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Religion in The United Kingdom is about the development of religion in the United Kingdommarker since its formation in 1707. The Treaty of Union that led to the formation of the United Kingdom of Great Britainmarker (which became the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Irelandmarker in 1801 when Great Britain signed an Act of Union with Ireland) ensured that there would be a protestant succession as well as a link between church and state that still remains.

According to the 2001 UK census, Christianity remains the major religion, followed by Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, Judaism and Buddhism in terms of number of adherents. Though each country that makes up the UK has a long tradition of Christianity that pre-dates the UK itself, in practice all have relatively low levels of religious observance and today are secular societies.

England and Wales

Christianity is the main religion in England with the Church of England the Established Church. It is the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion (except the Scottish Episcopal Church which has separate origins and is a Sister Church rather than a Daughter Church) and the oldest among the communion's thirty-eight independent national churches. It retains representation in the UK Parliamentmarker with the churches 26 bishops sitting in the House of Lordsmarker as Lords Spiritual, and the British monarch is a member of the church (required under Article 2 of the Treaty of Union) as well as its Supreme Governor. The Church of England also retains the right to draft legislative measures (related to religious administration) through the General Synod that can then be passed into law by Parliament. Christianity is also the main religion in Wales. In the 1920s, the Church in Wales became independent from the Church of England and became 'disestablished' but remains in the Anglican Communion.

Catholic diocesan hierarchies were re-established in England and Wales in 1850 following an influx of Irish Catholics fleeing the Great Irish Famine. Today the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales is the second largest Christian church across England and Wales with around five million members, mainly in England. The Church has five provinces: Birmingham, Cardiff, Liverpool, Southwark and Westminster. There are 22 dioceses which are divided into parishes. In addition to these, there are two dioceses covering England and Wales for specific groups which are the Bishopric of the Forces and the Apostolic Exarchate for Ukrainians. The Catholic Bishops in England and Wales come together in the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales. Currently the Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, is the ex officio President of the Conference.

Pentecostal churches are continuing to grow and, in terms of church attendance, are now third after the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church in England. Other Christian groups include Salvation Army, United Reformed Church, Plymouth Brethren, Baptist Union, Baptist Union of Wales, Methodists, Congregationalists and house churches.


The presbyterian Church of Scotlandmarker is recognised by the Church of Scotland Act 1921 as the national church of Scotlandmarker. It is not subject to state control. The British monarch is an ordinary member and is required to swear an oath to "defend the security" of the church upon his or her accession.

The Roman Catholic Church in Scotland is Scotland's second largest Christian church, representing a sixth of the population. Catholic diocesan hierarchies were restored in Scotland in 1878. In the 2001 census about 16% of the population of Scotland described themselves as being Roman Catholic. Currently, they constitute 17% of Scotland, with 850,000 members. Journalist Andrew Collier notes that Scot Catholics no longer see themselves as a tribal minority, "but as a confident and influential part of the country's demographic mix." This Catholic self-esteem has had a dramatic political side effect, with Catholics starting to find common ground with the Scottish Nationalist Party. Scotland has two provinces - Glasgow and St Andrews and Edinburgh - and eight dioceses, and the Archbishops and bishops come together in the Bishops' Conference of Scotland. Currently, the Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, is President of the Conference.

The Scottish Episcopal Church, which is part of the Anglican Communion, dates from the final establishment of Presbyterianism in Scotland in 1690, when it split from the Church of Scotland and is not a 'daughter church' of the Church of England. Further splits in the Church of Scotland, especially in the nineteenth century, led to the creation of various other Presbyterian churches in Scotland, including the Free Church of Scotland. In 1900 the vast majority of the Free Church of Scotland united with the United Presbyterian Church of Scotland to form the United Free Church of Scotland, which re-united with the Church of Scotland in 1929. The remaining members of the former Free Church founded a new Free Church of Scotland, which they claimed to be the legitimate Free Church in 1900.

Northern Ireland

The main religious groups in Northern Ireland are Christian, and are organised on an all-Ireland basis. Though Protestants and Anglicans are in the overall majority, the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland is the largest single church. The Presbyterian Church in Ireland, closely linked to the Church of Scotland in terms of theology and history, is the second largest church followed by the Church of Ireland (Anglican) which was disestablished in the nineteenth century. The 2001 UK census showed 40.3% Roman Catholic, 20.7% Presbyterian Church, with the Church of Ireland having 15.3% and the Methodist Church 3.5%. 13.8% gave no religion, and other religions were 0.3%.


National churches

Roman Catholicism

The Roman Catholic Church has separate national churches for England and Wales, Scotland and Ireland and there is no single hierarchy for Roman Catholicism in the United Kingdom (though there is a single apostolic nuncio to the United Kingdom, presently Archbishop Faustino Sainz Muñoz).


There are three main denomination of Pentecostal churches;

The is also a growing number of independent, charismatic churches that encourage Pentecostal practices as part of their worship.


The Methodist movement traces its origin to the evangelical awakening in the 18th century. It was started as a movement within the Church of England by a group of men including John Wesley, an Anglican clergyman, and his younger brother Charles, but developed as a separate denomination after John Wesley's death. Traditionally, Methodism proved particularly popular in Wales with the Welsh Methodist revival in the 18th century and the 1904-1905 Welsh Revival.

Schism within the original Methodist church, and independent revival, led to the formation of a number of separate denominations calling themselves Methodist. The largest of these were the Primitive Methodist Church, the Bible Christian Church and the United Methodist Church (not connected with the American denomination of the same name, but a union of three smaller denominations). The original church became known as the Wesleyan Methodist Church to distinguish it from these bodies. The three major streams of British Methodism united in 1932 to form the current Methodist Church of Great Britain, which includes congregations in the Channel Islands, the Isle of Manmarker, Maltamarker and Gibraltarmarker as part of the church. It is the fourth largest Christian denomination in the UK with around 270,000 members and 6,000 churches though it has only around 3,000 members in 50 congregations in Scotland. In Northern Ireland, where Methodism is also the fourth largest denomination, the church is organised within the Methodist Church in Ireland. The Wesleyan Reform Union and the Independent Methodist Connexion still remain separate from the Methodist Church of Great Britain.

In the 1960s, the Methodist Church of Great Britain made ecumenical overtures to the Church of England, aimed at church unity. Formally, these failed when they were rejected by the Church of England's General Synod in 1972. However, conversations and co-operation continued, leading on 1 November 2003 to the signing of a covenant between the two churches. The Methodist Church in Ireland is the fourth largest denomination in Northern Ireland. In 2002 The Methodist Church in Ireland signed a covenant for greater cooperation and potential ultimate unity with the Church of Ireland.


Eastern Orthodox Churches

There are various Russian Orthodox groups in the UK. In 1962, Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh founded and was for many years bishop, archbishop then metropolitan bishop of the diocese of the Russian Orthodox Diocese of Sourozh, the Russian Orthodox Moscow Patriarchate's diocese for Great Britain and Ireland. It is the most numerous Russian Orthodox group in the UK. There are also the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia churches as well as some churches and communities belonging to the Patriarchal Exarchate for Orthodox Parishes of Russian Tradition in Western Europe's Episcopal Cicariate in the UK.

Most Greek Orthodox Church parishes fall under the jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain, based in London and led by the Archbishop, His Eminence Gregorios. Created in 1932, it is the diocese of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople that covers England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland as well as Malta. A Greek Orthodox community already existed at the time the UK was formed, worshipping in the Imperial Russian Embassy in London. However, it was another 130 years until an autonomous community was set up in Finsbury Park in London, in 1837. The first new church was built in 1850, on London Street in the City. In 1882, St Sophia Cathedral was constructed in London, in order to cope with the growing influx of Orthodox immigrants to the UK. By the outbreak of World War I, there were large Orthodox communities in London, Manchestermarker, Cardiffmarker and Liverpool, each focused on its own church. World War II and its aftermath also saw a large expansion amongst the Orthodox Communities. Today, there are seven churches bearing the title of Cathedral in London as well as in Birminghammarker (the Dormition of the Mother of God and St Andrewmarker) and Leicestermarker. In addition to these, there are eighty-one churches and other places where worship is regularly offered, twenty-five places (including University Chaplaincies) where the Divine Liturgy is celebrated on a less regular basis, four chapels (including that of the Archdiocese), and two monasteries. As is traditional within the Orthodox Church, the bishops have a considerable degree of autonomy within the Archdiocese. The Greek Orthodox Church of St Nicholasmarker in Toxtethmarker, Liverpool, was built in 1870. It is an enlarged version of St Theodore's church in Constantinoplemarker and is a Grade II Listed building. The Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch also have the St. George's Cathedralmarker in London and a total of sixteen parishes throughout the UK.

