Religion in the United Kingdom

Religion in the United Kingdom

Religion in the United Kingdom and the states that pre-dated the UK, was dominated by forms of Christianity for over 1,400 years.[1] Although a majority of citizens still identify with Christianity in many surveys, regular church attendance has fallen dramatically since the middle of the 20th century,[2] while immigration and demographic change have contributed to the growth of other faiths.[3]

According to the 2001 UK census, Christianity is the major religion, followed by Islam, Hinduism, Neo-Paganism, Sikhism, Judaism and Buddhism in terms of number of adherents. This, and the relatively large number of individuals with nominal or no religious affiliations has led commentators to variously describe the UK as a multi-faith,[4] secularised,[5] or post-Christian society.[6]

Due to the United Kingdom having been formed by the union of previously independent states from 1707,[7][8][9] most of the largest religious groups do not have UK-wide organisational structures. While some groups have separate structures for the individual countries of the United Kingdom, others may have a single structure covering England and Wales or Great Britain. Similarly, due to the relatively recent creation of Northern Ireland in 1921, most major religious groups in Northern Ireland are organised on an all-Ireland basis.



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.[10]

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.

Religious affiliations

The 2001 census found that 76.8% of the UK population had a religion.[10] Surveys that employ a "harder" question tend to find lower proportions. 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.[11] An Ipsos MORI poll in 2003 reported that 43% considered themselves to be "a member of an organised religion".[12]

In the 2001 census Christianity was the largest religion, being designated by 71.6% of respondents.[10] The 2007 Tearfund Survey which revealed that 53% identified themselves as Christian[13] and the 2007 British Social Attitudes Survey, found that it was almost 47.5%.[14] The EU-funded European Social Survey published in April 2009 found that only 12% of British people belong to a church.[15]

Although there are no UK-wide data in the 2001 census on adherence to individual Christian denominations, Ceri Peach has estimated that 62% of Christians are Anglican, 13.5% Roman Catholic, 6% Presbyterian, 3.4% Methodist with small numbers of other Protestant denominations and the Orthodox church.[16] The 2007 British Social Attitudes Survey, which covers England, Wales and Scotland, but not Northern Ireland, indicated that 20.87% were part of the Church of England, 10.25% non-denominational Christian, 9.01% Roman Catholic, 2.81% Presbyterian/Church of Scotland, 1.88% Methodist, 0.88% Baptist, other Protestant 1.29, URC/Congregational 0.32%, 0.08% Free Presbyterian, Brethren 0.05% and 0.37% other Christian.[14]

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, Rastafari movement and Neopaganism. In the 2001 census 3.30% were Muslim, 1.37% Hindu, 0.43% Jewish, 0.37% Sikh and others 0.35%.[14]

There are also organisations which promote rationalism, humanism, atheism[17] 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 (15.1%) or not answering the question on religion at the 2001 census.[18] According to the British Humanist Association 36% of the population is humanist, and may, by the same token, be considered outright atheist.[19]


Time series from the British Social Attitudes Survey showing the religion to which people consider themselves to belong.[11]

Society in the United Kingdom is markedly more secular than in the past and the number of churchgoers fell over the second half of the 20th century.[19] In the UK 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.[20] The Ipsos MORI poll in 2003 reported that 18% were "a practising member of an organised religion".[12] The Tearfund Survey in 2007 found that only 7% of the population considered themselves as practising Christians. Ten per cent attend church weekly and two-thirds had not gone to church in the past year.[13][21] 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 were 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 survey in 2002 found Christmas attendance at Anglican churches in England varied between 10.19% of the population in the diocese of Hereford, down to just 2.16% in Manchester.[22] 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.[23]

Denominations in Great Britain, 2007
Religion/Denomination Percent
No religion 45.7
Church of England 20.9
Roman Catholic 9.0
Presbyterian/Church of Scotland 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
Refused / NA 0.5

Source: BSA Survey 2007.[11]

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 Scotland services declined by 19% and attendance at Catholic services fell by 25%.[24] 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.[25]

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.[26] 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).[27][28]


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% answered "I don't believe there is any sort of spirit, God or life force".[29] In a 2004 YouGov poll, 44 per cent of UK citizens responded affirmatively to the question "Do you believe in God?".[30] A survey in 2007 suggested that 42% of adults resident in the UK prayed, with one in six praying on a daily basis.[31]

