Looking to the future of religion in the UK, the Church of England should rightfully be worried. Very worried. One might argue that as the established state church declines, evangelical churches might be on the rise, Catholicism and Islam, due to immigration, might be on the rise. Either way, this is a significant development in the world of demographics of religion.
The Guardian reports:
The Church of England is facing a generational catastrophe with only 2% of young adults identifying with it, while seven out of 10 under-24s say they have no religion, research reveals.
C of E affiliation is at a record low among all age groups, and has halved since 2002, according to the British Social Attitudes survey. Far fewer actually attend church services on a regular basis.
Meanwhile, the trend towards a secular society has increased over recent years. The BSA survey found that 52% of people had no religion in 2017 compared with 41% in 2002. However, the proportion last year was slightly down on 2016, when 53% said they had no religious affiliation.
The demographic breakdown in the new data is particularly unwelcome news for the church. Younger people are significantly less likely to identify with the C of E than older age groups, and evidence suggests that people rarely join organised religion in later life. The trend indicates that affiliation with the C of E could become negligible with successive generations.
People over the age of 65 are most likely to say they belong to the C of E. But at 30% it is still a minority, and the proportion has fallen from 52% in 2002. This older demographic also saw the biggest increase in those saying they had no religion, up from 18% in 2002 to 34% last year.
The proportion of people of all ages identifying with the C of E has fallen from 31% in 2002 to 14% last year. The sharpest decline was among 45- to 54-year-olds, from 35% to 11%.
Overall, 8% of people identify with the Roman Catholic church, 10% with other Christian denominations and 8% with non-Christian faiths.
Researchers found a significant gap between people identifying with a church and those attending church services. Of those who say they belong to the C of E, only one in five attends church at least once a month, apart from weddings and funerals. Among Roman Catholic adherents, two in five attend church at least once a month.
Roger Harding of the National Centre for Social Research, which conducts the BSA survey, said the figures showed “an unrelenting decline in Church of England and Church of Scotland numbers. This is especially true for young people where less than one in 20 now belong to their established church. While the figures are starkest among younger people, in every age group the biggest single group are those identifying with no religion.
“We know from the British Social Attitudes survey that people’s views are becoming more socially liberal on issues like same-sex relationships and abortion. With growing numbers belonging to no religion, faith leaders will no doubt be considering how to better connect to a changing society.”