There is also the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in London, as well as the Belarusian Autocephalous Orthodox Church in Manchester.

All Coptic Orthodox parishes fall under the jurisdiction of the Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria. The Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom is divided into three main parishes: Ireland, Scotland and North England; the Midlandsmarker and its affiliated areas; and South Walesmarker. In addition, there is one Patriarchal Exarchate at Stevenagemarker, Hertfordshiremarker. Most British converts belong to the British Orthodox Church, which is canonically part of the Coptic Orthodox Church. There is also the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church and the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church in London. There is also the Armenian Apostolic Church in London.

Other Christian denominations

Presbyterian is a family of Christian denominations within the Reformed branch of Protestant Western Christianity. A form of Calvinism, Presbyterianism evolved primarily in Scotlandmarker before the Act of Union in 1707. Most of the few Presbyteries found in England can trace a Scottish connection. The Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland was formed in 1893 and claims to be the spiritual descendant of the Scottish Reformation. The Free Church of Scotland, which claims to tbe the legitimate Free Church in Scotland was founded in 1900. In England Presbyterianism was founded in secret in 1572. The Evangelical Presbyterian Church in England and Wales was founded in the late 1980s and declared themselves to be a Presbytery in 1996. They currently have ten churches. The Presbyterian Church in Ireland is the largest Protestant denomination and second largest church in Northern Ireland. The Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster was founded on 17 March 1951 by the cleric and politician, Ian Paisley. It has about 60 churches in Northern Ireland. The Presbyterian Church of Wales seceded from the Church of England in 1811 and formally formed itself into a separate body in 1823. The Non-subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland has 31 congregations in Northern Ireland, with the first Presbytery being formed in Antrimmarker in 1725.

There are about 600 Congregational churches in the UK. In England there are three main groups, the Congregational Federation, the Evangelical Fellowship of Congregational Churches, and about 100 Congregational churches that are loosely federated with other congregations in the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches, or are unaffiliated. In Scotland the churches are mostly member of the Congregational Federation and in Wales which traditionally has a larger number of Congregationalists, most are members of the Union of Welsh Independents.

The Britain Yearly Meeting is the umbrella body for the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in England, Scotland, Wales, the Channel Isles and the Isle of Man. There are 25,000 worshippers with about 400 local meetings. Northern Ireland comes under the umbrella of the Ireland Yearly Meeting.

The United Reformed Church (URC) is the result of a union between the Presbyterian Church of England and the Congregational Church in England and Wales in 1972 and subsequent unions with the Re-formed Association of Churches of Christ in 1981 and the Congregational Union of Scotland in 2000. The URC has about 1,900 congregations.

The Salvation Army was founded in the East End of Londonmarker in 1865.

The General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches is the umbrella organisation for Unitarian, Free Christian and other liberal religious congregations in the UK. The Unitarian Christian Association was formed in 1991.

Other denominations

Among other denominations are:

There are several Nordic churches in London which provide Lutheran Christian worship.


Traditionally, saints have often been venerated locally, nationally and internationally. This is often reflected in British toponymy. However, following the Reformation, the cult of saints has been observed to a much lesser degree than historically.

Patron saints:

Many municipalities and regions preserve traditions of their own saints. See, for example, Cornish Saints and Saint Swithun.

Wales is particularly noted for naming places after either local or well-known saints - all places beginning in Llan e.g. Llanbedr - St Peter (Pedr); Llanfihangel - St Michael (Mihangel); Llanarmon - St Garmon. Because of the relatively small number of saints' names used, places names are often suffixed by their locality e.g. Llanfihangel Glyn Myfyr, Llanfihangel-y-Creuddyn, Llanfihangel-y-Pennant.

Other faiths

Consideration of religious diversity led Charles, Prince of Wales (the Heir Apparent) to say in 1994 "I personally would rather see it [his future role] as 'Defender of Faith', not 'the Faith'." , the press was reporting that he will embrace multiculturalism when he becomes King by dropping 'the' from the historic title "Defender of the Faith".

The main faiths after christianity include:


Though Islam was not legalised until the Trinitarian Act in 1812, Muslims were present prior to this as Muslims were already living in England and Scotland when the UK was formed. Islam, today, is the second largest religion in all four countries of the UK with recent estimates suggesting a combined total of as high as 2.4 million Muslims, The vast majority of Muslims in the UK live in England and Wales: of 1,591,000 Muslims recorded at the 2001 Census, 1,536,015 were living in Englandmarker and Walesmarker, where they form 3% of the population; 42,557 were living in Scotlandmarker, forming 0.84% of the population; and 1,943 were living in Northern Irelandmarker.

