Demographic Shifts: What Are the Repercussions of the Decline of Christianity and the Rise of Islam in Britain?

Murad Jandali | 2 years ago




A recent report published by The Guardian revealed a change in the map of religions for the population of Britain. According to the 2021 census, for the first time, Christians become a minority in both England and Wales, with a significant increase in the number of non-religious people and an increase in the proportion of the Muslim minority, while Leicester and Birmingham became the first cities with a minority-majority.

“Christianity had fallen to less than half, an unprecedented event in UK history, while figures showed Islam was the fastest-growing religion in the country over the past decade,” Britain’s Office for National Statistics said.

It is expected that if the percentages continue in their current form of decline, the non-religious will become more than the Christians within just one decade in Britain, which sparked calls from secularists for an urgent reform of laws requiring Christian teaching and worship in schools, and the role of Church of England bishops to sit in the House of Lords of Parliament.


Significant Change

The decline of Christianity in Britain reached a watershed moment on November 29, 2022, when Britain’s Office for National Statistics released new figures from the 2021 census, which showed that less than half the population of England and Wales identify themselves as Christian.

The percentage of Christians in England and Wales now constitutes 46.2% for the first time in UK history, knowing that it was 59.3% during the 2011 census.

The census also showed that people who define themselves as not professing any religion (non-religious) now constitute 37.2% of the UK population, making them the second largest bloc after Christians, with a number of 22.2 million people.

In conclusion, Christianity is still the most embraced religion compared to other religions, despite the decline of its adherents.

The census also revealed a significant increase in the number of people identifying themselves as Muslims by 43% over the past decade.

As the number of Muslims increased from 2.7 million people in 2011 to 3.9 million in 2021, an increase of 1.2 million Muslims in ten years, and Muslims now constitute 6.5% of the total population of Britain.

On the other hand, the proportion of Hindus did not change significantly, as it increased from 1.5% (818,000 people) in 2011 to 1.7% (one million people) in 2021.

As for citizens who follow the Jewish religion, there has been no significant change either, with the exception of a slight increase from 265,000 people in 2011 to 271,000 people, according to the 2021 census.

Among the strange numbers revealed by the census is also the decrease in the percentage of the population of the white race, as it reached 81.7%, which represents a decrease of 4.3% from what it was a decade ago.

In contrast to this decline, the percentage of the population of Asian origins increased by 9.3%, becoming the second largest ethnic group in England and Wales, showing an increase of 1.8% over the past decade.

In terms of ethnic diversity, the census showed that the city of Leicester constitutes 59.1% of the total population with ethnic minorities, with blacks and Asians representing most of its residents.

In the city of Birmingham, ethnic minorities make up 51.4%, which is a significant development, as white residents made up 70% of the city’s population twenty years ago.

Two areas in Britain were recorded in the population census as being predominantly Muslim, namely Redbridge and Tower Hamlet in east London, as the capital has the largest number of Muslims in Britain.

The areas with the highest number of people saying they have no religion are: Caerphilly, Blaenau Gwent, and Rhondda Cynon Taf, all in south Wales, and Brighton, Hove, and Norwich in England.

According to an analysis by The Guardian, areas with a higher percentage of ethnic minority people are more religious, and areas with a higher percentage of white residents have a higher proportion of non-religious people.


Major Shifts

These changes in the structure of British society reflect major demographic shifts, as the figures found that one in six of those surveyed was born outside the kingdom, compared to one in ten a decade ago.

If immigration continues to rise, secularization will slow down, The Economist reveals in its November 30, 2022 report.

For years, a small proportion of Britons regularly went to Church, and polls suggest the number is now around 5%, according to the newspaper.

“Immigrants tend to have a reviving effect on all religions; that is largely why church attendance has held up better in London than it has in other places. The capital is the least secular region, Wales the most. (Scotland’s census was delayed for a year by the pandemic.),” it added.

“The right-wingers may use the results of the census for fueling and trying to win politically, especially at a time when Europe is witnessing a new rise of this trend in several countries, and a wide debate over the issue of immigration, asylum, and ethnic and religious pluralism,” according to observers.

Observers also believe that such results could influence discussions about government funding for religious schools, as there are also concerns that non-Christian religious schools may exacerbate racial segregation: Hindu schools, for example, tend to be populated only by the children of immigrants from South Asian countries.

Groups fighting against religious privileges, such as Britain’s Secular National Assembly, use such moments to argue that the time has come to end the role and power of the Church, which has shaped the kingdom throughout history, while the Labour Party proposes to abolish all the House of Lords and Bishops.

In addition, secularists usually exploit such news as evidence of the need to reform the role of religion in a society in which the bishops of the Church of England vote based on laws and compulsory Christian worship in all schools that are not of a particular religious nature, according to the Associated Press in its report on November 29, 2022.

