Britain: In the Year 2030

The study contends in 2030 Britain will officially be less Christian than secular. [Bad use of stats, but interesting.]

The march of secularism means Britain may no longer be a Christian country in just 20 years, a report said yesterday.

If trends continue, the number of non-believers is set to overtake the number of Christians by 2030.

Christianity is losing more than half a million believers every year, while the count of atheists and agnostics is going up by almost 750,000 annually….

The findings help explain the increasingly forceful warnings from people of faith about the state of religion in Britain.

Last week a group of MPs and peers – Christians in Parliament – claimed public policy was promoting ‘unacceptable’ discrimination against Christians.

Yesterday the group’s chairman, former Tory justice minister Gary Streeter, warned that believers were having their faith ‘steamrollered’ by a ‘secular and hostile state’.

He said many were facing restrictions on their ability to practise their religion in public.

Cabinet minister Baroness Warsi also recently attacked ‘militant secularism’ and said the Church should continue to have influence over government policy.

Earlier this week campaigners said Christianity was being sidelined after it emerged that a council-run crematorium in Bath was to remove a glass window engraved with a four-foot cross to make it more suitable for other religions.

Secularists argue that Christians should no longer have privileged access in Parliament when the number who believe in God is declining so sharply.

Researchers came to their conclusion after studying the Labour Force Survey, which is carried out every year by the Office for National Statistics.

It is the most authoritative survey because of its regularity and its large sample size of 50,000.

It found that in 2010 there were around 41.1million Christians in Britain – down 7.6 per cent over the past six years.

There were around 13.4million non-believers, up 49 per cent over the same period.

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  • A couple thoughts.

    You’re right Scot, it is interesting, whether it’s true or not, to think of Britain with a Christian minority. Whether that means they follow Christ is another issue altogether, but let’s assume that Britain (or any country… America? for that matter) will indeed be a ‘secular’ nation, whatever that looks like. Now, initially my gut was to feel a bit threatened or shocked at the thought. Somehow the idea that Christians might be oppressed seems a foreign concept to me as an American, but when I take some time to think about who Jesus is and who he was during this life on earth the story looks a little different. There was a time – very important time, I might add – when the religious folk were in the minority. The Roman Empire certainly wasn’t entirely sympathetic to the cause of Christianity. At least not at first. But I don’t think this was an issue to Jesus. His goal wasn’t an overthrow of society that he might rule from Rome. Jesus’ actions were indeed quite political, but they were subversive. They were humble.

    I suppose I say all this to comment on Christianity’s current trend to tie itself so intimately with politics. It’s hard to tell which informs which. Now, I’m certainly supportive of equal rights to all people of all faiths. In that respect, I do think Britain should be careful not to take away religious freedoms. Christians might have an argument in the public square there, but I think asserting its dominance in matter of other areas of life will not solve the problems they wish to solve. I’m thinking about issues of abortion that we commonly raise in Evangelical politics in America.

    So, maybe a Christian minority wouldn’t be a bad thing. Maybe it would free up Christians to focus (hopefully) on the people who Jesus came to heal. The broken, outcast, disenfranchised, poor, and so on.

    Perhaps, I just traveled down a long, rambling rabbit trail, but the idea of a Christian minority got me thinking how Jesus, the leader of a Christian (technically Jewish, I suppose) minority functioned in a society where his faith was a minority report in society.

    Thanks, Scot.

  • John C

    Here in the UK there are almost daily news stories about the future of Christianity and the tensions between secular society and the church. We used to think we were immune to America’s culture wars, but that’s no longer true. Just this week, the Catholic cardinals have been speaking out against gay marriage proposals.

    At one level, this is simply about the dismantling of Christendom – Christianity is losing its privileged place. But a lot of Christians aren’t convinced that we’re entering a happy new world of liberty and equality for all. There’s fear that secularising elites are positively hostile to Christianity, and not sympathetic to the claims of religious conscience.

  • John C., your last sentence is particularly important and relevant. It’s one thing to be sympathetic to the claims of religious conscience and accord people the freedom to follow their conscience. It’s another matter to adopt an official position of neutrality that is in reality hostile to religion, especially Christianity.

    I don’t know if you have been following the situation at Vanderbilt University, but, in the name of applying an anti-discrimination policy consistently, they are in effect in the process of refusing to recognize any religious life group that wants to choose its leaders on the basis of sharing the express beliefs and mission of the group. The anti-discrimination rationale claims neutrality with regard to religion, but in fact, is not.