Most Muslim immigrants to the UK came from former colonies, such as Bangladeshmarker, Indiamarker and Pakistanmarker, with the remainder coming from Muslim-dominated areas such as Southwest Asia, Somaliamarker, Malaysiamarker, and Indonesiamarker. During the 18th century, lascars (sailors) who worked for the British East India Company settled in port towns with local wives. These numbered only 4,037 in 1891 but 51,616 on the eve of World War I. Naval cooks also came, many from what is now the Sylhet Divisionmarker of Bangladeshmarker, including Sake Dean Mahomet, a captain in the British East India Company. After 1900, Yemenimarker sailors began to permanently settle in the United Kingdom. From the 1950s onwards, the growing Muslim population developing in many towns and cities led to a number of Mosques being established, including the notable mosques of Manchester Central Mosquemarker, East London Mosquemarker, London Markazmarker and London Central Mosquemarker.

The Muslim Council of Britain is an umbrella organisation for many local, regional and specialist Islamic organisations in the UK.


Hinduism was the religion of 558,342 people in the United Kingdom according to the 2001 UK census. However, the total was estimated as high as 1.5 Million in 2007. Although most British Hindus live in Englandmarker, with half living in Londonmarker alone, small communities also exist in Northern Irelandmarker, Scotlandmarker and Walesmarker.


The Jewish Naturalisation Act, enacted in 1753, permitted the naturalisation of foreign Jews, but was repealed the next year. The first graduate from the University of Glasgowmarker who was openly-known to be Jewish was in 1787. Unlike their English contemporaries, Scottish students were not required to take a religious oath.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, British society was considered more tolerant of Jews than most other European nations. In 1841 Isaac Lyon Goldsmid was made baronet, the first Jew to receive a hereditary title. The first Jewish Lord Mayor of the City of London, Sir David Salomons, was elected in 1855, followed by the 1858 emancipation of the Jews. On 26 July 1858, Lionel de Rothschild was finally allowed to sit in the British House of Commonsmarker when the law restricting the oath of office to Christians was changed. Benjamin Disraeli, a baptised, teenage convert to Christianity of Jewish parentage, was already an MP at this time and rose to become Prime Minister in 1874. In 1884 Nathan Mayer Rothschild, 1st Baron Rothschild became the first Jewish member of the British House of Lordsmarker; again Disraeli was already a member.

However, a report in August 2007 by University of Manchestermarker historian Dr Yaakov Wise stated that 75% of all births in the Jewish community were to ultra-orthodox, Haredi parents, and that the increase of ultra-orthodox Jewry allied with the declining overall Jewish population has led to a significant rise in the proportion of British Jews who are ultra-orthodox. The figures were based on census data and also on the regular monitoring of Jewish births by academics in both Manchester and Leeds.


Sikhism was recorded as the religion of 336,179 people in the United Kingdom at the time of the 2001 Census. While Englandmarker is home to the majority of Sikhs in the UK, small communities also exist in Northern Irelandmarker, Scotlandmarker and Walesmarker.

The first recorded Sikh settler in the UK was Maharaja Duleep Singh, dethroned and exiled in 1849 at the age of 14, after the Anglo-Sikh wars. The first Sikh Gurdwara (temple) was established in 1911, in Putneymarker, London. The first wave of Sikh migration came in the 1950s, mostly of men from the Punjab seeking work in industries such as foundries and textiles. These new arrivals mostly settled in London, Birmingham and West Yorkshire. Thousands of Sikhs from East Africa followed.


The earliest Buddhist influence on Britain came through its imperial connections with South East Asia, and as a result the early connections were with the Theravada traditions of Burmamarker, Thailandmarker, and Sri Lankamarker. The tradition of study resulted in the foundation of the Pali Text Society, which undertook the task of translating the Pali Canon of Buddhist texts into English. Buddhism as a path of practice was pioneered by the Theosophists, Madame Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott, and in 1880 they became the first Westerners to receive the refuges and precepts, the ceremony by which one traditionally becomes a Buddhist.

