Spiritual Britain worships over 170 different faiths

Britons follow more than 170 different faiths or belief systems, according to newly-published official figures which suggest that spirituality is thriving.

The huge range of belief, much of it exotic or New Age, has been revealed by the raw statistics collated during the 2001 census, the first national count of religious affiliation.
* = Mainstream Denominations
The headline findings released last year showed that the overwhelming majority in England and Wales – 71.1 per cent – still regards itself as Christian, with Muslims making up the second largest religious group.

A number of students, encouraged by a tongue-in-cheek internet campaign, also registered themselves as Jedi Knights, after the fictional characters in the Star Wars films.

But the complete figures, which have now been published on the Office of National Statistics’s website, show that spiritualism and paganism is thriving, and that beliefs range from vodun (voodoo) to the Native American Church, whose worship is based around the peyote, a hallucinogenic cactus.

The South-East emerged as the capital of fringe faiths and sects, with London and the South-West not far behind.

The census found that spiritualism, the belief that the dead can be contacted through mediums, was the eighth largest faith group, with 32,404 people claiming allegiance. The first spiritualist church was established in England at Keighley in Yorkshire in 1853.

Just behind them were the pagans, with 30,569 supporters, although their numbers rise to nearly 40,000 if wiccans (witches) and druids are included.

Suzanne Evans, a writer on paganism, said the figures confirmed that it is one of the fastest growing religions in the country.

She said it was environmentally friendly, treated God as both male and female and regarded sexuality as something to be celebrated.

Despite its often extensive coverage in the media, Satanism could only muster 1,525 practitioners, with the occult adding a further 99.

The list contains dozens of subsets of Christianity, from the mainstream denominations to less well known groups, 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.

Baha’i, which emerged from Islam in the 19th century, has a following of 4,645 and there are 15,132 Jains, the ancient Indian faith.

Many of the faiths reflect the multi-cultural society that Britain has become.

The census found that Rastafarians number at least 4,692, the Greek Orthodox has 24,176 followers, the Zoroastrians have 3,738, and even the Amish, best known from the film Witness, starring Harrison Ford, claimed 24 adherents.

Grace Davie, the professor of sociology at Exeter University, said the most significant feature of the census remained its findings about Christianity. “Whatever you mean by it, the residual attachment to Christianity is huge, and much larger than people had thought,” she said.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
The Telegraph, UK
Dec. 13, 2004
Jonathan Petre, Religion Correspondent

Religion News Blog posted this on Monday December 13, 2004.
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