Census data reveal there are 4million fewer Christians and one in four is now an atheist

Religion in decline as census figures reveal there are 4million fewer Christians and one in four is now an atheist
Proportion of Christians in England and Wales down to 59.3 per cent
Quarter of people say they do not follow any religion following rise of aggressive atheismNumber of Muslims up to 2.7million, 4.8 per cent of the population

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UPDATED:

23:37 GMT, 11 December 2012

Christianity has declined sharply over the past decade, according to the census returns. Numbers who choose to call themselves Christians fell by more than four million.

The collapse in belief in the religion which has been central to the history of the country for 1,500 years means that fewer than six out of ten, or 59 per cent, now describe themselves as Christian. A decade ago nearly three quarters, 72 per cent, did so.

The diminishing number of Christians is mirrored by a rapid growth in those who profess no religious affiliation. A quarter of the population, 14.1million, now say they have no religion, nearly double the 7.7million who said the same thing in the 2001 census.

Religion: This graph shows how Christianity has been in decline as every other faith grows more popular

Religion: This graph shows how Christianity has been in decline as every other faith grows more popular

The growth religion in England and
Wales is Islam, the census returns showed. Over a decade, numbers of
Muslims have gone up from around 1.5million to 2.7million, and almost
one in 20 of the population is now a Muslim.

The lowest level of Christian belief
is in London, where fewer than half the population, 48 per cent, now say
they are Christian.

Returns showed the most Christian
district is Knowsley on Merseyside, where more than four out of ten are
Christian. More than a third of people in the London borough of Tower
Hamlets are Muslim. Norwich is the most Godless place in Britain with
42.5 per cent of its population professing no religion.

The Church of England said it was
pleased a majority of the population remain Christian. Spokesman the Rev
Arun Arora said: ‘These results confirm that we remain a faithful
nation.

‘England remains a country where the
majority of the nation actively identifies the role that faith plays in
their life. When all faiths are taken together, people of faith account
for two-thirds of the nation – two in every three people identify
themselves as having a faith.

Map: The darker areas of this map show the regions of England and Wales with the most Christians

Map: The darker areas of this map show the regions of England and Wales with the most Christians

‘The fall in those choosing to
identify themselves as Christians is a challenge. One of the reasons may
well be fewer people identifying as “cultural Christians” – those who
have no active involvement with churches and who may previously have
identified as Christian for cultural or historical reasons.’

Andrew Copson of the British Humanist
Association said: ‘In spite of a biased question that positively
encourages religious responses, to see such an increase in the
non-religious and such a decrease in those reporting themselves as
Christian is astounding.

‘Of course these figures still
exaggerate the number of Christians overall – the number of believing,
practising Christians is much lower than this and the number of those
leading their lives with no reference to religion much higher.’

Around 177,000 people claim to be Jedi
– the ‘faith’ made famous in the Star Wars films – though this number
is down on the 2001 figure by more than a half.

And 6,242 people subscribe to the Heavy Metal religion, set up in 2010 by the Rock music magazine, Metal Hammer.

Other alternative religions included 56,620 Paganists, 39,061 Spiritualists and 2,418 Scientologists.

Tower Hamlets: The borough in east London is the only area where Muslims outnumber Christians

Tower Hamlets: The borough in east London is the only area where Muslims outnumber Christians

Explore the census statistics on religion with this interactive map from the ONS

For the first time, fewer than half of us are married

Until death do us part: Less than 50 per cent of Britons are married

Until death do us part: Less than 50 per cent of Britons are married

Fewer than half the population are now married, the census found for the first time.

It showed that the number of those
over 16 who declare themselves to be married has dropped to 46.6 per
cent. In the 2001 census the majority were still husbands or wives, at
50.9 per cent.

The census found 21,197,000 married
people in England and Wales, only 39,000 more than in 2001 despite the
3.7million increase in the overall population.

The 46.6 per cent who were married compared with more than two thirds, 67 per cent, in 1971.

Just over a third of the adult
population, 34.6 per cent, was single, up from 30.1 per cent in 2001.
The singles in the census include those in cohabiting relationships.

Numbers of divorcees were slightly up,
from 8.2 per cent to 9 per cent, and numbers of widows fell, from 8.4
per cent to 7 per cent, a drop associated both with the decline of
marriage and the growing life expectancy of men.

There were 105,000 people in civil partnerships, 0.2 per cent of the adult population.

The historic landmark in the decline
of the traditional family came at a time of rising political tension
over the status of marriage.

Tory MPs are pressing David Cameron to
bring in tax breaks to help married couples, while the PM is under
pressure from dissident backbenchers over his plans to allow same-sex
couples to marry.

There were only 241,000 weddings in
England and Wales in 2010, compared to more than 400,000 in 1972, and as
cohabitation has spread, family break-up has quickened. Last year, the
Department for Work and Pensions has said, 300,000 children saw their
parents split up.

The census report said there were just
under 2.3million cohabiting couples last year, compared to 2.06million
in 2001. Cohabitees now make up 10 per cent of all households, while
married couples lead 33 per cent of households.

Lone parent households make up another 10 per cent, and 30 per cent of homes have just one individual.

The report said the percentage that
were married fell by between four and six percentage points in all
regions except London, where it fell by two percentage points. The
greater stability of marriage in London may be linked to the arrival of
high numbers of immigrants who continue to place high value on being
married.