In the 2001 census, 9.1 million (15% of the UK population) claimed no religion, with a further 4.3 million (7% of the UK population) not stating a religious preference.[18] There is a disparity between the figures for those identifying themselves with a particular religion and for those proclaiming a belief in a God: a Eurobarometer poll conducted in 2005 showed that 38% of the respondents believed that "there is a God", 40% believed that "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".[32]

Religions by ethnic group, 2001
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 25.56% 15.12% 0.07% 0.05% 0.33% 0.03% 0.49% 9.75% 52.60%
Other 32.98% 15.49% 1.32% 1.05% 25.68% 1.02% 0.90% 14.08% 7.48%

Source: UK 2001 Census[33]


Christian denominations in the UK v · UK Interchurch

The Anglican Communion

In England the (Anglican) Church of England is the Established Church:[34] the church is represented in the UK Parliament 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.[35] The Church of England also has the right to draft legislative measures (related to religious administration) through the General Synod that can then be passed into law by Parliament.[36]

The Church of England is the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The Scottish Episcopal Church, which is part of the Anglican Communion (but not a 'daughter church' of the Church of England),[37] dates from the final establishment of Presbyterianism in Scotland in 1690, when it split from the Church of Scotland. In the 1920s, the Church in Wales became disestablished and independent from the Church of England but remains in the Anglican Communion.[38]

Presbyterianism and Congregationalism

In Scotland the presbyterian Church of Scotland (known informally as The Kirk), is recognised as the national church.[39] It is not subject to state control and the British monarch is an ordinary member, required to swear an oath to "maintain and preserve the Protestant Religion and Presbyterian Church Government" upon his or her accession.[40] Splits in the Church of Scotland, especially in the 19th century, led to the creation of various other Presbyterian churches in Scotland, including the Free Church of Scotland, which claims to be the constitutional continuator of the Church in Scotland and was founded in 1843. The Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland was formed in 1893 by some who left the Free Church over alleged weakening of her position and likewise claims to be the spiritual descendant of the Scottish Reformation. 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.[41] 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,[42] with the first Presbytery being formed in Antrim in 1725.[43]

The United Reformed Church (URC), a union of Presbyterian and Congregational churches, consists of about 1,500 congregations[44] in England, Scotland and Wales. 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.

Roman Catholicism

The Roman Catholic Church has separate national organisations for England and Wales, for Scotland and for Ireland, which means there is no single hierarchy for Roman Catholicism in the United Kingdom. The Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales is the second largest Christian church with around five million members, mainly in England.[45] There is however a single apostolic nuncio to Great Britain, presently Archbishop Antonio Mennini. The Roman Catholic Church in Scotland is Scotland's second largest Christian church, representing a sixth of the population.[46] The Apostolic Nuncio to the island of Ireland (both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland) is Giuseppe Leanza. Eastern Rite Catholics in the United Kingdom are served by their own clergy and do not belong to the Roman Catholic dioceses but are still in full communion with the Bishop of Rome.


The Methodist church at Haroldswick is the most northerly church in the United Kingdom

The Methodist movement traces its origin to the evangelical awakening in the 18th century. Today, the Methodist Church of Great Britain, (which includes congregations in the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, Malta and Gibraltar) has around 270,000 members and 6,000 churches, though only around 3,000 members in 50 congregations are in Scotland. In the 1960s, it 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.[47] The Methodist Church in Ireland covers the whole of the island of Ireland, including Northern Ireland where it is the fourth largest denomination.


The Baptist Union of Great Britain - despite its name, covers just England and Wales.[48] There is a separate Baptist Union of Scotland and the Association of Baptist Churches in Ireland is an all-Ireland organisation.

Pentecostal and charismatic churches

Assemblies of God in Great Britain are part of the World Assemblies of God Fellowship with over 600 churches in Great Britain.[49] Assemblies of God Ireland cover the whole of the island of Ireland, including Northern Ireland. The Apostolic Church commenced in the early part of the 20th century in South Wales and now has over 110 churches across the UK. Elim Pentecostal Church now has over 500 churches across the UK.[49]

There is also a growing number of independent, charismatic churches that encourage Pentecostal practices as part of their worship. These are broadly grouped together as the British New Church Movement and could number up to 400,000 members. The phenomenon of immigrant churches and congregations that began with the arrival of the SS Empire Windrush from the West Indies in 1948 stands as a unique trend. West Indian congregations that started from this time include the Church of God, New Testament Assembly and New Testament Church of God.

Africans began to arrive in the early 1980s and established their own congregations. Foremost among these are Matthew Ashimolowo from Nigeria and his Kingsway International Christian Centre in London that may be the largest church in Western Europe.[50]

Latin American congregations such as Brazilian and Spanish-speaking churches were planted in the nineties, many of which were initially satellite churches of Kensington Temple.

Korean churches also sprang up especially in New Malden, Surrey, where there is a large and growing community of South Koreans.

Eastern Orthodox Churches

The Cathedral of the Dormition of the Most-Holy Mother of God and the Holy Royal Martyrs (Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia), in Gunnersbury

The Russian Orthodox Church - the Diocese of Sourozh covers Great Britain and Ireland.[51] Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia - also has a diocese that covers Great Britain and Ireland.[52] The Greek Orthodox Church - Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain, led by His Eminence Gregorios,[53] that covers England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland as well as Malta. The Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch - has 14 parishes and 8 missions within the Deanery of the United Kingdom and Ireland.[54]

Oriental Orthodox Churches

The Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria has two regional Dioceses in the United Kingdom: the Diocese of Ireland, Scotland, North East England and its Affiliated Areas is led by His Grace Bishop Antony of Newcastle and the Diocese of the Midlands and its Affiliated Areas is led by His Grace Bishop Missael of Birmingham. There is also (part of the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate) the British Orthodox Church, (its mission is to the people of the British Isles) which is led by His Eminence Metropolitan Seraphim of Glastonbury. In addition, there is one General Bishop in Stevenage, His Grace Bishop Angelos. There are many Coptic Orthodox Churches in the United Kingdom that are directly the responsibility of His Holiness Pope Shenouda III of Alexandria. There is also the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and the Armenian Apostolic Church in London.

Latter Day Saints

The first missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to proselyte in the British Isles arrived in 1837. By 1900 as many as 100,000 converts had joined the faith, but most of these early members promptly emigrated to the United States to join the main body of the church. Beginning in the 1950s emigration to the United States began to be discouraged and local congregations began to proliferate. Today the church claims just over 186,000 members across the United Kingdom, spread out across over 330 local congregations. The church also maintains two temples in England, the first being built in the London area in the 1950s, and the second completed in 1998 in Preston and known as the Preston England Temple. Preston is also the site of the first preaching by the missionaries in 1837, and is home to the oldest continually existing Latter Day Saint congregation anywhere in the world.[55][56] Restored 1994-2000, the Gadfield Elm Chapel in Worcestershire is the oldest extant chapel of the LDS Church.[57]

Other Christian denominations

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 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 and groups include The Salvation Army, founded in 1865,[58] Plymouth Brethren,[59] Newfrontiers,[60] Jehovah's Witnesses, which have about 130,000 publishers in the UK,[61] the Seventh-day Adventist Church and the Seventh Day Baptists.


Shah Jahan Mosque is the oldest purpose-built mosque in the UK

Though Islam was not legalised until the Trinitarian Act in 1812, recent estimates suggest a total of as high as 2.4 million Muslims over all the UK.[62][63] According to Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, the number of Muslims in Britain could be up to 2.9 million.[64] The vast majority of Muslims in the UK live in England and Wales: of 1,591,000 Muslims recorded at the 2001 Census,[65] 1,536,015 were living in England and Wales,[66] where they form 3% of the population; 42,557 were living in Scotland, forming 0.84% of the population;[67] and 1,943 were living in Northern Ireland.[68] Between 2001 and 2009, the Muslim population increased roughly 10 times faster than the rest of society.[69]

Most Muslim immigrants to the UK came from former colonies. The biggest groups of Muslims are of Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Indian origin,[70] with the remainder coming from Muslim-dominated areas such as Southwest Asia, Somalia, Malaysia, and Indonesia.[71] During the 18th century, lascars (sailors) who worked for the British East India Company settled in port towns with local wives.[72] These numbered only 24,037 in 1891 but 51,616 on the eve of World War I.[73] Naval cooks, including Sake Dean Mahomet, also came from what is now the Sylhet Division of Bangladesh.[74] From the 1950s onwards, the growing Muslim population has led to a number of notable Mosques being established, including Manchester Central Mosque, East London Mosque, London Markaz, London Central Mosque and, more recently, Baitul Futuh Mosque of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.

According to a Labour Force Survey estimate, the total number of Muslims in Great Britain in 2008 was 2,422,000, around 4% of the total population.[75] The single largest age-cohort in the Christian population is in those over 70 years of age.[75] Between 2004 and 2008, the Muslim population grew by more than 500,000.[75] In 2010, The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life estimated 2,869,000 Muslims in Great Britain.[76] The largest age-bracket within the British Muslim population were those under the age of 4, at 301,000 in September 2008.[75] The Muslim Council of Britain is an umbrella organisation for many local, regional and specialist Islamic organisations in the UK.