In 1924 London’s Buddhist Society was founded, and in 1926 the Theravadin London Buddhist Vihara. The rate of growth was slow but steady through the century, and the 1950s saw the development of interest in Zen Buddhism. In 1967 Kagyu Samyé Ling Monastery and Tibetan Centremarker, now the largest Tibetan Buddhist centre in Western Europe, was founded in Scotland. The first home-grown Buddhist movement was also founded in 1967, the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order (FWBO). There are many Sōka Gakkai Buddhist groups in the UK.


An estimated 250,000 (0.4%) to 1 million (around 2%) Britons adhere to various forms of Neopaganism, including Celtic Neopaganism, Heathenism and Wicca.

Bahá'í Faith

The Bahá'í Faith in the United Kingdom has a historical connection with the earliest phases of the Bahá'í Faith starting in 1845 and reflects on the evolving character of the religion and the countries of the British Isles like England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland culminating in the present United Kingdom and relates to the development of communities of the religion in far flung nations around the world. It is estimated that between 1951 and 1993, Bahá'ís from the United Kingdom settled in 138 countries. There are about 5000 Bahá'ís of the UK.


Anglican, Catholic and Orthodox monastic communities exist as well as religious communities of Hindus and Buddhists.

Religious leaders

Notable places of worship

The varied religious and ethnic history of the United Kingdom and the countries that formed it has left a wide range of religious buildings - churches, cathedrals, chapels, chapels of ease, synagogues, mosques and temples. Besides its spiritual importance, the religious architecture includes buildings of importance to the tourism industry and local pride. As a result of the Reformation, the ancient cathedrals remained in the possession of the then-established churches, while most Roman Catholic churches date from Victorian times or are of more recent construction (curiously, in Liverpool the ultra-modern design Roman Catholic cathedralmarker was actually completed before the more traditional design of the Anglican cathedralmarker, whose construction took most of the twentieth century). Notable places of worship include:




Northern Ireland

Religion and education

England and Wales

In England and Wales, a significant number of state funded schools are faith schools with the vast majority Christian (mainly either of Church of England or Roman Catholic) though there are also Jewish, Muslim and Sikh faith schools. Faith schools follow the same national curriculum as state schools, though with the added ethos of the host religion. Until 1944 there was no requirement for state schools to provide religious education or worship, although most did so. The Education Act 1944 introduced a requirement for a daily act of collective worship and for religious education but did not define what was allowable under these terms. The act contained provisions to allow parents to withdraw their children from these activities and for teachers to refuse to participate. The Education Reform Act 1988 introduced a further requirement that the majority of collective worship be "wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character" . In recent years schools have increasingly failed to comply with the collective worship rules - in 2004 David Bell, the Chief Inspector of Schools said that "at present more than three-quarters of schools fail to meet this requirement." Religious studies is still an obligatory subject in the curriculum, but tends to aim at providing an understanding of the main faiths of the world rather than at instilling a strictly Christian viewpoint.


In Scotland, the majority of schools are non-denominational but separate Roman Catholic schools, with an element of control by the Roman Catholic Church, are provided within the state system.

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland has a highly segregated education system. 95% of pupils attend either maintained (Catholic) schools or controlled schools, which are open to children of all faiths and none, though in practice most pupils are from the Protestant community.

Religion and politics

The strength of Nonconformism among workers in the newly-industrialised towns of the Industrial Revolution gave rise, in large measure, to the development of Christian socialism in the United Kingdom. The Labour Party arose from a nonconformist background, whereas the Church of England has sometimes been nicknamed "the Conservative Party at prayer".

Lionel de Rothschild was the first Jew to take a seat in the House of Commons (1858) and in 1884 Baron Rothschild became the first Jewish member of the House of Lords. Dadabhai Naoroji, a Parsi, was an MP 1892-1895. Piara Khabra, a Sikh, was elected to the House of Commons in 1992. Mohammad Sarwar was the first Muslim MP (elected 1997). Henry Stanley, 3rd Baron Stanley of Alderley, a convert to Islam, was the first Muslim member of the House of Lords (from 1869). The first Muslim appointed to the House of Lords was Nazir Ahmed, Baron Ahmed in 1998; the first female Muslim so appointed, also in 1998, was Pola Uddin, Baroness Uddin.

The direct influence of the Anglican Communion has been on the decline for many years, but the Church of England retains representation in Parliamentmarker through 26 Lords Spiritual, who sit in the House of Lordsmarker along with the secular Lords Temporal. The Church also has the right to draft legislative measures (usually related to religious administration), through the General Synod, that can be passed into law, but not amended by Parliament. The churches of the Anglican Communion in Irelandmarker and Walesmarker were disestablished in the 19th and 20th centuries.

