In Brief

Atheists now outnumber Christians in England and Wales

Study shows proportion of people who say they have 'no religion' has almost doubled since 2011

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The number of people who class themselves as having no religion now significantly outweighs the Christian population in England and Wales, according to new research.

Analysis of data collected through British Social Attitudes surveys over three decades shows the proportion of the population who identify as having no religion reached 48.5 per cent in 2014 – almost double the number given on the 2011 census, reports The Guardian. Those who define themselves as Christian made up 43.8 per cent of the population.

Report author Stephen Bullivant, a senior lecturer in theology and ethics at St Mary's University in Twickenham, told the newspaper there was a "clear sense of the growth of 'no religion' as a proportion of the population".

He added: "The main driver is people who were brought up with some religion now saying they have no religion.

"What we're seeing is an acceleration in the numbers of people not only not practising their faith on a regular basis, but not even ticking the box.

"The reason for that is the big question in the sociology of religion".

His research also shows that the Church of England loses 12 followers for every person it recruits, while the Catholic Church loses ten. The vast majority of new recruits come from other denominations rather than non-Christians, says the study.

"There's a kind of denominational musical chairs," said Bullivant. "No one is making serious inroads into the non-Christian population."

Wales was the most godless area, with 59.5 per cent of the population saying they have no religion, while in London, the number was just 40 per cent, "but this is down to large numbers of Muslims, Hindus and Jews", says The Sun.

The study is unlikely to come as a surprise to faith leaders in England and Wales, says the Guardian. This year, the Church of England said it expected attendance to continue to fall for another 30 years as its congregation ages and younger generations spurn the institutions of faith.

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