The “post-Christian era” in the UK will be cemented by data emerging from Sunday’s census, which is expected to show a greater generational disconnect from organized religion, according to a leading scholar.
The country’s once-a-decade snapshot has included a voluntary question on religion since 2001. In 2011, returns in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland showed 59.3% Christianity ticking, a drop from 71.6% from the previous decade.
Abby Day, a professor of race, faith and culture at Goldsmiths, University of London, hopes this year’s census will show further erosion in Christian identity, mainly because postwar generations view the church as irrelevant and immoral.
Day predicted that the proportion of people who mark Christianity “could fall below 50%.” Peter Brierley, an expert on religious statistics, said he predicted that 48% or 49% would identify as Christian, but David Voas, head of the department of social sciences at University College London, said he would be surprised if the figure fell below 50%.
According to Day, a further decline was largely due to baby boomers, people born between 1946 and 1964, who raised their children outside of religious institutions.
“Religion tends to run within families. But a lot of baby boomers, who were raised largely by churchgoers, broke with that drastically, “he said. the observer.
“Since then, baby boomers have raised a generation of millennials who don’t go to church. And people who were not raised as practicing Christians generally do not become religious later in life. There are not many teenagers entering churches when they have not done so before. “
Based on recent interviews with about 50 baby boomers who were raised in Christian families, Day said that many had rejected the church in favor of values considered more relevant, inclusive and humane.
“Post-Christians are motivated by ethics regarding gender and sexual equality, social justice, climate change, and compassion. The churches failed to meet these moral issues and thus lost moral authority.
“The younger generations today have a different sense of soul, meaning and morality, and it is one that rejects the church’s record of abuse, racism, homophobia and sexism,” he said.
Church of England facts shows that the average Sunday attendance in 2019 was 600,000 adults, or less than 1% of the population. A third of the churchgoers were 70 years or older.
Figures from 2018 British Social Attitudes Survey (BSA) showed that 52% of the UK public said they did not belong to any religion, 38% identified as Christian and 9% identified with other religions.
But in the last census, only 25% of the population said they have no religion. According to Voas, the wording difference between the census question in England and Wales and the BSA question is “critical”.
“The BSA question is, ‘Do you consider yourself to be a member of a religious group?’ That notion of belonging pushes people to think, ‘Do I really belong, am I a member of a church?’ … rather than identification with an inheritance, ”he told a Religion Media Center event In the past week.
“The census question, ‘What is your religion?’, Implies that everyone should have one … You end up with very different results.”
TO YouGov poll on behalf of Humanists UK, released this month, asked people the same question as the census, but then asked those who identified themselves as Christians the reasons for their response.
Almost six in 10 (59%) said it was because they had been baptized, and 49% because they were raised to think of themselves as Christians. More than a quarter (26%) said it was “because this is a Christian country.” More than half (51%) said they never attended a place of worship or did so less than once a year.
Only a third (34%) said they flagged Christians because they “believe in the teachings of Christianity.”
Andrew Copson, Executive Director of Humanists UK, said: “Most people in the UK say they are not religious, a distinct minority have religious beliefs and very few attend places of worship.” However, most people checked a religion box in the last census due to their background or education.
Humanists UK is urging people to check the “no religion” box if they do not believe or practice a religion.
Day said there was a “dark side” to “cultural Christianity.” “The populist right has pushed the idea that we are a Christian country to reinforce its anti-immigration stance by fueling rhetoric about Britain’s loss of identity.”
The proportion of the population that identifies with non-Christian beliefs is likely to increase “quite substantially” in the 2021 census as a result of immigration and higher birth rates in some minority communities, Brierley said.
The Office for National Statistics estimates that it will take a year to process the census data.
Northern Ireland was also conducting a census on Sunday, but Scotland has postponed its census until 2022 due to the Covid pandemic.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism