2030: The Year Atheists Overtake Christians… in Britain

I’m just gonna leave this headline right here:

The study conducted by the British Parliament showed there were 41 million Christians in Britain, down nearly 8 percent since 2004. Meanwhile, the number of nonbelievers stood at 13.4 million, up 49 percent over the same period.

“If these populations continue to shrink and grow by the same number of people each year,” the study said, “the number of people with no religion will overtake the number of Christians in Great Britain in 20 years.”

Actually, if the numbers released last month by the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science are accurate, Christians will fade away even faster due to the fact that many people who currently call themselves Christians don’t even really believe in most of the theology.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Seany

    I’m English, and 39 years old.

    When I was a kid, I used to call myself Christian as to us it was essentially a synonym for ‘white’.

    This attitude still continues. I look at my family on Facebook and there are 3 that actually attend church and care about it. There are another 5 that call themselves Christian but don’t believe it and neither do they attend church or whatever. To be honest the only time we attended church as kids was at Easter when we got free Cadburys Creme Eggs :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001627228091 Alexander Ryan

    This comment on the news story irks me slightly. Why is this such a common comment for the religious; that economy, common sense and such will all go to shit thanks to Atheism? Do history books mean nothing these days? “When people decide to ignore or worst still renounce the creator, it means they have commited themselves to eternal destruction. Let’s watch and see what will happen to their economy” 

    • Anonymous

       It’s a combination of two things. One is the fact that these are people who inherently believe that without God, things go bad fast. The other is the fact that the economy is the #1 thing on people’s minds. If the economy were a non-issue, but instead the biggest issue of the day was that disease was spreading, then that comment would have read, “Let’s watch and see how quickly a plague wipes out their population.”

      There definitely isn’t research involved. They’re just spouting off about things going bad, and economy is the first thing that came to mind. It is, in short, mindless bigotry, and can be treated as such.

  • Miko

    “If these populations continue to shrink and grow by the same number of people each year,” 

    They won’t though.  There’s absolutely no reason to suspect that they would.  They may be using mathematical equations, but putting fake numbers into real equations doesn’t give real results.  It’s cargo cult science.

    • Ggsillars

      It’s true that it’s simplistic to assume that the growth in non-believers and the decline in Christians behave like linear functions.  There are simply too many variables.  If I had to guess, I would think that the rate will accelerate over time rather than remaining constant.  But one can’t predict with any precision what factors might move the rates of change up or down.

    • Anonymous

      They won’t change with the same numbers, no. I would also suspect that quite a large number of those under the “Christian” category are in fact atheists/agnostics but simply haven’t officially left the church yet. It’s the same thing here in Norway, the vast majority of the population are technically part of the church; as is my entire family, yet we are all atheists but we simply haven’t bothered to tell the church that we don’t believe their BS anymore.

      So I would expect the decline of Christianity and the rise of atheism to increase as time goes by instead of decrease. My (totally unfounded) prediction is that there will be more atheists/agnostics than religious people (Christian, Muslim, Jewish etc) in the UK by 2020.

  • Pcranny

    As a Brit, and a former employee of Office for National Statistics (ONS), I am smelling several rats here.
    The main responsibility of ONS is the ten-yearly census, which they constantly update by interviewing people all over the country. They also gather information about housing, Employment and Retail prices – all by interviewing members of the public rather than from manufacturers, retailers etc.
    The House of Commons Library is mainly concerned with matters relating to Members of Parliament, parliamentary procedures and history and would not normally commission a  piece of research such as this.
    Also, I have found no reference to this research on the BBC or main British newspapers - I’ll keep digging and report further but keep some grains of salt handy.

    • David Leech

       Agreed, and  I’m also a former employee of the ONS. I also don’t believe that even 50% of the country is christian let alone 41m.

  • http://www.laughinginpurgatory.com/ Andrew Hall

    What I’m concerned with are those who call themselves “No religion” but don’t really understand why religion is a pile of crap. If push came to shove would the self named non-religious vote that way or stand up against religious absurdity?

    • Anonymous-Sam

       The difference between non-theists and atheists, as it were?

