The new census for England and Wales has revealed that Christians make up less than half of the population for the first time.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported that whilst the previous census 10 years ago revealed Christians made up 53.9% of the population, that figure is now just 46.2%.
‘Christian’ was still the most popular answer, with the second being ‘no religion’ at 37.2%.
The Anglican Archbishop of York and Primate of England Stephen Cottrell said the results were ‘not a great surprise’.
“We have left behind the era when many people almost automatically identified as Christian but other surveys consistently show how the same people still seek spiritual truth and wisdom and a set of values to live by,” he said.
Scotland’s census, delayed until next year, is expected to reveal similar results.
However, the Scottish census has been criticised for its low return rate of 89% compared to 97% for England and Wales as well as the overhauling of the survey after it had begun, leading to fears of inaccurate results.
Stephen Boyle, auditor general for Scotland, called the census a ‘vital data-gathering tool’ for the planning of public services.
“It’s important that National Records of Scotland establishes why the return rate was significantly lower than the other countries in the UK,” he said.
“Those lessons should be shared and will be crucial to planning for future censuses and surveys.”