The Neasden Temple is the second largest temple of Hinduism in Europe.

Hinduism was the religion of 558,342 people in Great Britain according to the 2001 census[77] but an estimate in a British newspaper in 2007 has put the figure as high as 1.5 Million.[78] One Non-governmental organisation estimated as of 2007 that there are 800,000 Hindus in the UK.[79] Although most British Hindus live in England, with half living in London alone,[80] small communities also exist in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.


In the 2001 census, 390,000 individuals, (0.7 per cent of total respondents) self-identified as followers of the Jedi faith, created as part of the narrative structure of the Star Wars science-fiction movie series. This Jedi census phenomenon followed an internet campaign that stated, incorrectly, that the Jedi belief system would receive official government recognition as a religion if it received enough support in the census. An email in support of the campaign, quoted by BBC News, invited people to 'do it because you love Star Wars... or just to annoy people'.[81]


Singers Hill Synagogue, Birmingham, England.

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 Glasgow 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 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 Commons 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 Lords; again Disraeli was already a member.

Today, British Jews number around 300,000 with the UK having the fifth largest Jewish community worldwide.[82] However, this figure did not include Jews who identified 'by ethnicity only' in England and Wales or Scottish Jews who identified as Jewish by upbringing but held no current religion. A report in August 2007 by University of Manchester 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 has led to a significant rise in the proportion of British Jews who are ultra-orthodox. However various studies suggest that within some Jewish communities and particularly in some strictly Orthodox areas, many residents ignored the voluntary question on religion following the advice of their religious leaders resulting in a serious undercount, therefore it is impossible to give an accurate number on the total UK Jewish population. It may be even more than double the official estimates, heavily powered by the very high birth rate of orthodox families and British people who are Jewish by race but not religion; as it currently stands, the Jewish as a race section is not documented on the census.[83]


Sikhism was recorded as the religion of 336,179 people in the United Kingdom at the time of the 2001 Census.[84] While England is home to the majority of Sikhs in the UK, small communities also exist in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

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 Putney, 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 Burma, Thailand, and Sri Lanka. 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 Centre, 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 (now the Triratna Buddhist Community). There are some Sōka Gakkai groups in the UK.


In the 2001 Census, a total of 42,262 people from England, Scotland, and Wales declared themselves to be Pagans or adherents of Wicca. However, other surveys have led to estimates of around 250,000 or even higher.[85][86]

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 has had a major effect on 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.[87] There are about 5000 Bahá'ís of the UK.[88]


Leicester houses one of the world's few Jain temples that are outside of India.[89] There is an Institute of Jainology at Greenford, London.[90]

Religion and society

Religion and politics

Though the main political parties are secular, the formation of the Labour Party was influenced by Christian socialism and by leaders from a nonconformist background, such as Keir Hardie. On the other hand, the Church of England has sometimes been nicknamed "the Conservative Party at prayer".[91]

Today, some minor parties are explicitly 'religious' in ideology: 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 had three councillors,[92] the Christian parties picked up 51,336 votes (2.9 percent of the vote), up slightly from the 45,038 gained in 2004.[93]

The Church of England is represented in Parliament through 26 Lords Spiritual who sit in the House of Lords 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 Ireland and Wales 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.[94]

Religion and education

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".[95] 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."[96] Religious studies is 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.

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.

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.

Religion and the media

The Communications Act 2003 requires certain broadcasters in the UK to carry a "suitable quantity and range of programmes" dealing with religion and other beliefs, as part of their public service broadcasting.[97] Prominent examples of religious programming include the BBC television programme Songs of Praise, aired on a Sunday evening with an average weekly audience of 2.5 million,[98] and the Thought for the Day slot on BBC Radio 4. Channels also offer documentaries on, or from the perspective of a criticism of organised religion. A significant example is Richard Dawkins' two-part Channel 4 documentary, The Root of all Evil?. Open disbelief of, or even mockery of organised religion, is not regarded as a taboo in the British media, though it has occasionally provoked controversy. British comedy has a history of parody on the subject of religion.

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, Sectarianism in Glasgow and Northern Ireland.)

In the early 21st century, 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 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.

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.[99]

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.[100]

Some churches have warned that the Equality Act 2010 could force them to go against their faith when hiring staff.[101] In 2011 a British High Court held that the laws of the UK 'do not include Christianity' when banning Christian foster care.[102]

Main religious leaders

Lambeth Palace is the official residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury in London

Notable places of worship

See also


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