  • james petticrew

    This comes from the Daily Mail so needs to be read with a large dose of salts it has a certain agenda. There are causes for concern here in the UK but also sources of encouragement. The Fresh Expressions experiments and mission action planning in the CofE are starting to pay off in reversing decline in some places. of course many of us wouldn’t be sorry to see the end of Christendom, cultural and nomonal christianity

  • Cal

    Europe and America have been Pagan places (sometimes populated by many Christians!) since the very beginning. What we’ve been seeing over the past centuries is Jesus withering the fig tree. It was already dead, He just reveals it as such.
    What kind of disciple was the very catholic King Phillip II as he smiled (a rare event) at reports of Huguenots being slaughtered in the St. Bartholomew Day Massacre. Or the reformed Cromwell putting the Irish to the sword because they were catholics (and Irish!!). I got no horse in the race to defend European/American cultures from being revealed as what they are. Doing little good and much harm.

    What does Vanderbilt have to do with Jerusalem? Let the believers there go on without being recognized by the school.

    I agree with your sentiments in your last sentence! Are you CoE? How does Canterbury feel about such an opinion? Rowan Williams, as much as I know, seems like a genuine believer and intellect but I doubt he’d be archbishop without some favorable opinion of the Queen being the head. I can send you my email if it’s longer than comments permit.

  • Daniel Clark

    As a pastor on a housing estate in the UK:
    1) The Daily Mail has a reputation for scaremongering.
    2) “If trends continue”, over such a long period of time the most likely factor is that trends will not continue. For example, forecasts made in 2000 regarding 2010 tended to over-estimate the decline in Christianity.
    3) Not sure that one can equate the No religion category with secularist.
    4) The greatest challenge for the secularist agenda is that until now they have failed to articulate a positive vision that goes beyond attacking religion. The failure of David Cameron’s “Big SOciety” and the cutback in social services only serves to increase this.

  • James Petticrew

    I am not CofE but I did work for the Scottish Episcopal Church for a while and so had to look at what was happening in terms of mission from an Anglican context in the rest of the UK. I think the CofE has been quite bold in relaxing some of institutional strictures and episcopal preferences to allow the Fresh Expressions movement to take root.

    Those Diocese which have instituted compulsory “mission action plans” for parishes have also by and large seen improvement. So as I say signs for optimism as well as causes for concern.

    Not sure about the Queens thought on Rowan, I suppose she could have blocked his appointment but despite being a republican (uk sense) I have to admit she is a canny operator and probably wouldn’t express a preference.

    Personally I think he has made a better contribution to public debate than his recent predecessors have but as I said I am no Anglican.

  • Gordon Brown


    The Daily Mail is an arch-conservative, xenophobic tabloid newspaper famous for promoting fear about the end of the British way of life – and libel. It is only concerned with religion when it is trying to promote fear of the loss of the British (even English) way of life. Of course the irony is that it is hugely popular.

    However, I would suggest that the Mail’s numbers are really only concerned with the wider shift in consciousness of the larger society. In reality, with weekly church attendance being 3.2 million. The UK, like most other nations in Europe, is deeply secularized already.

    I live in Northern Ireland, supposedly the Bible belt of the UK, but here the reality is the same, where the gospel has been marginalized by society, on the basis of its role within the violence of the past years. There is a huge implicit program of secularization that is going on. The problem is that often those in authority in the churches are not aware of this, and still fail to understand why people do not want to come to church. Many seem to imagine that people don’t come to church because they are willfully sinning, not realizing that church is just not even on most people’s radar.

  • Andy Latham

    It is worth reading the report itself rather than simply the Daily Mail’s reporting of it.

    As well as articulating the case that “Christians in the UK face problems in living out their faith and these problems have been mostly caused and exacerbated by social, cultural and legal changes over the past decade” it is also highly critical of certain Christian groups trying to claim victim status:

    “Christians in the UK are not persecuted. To suggest that they are is to minimise the suffering of Christians in
    many parts of the world who face repression, imprisonment and death if they worship, preach or convert.

    “The recent wave of Christians in the courts does not in and of itself demonstrate that Christianity is badly

    “Some of the legal activity, associated campaigning and media coverage has been unwise and possibly
    counter-productive to the positive role that Christians play in society.”

    And it seeks to guide the church on how it should respond to a the challenges it faces

    “The last century saw a privatisation of faith and the development of a sacred-secular divide through which
    Christianity lost much of its social and political influence. Now, too often the Church is defined by what it
    opposes rather than what it stands for. It is essential that Christians once again provide hope and a vision
    for society that goes beyond defending their own interests and includes the good of all.

    “For many Christians public life is seen as a way of living out their beliefs, and across all denominations there is a growing awareness of the need to respond to the challenges that face our communities, nation and
    world. This shift is already transforming many, often deprived, parts of the country, however, there is much
    more that remains to be done in demonstrating this vital role of faith.

    “Christians need to take seriously their historical role in leading and serving in public life, and church
    discipleship needs to account for this role – because the gospel is good news for society.”