  • Stephen Minhinnick

    In 2013 New Zealand will hold a delayed census (postponed due to the Christchurch earthquake on Feb 22, 2011).  It will probably show Christianity under 50% for the first time since the original NZ census in 1867. The number of New Zealanders who claim no religion will likely be around 40%.  The trend lines really look inexorable, showing an extremely consistent change over the past 40 years. This will lead to “no religion” being the majority view in New Zealandaround 2016, or soon after.Similar to the U.K., leading up to their census, we have a group “Tick ‘No Religion’ in the 2013 Census” : http://www.facebook.com/groups/105952646099719/. Hopefully this will give the trend a push in the right direction.For a graph showing the clear trend, see my December 2010 blog entry here: http://sminhinnick.wordpress.com/2010/12/26/nz-atheism-on-target-to-overtake-christianity-in-next-five-years/ 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=714214638 Barry Taylor

    The quotes in your article seem rather confused, Hemant. Is this about England or is it about Britain? They’re not the same thing at all.

    England is only one of three nations, along with Wales and Scotland, that make up Britain (or, more properly, Great Britain – as distinguished from Little Britain, i.e. Brittany).

    Great Britain and Northern Ireland together make up the United Kingdom.

    Those of us who live in Wales and Scotland qualify as British, but we take great exception to being called English.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      The article said:

      “If these populations continue to shrink and grow by the same number of people each year,” the study said, “the number of people with no religion will overtake the number of Christians in Great Britain in 20 years.””
      I was working off of that.

  • Anonymous

    Hemant, this is a result of faulty extrapolation based on assumptions that have absolutely no credence. There is nothing reasonable about this, shame on you for even posting this garbage. It seems that you are willing to post anything pro atheist regardless of its merit.

    • lamocla

       Calm down Clay,

    • Greisha

       The rate is base on the six year interval that is reasonable and assumption about linearity is the default one for predictions, therefore there is nothing outright faulty here.  Indeed, projecting 20 forward based on 6 years of data is still a bit of stretch.

      The interesting twist is a growth rate of Muslims here.  While starting number of followers is relatively low, it may become a problem some day.

  • Erp

     I would assume the headline (done by the Washington Post) is wrong.  BTW the original report is at http://www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/SN06189
    which covers other aspects (in particular how the question is asked affects results, sometimes dramatically).

  • Seladora

    I’m not from Canada, but I know at least one of my younger brothers is going to be an atheist/nonreligious. +1 for the dark side.

  • Wwmlcd

    “If these populations continue to shrink and grow by the same number of people each year,” the study said, “the number of people with no religion will overtake the number of Christians in Great Britain in 20 years.”” And if a honey bee had a piano up its ass there’d be music in the air.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sandy-Kokch/100000074576649 Sandy Kokch

    This is cackola, end of.

    As Hemant pointed out the RDFS IPSOS/MORI survey of “census Christians” shows that a large majorty of so called Christians in the UK census and polling results are not Christians in any real sense, and are as other commentators here define what would best be called “cultural Christians”…..after heavy badgering I actually persuaded my own parents to answer the question truthfully/accurately and check “no religion” this time.

    There was also the polling work done n 2010 that showed that the UK is already a non-believer majority state.

    Methnks the Deepak Chopra like hand of Baroness Woo Woo Warsi was involved with this set of lies, damn lies and statistics.

  • Ian

    One of the most important things here isn’t just that there has been a reported fall off in he numbers, irrespective of how accurate those figures are but, that the vast majority of those who profess to be Christian are over 70 years of age. I’m 65 and of those that I am aware of around 80% are much older than I am.

    The main problem that we have to deal with now is Cameroon and co who appear to be determined to force faith schools on the UK society and impose religion on impressionable minds. Mind you when you have religious wackaloons such as ‘piggles’ AKA Eric Pickles, Communities Secretary, together with members of the HOC who believe in demonic possession what can you expect.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=714214638 Barry Taylor

    On the geographical and political definitions involved: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rNu8XDBSn10

  • Jimmyatheist

    Look, your figures are nonsense, Atheist/Agnostics already outnumber believers in Britain, 2030 my arse. Now.  All the christbots in Britain (not just England, you don’t seem to know the difference) don’t even believe in god really, all the christians I ever met haven’t even read their own book, you know, the creator of the Universe’ important message for mankind. Shows how much they really believe eh? They’re just culture christians who have been indoctrinated.


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