The Prime Minister, regardless of personal beliefs, plays a key role in the appointment of Church of England bishops, although in July 2007 Gordon Brown proposed reforms of the Prime Minister's ability to affect Church of England appointments.

Two 'Christian' parties - the Christian Party and the Christian Peoples Alliance, fielded joint candidates at the 2009 European Parliament elections and increased their share of the vote to come eighth, with 249,493 votes (1.6 percent of total votes cast), and in London, where the CPA has three councillors, the Christian parties picked up 51,336 votes (2.9 percent of the vote), up slightly from the 45,038 gained in 2004.

Religion and the media

The BBC programme Songs of Praise is aired on a Sunday evening and has an average weekly audience of 2.5 million. Midnight mass and other such events are usually aired. As a public broadcaster the BBC produces such programming partly because of remit obligations. Accordingly, BBC Three and BBC Four air occasional programming from atheist or Muslim perspectives.

Other channels offer documentaries on, or from the perspective of, non-belief. A significant example is Richard Dawkins' two-part Channel 4 documentary, The Root of all Evil?.

The British media often portrays a cultural scepticism towards religion. British comedy in particular has a history of satire and parody on the subject, the most iconic example probably being Monty Python film Life of Brian. Religious mockery, or open disbelief in any religion, is not regarded as a taboo in the British media, as it could be considered to be in the other nations, for example the USAmarker.

Secularism, tolerance and anti-religious discrimination

A synagogue and mosque side by side in London.
Ecumenical rapprochement has gradually developed between Christian denominations but religious tensions still exist. (See, for example, The Satanic Verses , and Sectarianism in Glasgow and Northern Irelandmarker.)

In the early 21st century proposals to update the blasphemy law in the United Kingdom were discussed. The Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006 made it an offence in England and Wales to incite hatred against a person on the grounds of their religion. The common law offences of blasphemy and blasphemous libel were finally abolished with the coming into effect of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 on 8 July 2008.

There being no strict separation of church and state in the United Kingdom, public officials may in general display religious symbols in the course of their duties - for example, turbans. Chaplains are provided in the armed forces (see Royal Army Chaplains' Department) and in prisons.

There is evidence of Anti-Christian sentiment, Islamophobia and, albeit far more limited, Anti-Semitism in the United Kingdom. In 2009, The Daily Mail reported that local artists in Havering were invited to submit pictures to brighten up a local hospital but specifically banned from submitting pictures of churches. The newspaper failed to mention that religious imagery in general, not merely Christian, was discouraged.

Although School uniform codes are generally drawn up flexibly enough to accommodate compulsory items of religious dress, some schools have banned wearing the crucifix, arguing that wearing a crucifix is not a requirement of Christianity, and that necklaces themselves are banned as well, not just crucifixes.

Some polls have shown that public opinion in the United Kingdom generally tends towards a suspicion or outright disapproval of radical or evangelical religiosity, though moderate groups and individuals are rarely subject to injurious treatment.


Several different sets of figures exist which aim to categorise the religious affiliations, beliefs and practices of UK residents. Differences in the wording and context of the questions can give substantially different results. The 2001 census found that 76.8% of the UK population had a religion, with Christianity being the most prevalent (71.6% of respondents described their religion as such), while the British Social Attitudes Survey survey produced by the National Centre for Social Research in the same year reported that 58% considered themselves to "belong to" a religion.

An Ipsos MORI poll in 2003 reported that 43% considered themselves to be "a member of an organised religion" (18% were "a practising member of an organised religion") An ICM survey in 2006 found that only 33% considered themselves to be "a religious person", with 43% saying they never attended religious services.

A Eurobarometer opinion poll in 2005 reported that 38% "believed there is a God", 40% believe there is "some sort of spirit or life force" and 20% said "I'don't believe there is any sort of spirit, God or life force". A survey in 2007 suggested that 42% of adults resident in the UK prayed, with one in six praying on a daily basis.

The EU-funded European Social Survey to be published in April 2009 has found that only 12% of British people belong to a church.

Religions other than Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism and Judaism have established a presence in the UK, both through immigration and by attracting converts, including the Bahá'í Faith, Rastafarianism and Neopaganism. There are also organisations which promote rationalism, humanism, atheism and secularism. The UK has a large and growing non-religious population with 13,626,000 (23.2% of the UK population) either claiming no religion or not answering the question on religion at the 2001 census.

