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Britain loses its religion: Number of people who describe themselves as atheists is at its highest EVER level

Britain loses its religion: Number of people who describe themselves as atheists is at its highest EVER level
Number of UK adults who describe themselves as atheist at its highest ever level
More than half - 53 per cent - now say they have no religion, up 5% on 2015
Decline in religious affiliation has hit the Church of England particularly hard
Just 15% of people consider themselves Anglican - has halved from 30% in 2000
Bishop said: 'We care about numbers, but only because we care about people'
And the Bishop of Liverpool added: 'no religion is not the same as atheism'

By KEILIGH BAKER FOR MAILONLINE
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/
4 September 2017

The number of British adults who describe themselves as atheist has reached its highest ever level.

The study on religious affiliation by the National Centre for Social Research found that the proportion of people in the UK who now describe themselves as having no religion has reached more than half, 53 per cent, of the public.

The number of people who describe themselves as having 'no religion' is up five per cent from 48 per cent in 2015.

The proportion of non-believers has increased gradually since the survey began in 1983, when the proportion saying they had no religion stood at 31 per cent.

The decline in religious affiliation is hitting the Church of England particularly hard. Just 15 per cent of people in Britain consider themselves Anglican, half the proportion who said this in 2000.

But the Bishop of Liverpool said: 'No religion is not the same as atheism.'

The proportion of people describing themselves as Catholic has remained relatively stable -- at around 1 in 10 -- over the past 30 years. Around 1 in 20 (six per cent) of people belong to non-Christian religions.

The fall in religious affiliation has been driven, at least in part, by young people.

The Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, said: 'We do care about numbers, but only because we care about people'

In 2016, seven in ten (71 per cent) of young people aged 18-24 said they had no religion, up from 62 per cent in 2015.

There has been a decline in religious affiliation among all age groups between 2015 and 2016, but among the oldest people, those with no religion are in the minority.

Four in 10 people aged 65-74 say they have no religion and this drops to 27 per cent of those aged 75 and over

And when it comes to the Church of England, young people are particularly underrepresented. Just three per cent of those aged 18-24 described themselves as Anglican, compared to 40 per cent of those aged 75 and over.

The Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, said: 'Of course it's always troubling for the institution of the church to see numbers declining and to hear how younger people are less and less engaged with the life of the church.

'But the church is not an institution. The church is that community of men and women whose lives are centred on Christ.

'We do care about numbers, but only because we care about people. But most of all we care about that vision of justice and peace for all that is given us in Christ, and we will get on with living and sharing that vision with a few dozen people, a few thousand people, or a few million people: whoever it is that responds to the call of God in Christ.'

The Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Revd Paul Bayes, said: 'In this modern world people are more willing to be honest and say they have 'no religion' rather than casually saying they are 'CofE'.

The number of people who describe themselves as having 'no religion' is up five per cent from 48 per cent in 2015

'This honesty is welcome. Of course the latest BSA figures bring a continuing challenge to the churches, to speak clearly of our faith into a sceptical and plural world.

'But saying 'no religion' is not the same as a considered atheism. People's minds, and hearts, remain open.

'God remains relevant. The church remains relevant.'

Roger Harding, Head of Public Attitudes at the National Centre for Social Research, said: 'This increase follows the long-term trend of more and more of us not being religious. The differences by age are stark and with so many younger people not having a religion it's hard to see this change abating any time soon.

'The falls in those belonging to the Church of England are the most notable, but these figures should cause all religious leaders to pause for thought.

'We know from the British Social Attitudes survey that religious people are becoming more socially liberal on issues like same sex relationships and abortion. With falling numbers some faith leaders might wonder whether they should be doing more to take their congregation's lead on adapting to how society is changing.'

MailOnline has contacted Atheism UK for comment.

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