2021 Census Data

The results of the religion questions from the 2021 Census have been released today: Religion, England and Wales - Office for National Statistics (ons.gov.uk)

Here’s a summary from the website:

  • For the first time in a census of England and Wales, less than half of the population (46.2%, 27.5 million people) described themselves as “Christian”, a 13.1 percentage point decrease from 59.3% (33.3 million) in 2011; despite this decrease, “Christian” remained the most common response to the religion question.
  • “No religion” was the second most common response, increasing by 12.0 percentage points to 37.2% (22.2 million) from 25.2% (14.1 million) in 2011.
  • There were increases in the number of people who described themselves as “Muslim” (3.9 million, 6.5% in 2021, up from 2.7 million, 4.9% in 2011) and “Hindu” (1.0 million, 1.7% in 2021, up from 818,000, 1.5% in 2011).
  • Wales had a greater decrease in people reporting their religion as “Christian” (14.0 percentage point decrease, from 57.6% in 2011 to 43.6% in 2021) and increase in “No religion” (14.5 percentage point increase, from 32.1% in 2011 to 46.5% in 2021) compared with England and Wales overall.
  • London remains the most religiously diverse region of England in 2021, with over a quarter (25.3%) of all usual residents reporting a religion other than “Christian”; the North East and South West are the least religiously diverse regions, with 4.2% and 3.2%, respectively, selecting a religion other than “Christian”.

The 2021 England and Wales census results are a great opportunity to discuss the changing nature of belief in modern Britain. Although it appears that affiliation to a traditional religious worldview is falling, with ‘no religion’ being the second most common response, there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that young people are continuing to engage with questions of a religious and philosophical nature. Ticking 'No religion' in the census box does not mean that person does not reflect on the big questions in life.

In light of this, we need religious education in schools to reflect the pluralistic, diverse and often complicated belief in modern Britain - where a worldview may be made up of both religious and non-religious ideas. Every young person has their own worldview as part of this dynamic landscape of belief, and it is crucial that schools help them get to grips with this core aspect of their identity.

This is why NATRE and the RE Council have called for a properly funded National Plan for the subject so that every young person can receive a high-quality education in religious and non-religious worldviews. This will help prepare them for life in modern Britain and indeed the world beyond.

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