The 2001 census contained voluntary questions on religious affiliation. In Scotland and Northern Ireland the census also contained questions on the religion in which a person had been brought up. As a result of comparisons with survey data The Office for National Statistics concluded that the census results for England and Wales were more comparable to the results for religion of upbringing in Scotland and Northern Ireland than for current religious affiliation. At the time the Census was carried out, there was an Internet campaign that encouraged people to record their religion as Jedi or "Jedi Knight". The number of people who stated Jedi was 390,000 (0.7 per cent of the population).

A survey in 2002 found Christmas attendance at Anglican churches in England varied between 10.19% of the population in the diocese of Herefordmarker, down to just 2.16% in Manchestermarker. Church attendance at Christmas in some dioceses was up to three times the average for the rest of the year.Overall church attendance at Christmas has been steadily increasing in recent years; a 2005 poll found that 43% expected to attend a church service over the Christmas period, in comparison with 39% and 33% for corresponding polls taken in 2003 and 2001 respectively.In a 2004 YouGov poll, 44 per cent of UK citizens responded affirmatively to the question "Do you believe in God?".

In the UKmarker overall, a Guardian/ICM poll in 2006 found that 33% describe themselves as "a religious person" while 82% see religion as a cause of division and tension between people.

Society in the United Kingdom is markedly more secular than in the past and the number of churchgoers fell over the last half of the 20th century. According to the British Humanist Association 36% of the population is humanist, and may, by the same token, be considered outright atheist. The National Secular Society is among bodies aiming to reduce the influence of religion. According to the 2001 census, however, 71.6% of population declared themselves to be Christian, a further 2.7% as Muslim and 1% as Hindu. Only 15.5% said they had "no religion" and 7.3% did not reply to the question. The problem with interpreting these results is that they do not reveal the intensity of religious belief or non-belief. See also Status of religious freedom in the United Kingdom.

The Tearfund Survey in 2007 found 53% of people in the UK identifying themselves as Christian and only 7% as practising Christians. 10% attend church weekly and two-thirds had not gone to church in the past year. The Tearfund Survey also found that two thirds of UK adults (66%) or 32.2 million people have no connection with The Church at present (nor with another religion). These people are evenly divided between those who have been in the past but have since left (16 million) and those who have never been in their lives (16.2 million).

A December 2007 report by Christian Research showed that Roman Catholicism had become the best-attended services of Christian denominations in England, with average attendance at Sunday Mass of 861,000, compared to 852,000 attending Anglican services. Attendance at Anglican services had declined by 20% between 2000 and 2006, while attendance at Catholic services, boosted by large-scale immigration from Poland and Lithuania, had declined by only 13%. In Scotland attendance at Church of Scotlandmarker services declined by 19% and attendance at Catholic services fell by 25%.

A Tearfund survey on prayer found in 2007 that 42% of adults in the UK pray (outside church or religious services).

Time series showing the religion that people consider themselves to belong to.

British Social Attitudes Surveys have shown the proportion of those in Great Britain who consider they "belong to" Christianity to have fallen from 66% in 1983 to 48% in 2006.

The disparity between the 2001 census data and the above polls has been put down to both the decline in religious adherence in the UK since 2001 and a phenomenon of cultural religiosity, whereby many who do not believe in gods still identify with a religion because of its role in their upbringing or its importance to their family.

Religions in United Kingdom, 2001

Religion/Denomination Current religion

Christian 42,079,000 71.6
No religion 9,104,000 15.5
Muslim 1,591,000 2.7
Hindu 559,000 1.0
Sikh 336,000 0.6
Jewish 267,000 0.5
Buddhist 152,000 0.3
Other Religion 179,000 0.3
All religions 45,163,000 76.8
Not Answered 4,289,000 7.3
No religion +
Not Answered
13,626,000 23.2
Base 58,789,000 100
Source: UK 2001 Census.

Denominations in Great Britain

Religion/Denomination Percent
Church of England 20.9
Roman Catholic 9.0
Presbyterian/Church of Scotlandmarker 2.8
Methodist 1.9
Other Protestant 2.7
Christian (no denomination) 10.3
Other Christian 0.4
Muslim 3.3
Hindu 1.4
Jewish 0.4
Sikh 0.4
Other Religion 0.4
No religion 45.7
Refused / NA 0.5
Source: BSA Survey 2007.