In turn, Stephen Evans, CEO of the National Secular Society, said: “We are officially no longer a Christian country where the census figures say that the population has moved away significantly from religion as a whole.”

On his part, the former head of the British Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, welcomed the growing ethnic and religious diversity in Britain and said that it was something worth celebrating.

“It should motivate us all to build a society in which everyone can live comfortably, regardless of birthplace, background, or belief,” Corbyn added.

Regarding the reasons for the decline of the Christian religion in Britain, activist Mohammed Kozbar explained in a statement to Al-Estiklal that “the most prominent of these reasons is the tendency of the new generation and British youth as a whole to move away from religion and adhere to a purely material life, as spirituality no longer means anything to them, in addition to the great role played by politics and the British media in this, by pumping out many programs about material life and its importance, and by stopping broadcasting religious programs or covering them in a small way.”

“The number of people going to churches to attend religious events decreased until they became limited to the elderly and in small numbers, which led to the sale of many churches because no one attends them anymore. From here, the phenomenon of atheism began to grow and expand, especially among British youth, until it came to a point where it was clearly declared, which led to a significant increase in its percentage, according to the latest statistics that took place in Britain, which was a shock to many religious authorities,” he added.

As for the remarkable rise of Islam in Britain, the activist residing in Britain explained that “this has several reasons, the most important of which is the immigration of a large number of Muslims from all over the Islamic world to Britain after World War II until now, either to work, to study, or to escape from wars and persecution in their country; they have settled completely, and these are considered to be from the first generation.”

“Now we have the second, third, and possibly fourth generation of Muslims who were born and raised in this country and did not know a homeland for them other than that; there are also a good number of Britons who converted to Islam, and they have a great role in communicating with British society and introducing Islam within a wider scope,” Mr. Kozbar added.

Finally, the activist concluded that “Islam is the religion of the future everywhere, and this is what our Lord, Glory be to Him, and His Prophet, may God’s prayers and peace be upon him, preached to us. Islam is the second religion after Christianity and the fastest spreading compared to other religions, and most of its members are young people.”

“What is meant by Islam as the religion of the future does not mean changing the country’s religion in itself, but what is meant is that Islam will spread among the general public and Muslim citizens will have a role in building and developing society and the state in the future, by integrating within it while adhering to religion, values, and heritage despite the current difficulties and challenges we face as British Muslims, such as Islamophobia and discrimination in education, housing, jobs, and others,” Mr. Kozbar said.


Religious Confusion

The sharply declining figures for Christianity come after King Charles was named Defender of the Faith and Supreme Ruler of the Church of England following the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

This indicates that linking the king’s name to the Christian Church is likely to pose a challenge to the quality of his monarchy, although he said in the oath last September that he would serve people, whatever their backgrounds and beliefs.

At his coronation, which will take place next May, the king is likely to find some way to show himself as a defender of all religions, and it will help to become king alongside a Hindu prime minister and a Muslim mayor of London.

Almost thirty years ago, Charles wanted to be the protector of religions instead of the protector of religion in order to reflect the religious diversity in Britain, which sparked a storm at that time because he did not mean that he wanted to change the traditional role as much as he wanted to increase it, according to an article by the British researcher at the Carnegie Endowment for Peace, H. A. Hellyer, published by Time magazine on September 13, 2022.

From another perspective, experts in British newspapers and international agencies said that this shift should lead to a rethinking of the way the Christian religion is entrenched in British society.

Today, the UK has state-funded Church of England schools, Anglican bishops sit in the upper house of Parliament, and the king is the supreme ruler of the Church, but all of this no longer reflects the reality of the state, most of which now follow different religions, or have no religion at all.

In the same way, Andrew Copson, chief executive of Humanists UK, says the biggest demographic change in England and Wales in the past ten years has been the explosive growth of the non-religious, which means that the UK is certainly one of the least religious countries on earth, as he put it.

“No country in Europe has such religious confusion as we do, in terms of law and public policy,” he added, according to The Telegraph.

“No other country in the world requires compulsory Christian worship in schools as standard,” he continued.

He concluded by saying that “the failure of the law to keep up with the pace of change imposes significant discrimination against a large number of non-religious residents, or people of other religions in England and Wales, so Britain must witness a major change soon.”

At the beginning of 2022, The Telegraph revealed that “more than 423 churches in England were closed between 2010 and 2019, which senior clerics considered a shocking threat to British subjects.”

This analysis is considered the first comprehensive analysis of church numbers that does not take into account the impact of the Coronavirus epidemic, and as a result clergy and ordinary people fear that the total number will be much higher.