In Brief

Majority of British people say they have no religion

News prompts fresh calls for Government to cut amount of public money going to the church

For the first time in Britain's history, more than half of the population does not identify as religious, leading to fresh calls for the Government to cut public spending for the church.

According to a recent survey of 2,942 adults by the National Centre for Social Research, last year 53% of people described themselves as having "no religion". Among young people aged 18-25 the proportion was even higher, at 71%.

Overall just 47% of people say they have a faith, down from 69% when the British social attitudes survey was first conducted in 1983.

The news has prompted "fresh calls for the Government to cut the amount of public money going to the church and reduce its influence in society," says The Independent.

But the Bishop of Liverpool said God and the Church "remain relevant" and that declaring oneself to have "no religion was not the same as a considered atheism".

The statistic comes "at a time when we have the most overtly religious prime minister for decades," says The Times's Matt Chorley.

"Theresa May has often spoken of how 'faith guides me in everything I do', and just before the election she said in an interview that 'there is no way that Christianity is being marginalised in this country'".

But the survey shows that the proportion of people who describe themselves as Christian has fallen from more than 67% to 41% in three decades.

Figures last year also showed the Church of England had lost more than 100,000 worshippers in a decade, with attendance falling an average of 1% each year and 11% since 2005.

The Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Rev Paul Bayes, told the BBC the figures bring a "continuing challenge to the churches" in "a sceptical and plural world".

"Saying 'no religion' is not the same as a considered atheism. People see the point of faith when they see the difference faith makes."

But The Humanist charity's chief executive, Andrew Copson, responded: "How can the Church of England remain in any meaningful sense the national legally established church, when it caters for such a small portion of the population?

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