Religions by ethnic group

Ethnic group Christian Buddhist Hindu Jewish Muslim Sikh Other No religion Not stated
White British 75.94% 0.11% 0.01% 0.48% 0.14% 0.01% 0.24% 15.45% 7.62%
White Irish 85.42% 0.19% 0.02% 0.18% 0.14% 0.02% 0.26% 6.35% 7.42%
Other White 62.67% 0.33% 0.09% 2.39% 8.61% 0.04% 0.57% 15.91% 9.38%
Mixed 52.46% 0.70% 0.87% 0.47% 9.72% 0.42% 0.58% 23.25% 11.54%
Indian 4.89% 0.18% 45.00% 0.06% 12.70% 29.06% 1.75% 1.73% 4.63%
Pakistani 1.09% 0.03% 0.08% 0.05% 92.01% 0.05% 0.04% 0.50% 6.16%
Bangladeshi 0.50% 0.06% 0.60% 0.05% 92.48% 0.04% 0.01% 0.43% 5.83%
Other Asian 13.42% 4.85% 26.76% 0.30% 37.31% 6.22% 0.93% 3.44% 6.79%
Black Caribbean 73.76% 0.17% 0.29% 0.10% 0.79% 0.02% 0.59% 11.23% 13.04%
Black African 68.87% 0.07% 0.21% 0.05% 20.04% 0.09% 0.21% 2.31% 8.14%
Other Black 66.61% 0.20% 0.36% 0.13% 5.97% 0.07% 0.65% 12.09% 13.93%
Chinese 21.56% 15.12% 0.07% 0.05% 0.33% 0.03% 0.49% 52.60% 9.75%
Other 32.98% 15.49% 1.32% 1.05% 25.68% 1.02% 0.90% 14.08% 7.48%

Source: UK 2001 Census

See also


  1. Welcome, accessed 4 August, 2009
  2. 'Fringe' Church winning the believers Timesonline, 19 December 2006
  3. [1]
  4. Andrew Collier, "Scotland's confident Catholics," THE TABLET, 10 January 2009, 16
  5. THE BAPTIST FAMILY, accessed 4 May 2009
  6. United Kingdom. LDS Newsroom. Retrieved 2008-12-13.
  7. "
  8. Islam in the UK - population figures
  10. Muslims in Europe: Country guide, accessed 16 January 2009
  11. KS07 Religion: Key Statistics for urban areas, results by population size of urban area
  12. ANALYSIS OF RELIGION IN THE 2001 CENSUS: Summary Report, Scottish Executive
  13. Northern Ireland Census 2001 Key Statistics
  14. UK 2001 census
  15. Hindu school is first to make vegetarianism a condition of entry | Schools special reports |
  16. Minority religions mainly in London. National Statistics. Accessed 5 Jun 2006.
  17. 2001 Census, Office of National Statistics
  18. Jenny Percival. Pagan prisoners allowed twig wands in cells. Scotland on Sunday. 11 May 2008. Retrieved: 14 February 2009. Citation: "There are estimated to be one million Pagans in Britain – around 300 of whom are in prison. There are about 30,000 in Scotland."
  19. U.K. Bahá'í Heritage Site - The Bahá'í Faith in the United Kingdom - A Brief History
  20. In the United Kingdom, Bahá'ís promote a dialogue on diversity One Country, Volume 16, Issue 2 / July-September 2004
  21. Education Reform Act 1988 - Chapter I -The Curriculum - pt 6 Retrieved on 15 October 2007
  22. Eric J Evans
  23. Report, from the Church Times
  24. CPA Party People, accessed 12 July 2009
  25. Christians aim to build on vote BBC News, 8 June 2009
  26. BBC Songs of Praise accessed 01/01/08
  27. The hospital that banned paintings of churches, 5 May 2009
  28. Teen Banned From Wearing Crucifix Sky News, 6 December 2005
  30. 40% of adults pray, says survey BBC News, 11 November 2007
  31. Dawkins sets up kids’ camp to groom atheists, June 28, 2009
  32. Religion: 2001 Census National Statistics website.
  33. (see "Religion (table 3)")
  34. Proportion of the UK population who consider themselves humanist
  35. the listing of parishes on this website is disputed: Patriarchal Exarchate for Orthodox Parishes of Russian Tradition in Western Europe#Parishes and Communities of the Vicariate

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