households in South Buckinghamshire own three cars

29 per cent of households own two or more cars, compared with 24 per cent ten years ago.

27 per cent of households in England and Wales have no car, rising to 38 per cent in London

The proportion of people in Wales who can speak Welsh has increased from 13.6 to 16.3 per cent in the past ten years

Blackpool has more divorced and separated people (15.2 per cent of the population) than anywhere else in the country

Harrow and Brent are the only two districts in England with fewer than 6 per cent of the population divorced

In Newham and Barking in London 15 per cent of households are lone parents with children

5 per cent of the populations of Brent and Islington in London are Irish

Only 51 per cent of people in Brent were born in England

One in seven people in Leicester is Hindu

One in nine in the borough of Hertsmere, South Hertfordshire, is Jewish

1 per cent of Cambridge’s population is Buddhist

35,000 households in England and Wales do not have their own lavatory or bath

1.5 million households are overcrowded

London’s population is 7.2 million and has the highest percentage of people with professional qualifications

Cambridge has the highest percentage of people who travel to work by bicycle (25.9 per cent)

The West Midlands has the most bungalows; the East Midlands has the most detached houses


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Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday February 19, 2003.
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