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Census Data 2021

Humanists UK

30 January 2023

""New results released today from the 2021 England and Wales Census have revealed that more people aged 66 and under ticked ‘No religion’ than ticked ‘Christian’. The figures contrast with the last Census, where in every age demographic, more people ticked ‘Christian’ than ‘No religion’. Humanists UK has said that the results show that the UK faces a non-religious future, and that public bodies, most obviously the education system, are already out of step with today’s demographics.""

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What does the Census tell us about Religious beliefs ?


Non-religious surge: 51% in Bristol tick ‘No religion’ in 2021 Census

The 2021 Census figures for religion have been published, and 51% of people in Bristol ticked ‘No religion’. This is a rise from 37% in 2011. This means that a majority of people in Bristol are now non-religious, more than all other religions put together. The pattern is similar in nearby areas, with BaNES at 48%, 45% in North Somerset and 46% in South Glos.



The data published by the Office of National Statistics shows the number of people identifying with ‘No religion’ across the country jumped from 25% to 37% between 2011 and 2021. Christians are now a minority in the Census results for the first time, and are outnumbered by the non-religious in Wales. This is in spite of the Census question on religion being widely recognised as a biased and leading one – in reality, England and Wales are even less religious, in terms of identity, belief, and practice than the Census results suggest.


The latest results represent an increase in the pace of change, with both the growth of the non-religious, and the decline in the religious, occurring at a faster rate than between 2001 and 2011.


The number of people ticking ‘Christian’ in England and Wales fell in from 59% to 46%. Research shows that even these people are frequently not religious in their beliefs or practice – for example, less than half believe Jesus was a real person who was the son of god, died, and came back to life. In general, those who tick ‘Christian’ do so because they were christened, because their parents are/were Christian, or because they went to a Christian school.


Biased Census

The result is still likely to underestimate the number of non-religious people. This is because the question is not only optional, but also uses leading wording (‘What is your religion?’) which has long been shown to inflate the number of people who do not believe in, practice, or consider themselves to belong to a religion choosing a religious box. They do so because they were christened, because their parents are/were Christian, or because they went to a Christian school. The Office of National Statistics acknowledges this itself. The annual British Social Attitudes Survey, by contrast, found in 2020 that 53% of British adults belong to no religion, with only 37% Christians.


Separately a poll commissioned by Humanists UK in 2019 showed that 29% of British adults – nearly half the non-religious – hold all the fundamental beliefs and values of humanists, hinting at the widespread shift in popular values, opinions, and identity the UK has undergone in the 21st century.


Bristol Humanists’ Chair, Chrissie Hackett commented:


‘Bristol Humanists, is the de facto voice of the non-religious in the wider Bristol area. We are pleased to be able to offer services to schools, such as speakers on humanism and advice on the teaching of ‘belief’. We are a consistent presence at civic ceremonies such as Remembrance Day and the Nightingale Hospital opening, offering a non-religious perspective that encourages reason, equality and compassion. We fully expect there to be an increase in demand for humanist celebrants at weddings, funerals and baby namings. And we offer a space at our regular meetings for the non-religious to engage in discussion about what that means for our everyday lives’


Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented:


‘These results confirm that the biggest demographic change in England and Wales of the last ten years has been the dramatic growth of the non-religious. They mean the UK is almost certainly one of the least religious countries on Earth.


‘One of the most striking things about these Census results is how at odds the population is from the state itself. No state in Europe has such a religious set-up as we do in terms of law and public policy, while at the same time having such a non-religious population. Iran is the only other state in the world that has clerics voting in its legislature. And no other country in the world requires compulsory Christian worship in schools as standard.


‘The law has failed to keep up with the pace of change, and as a result, the non-religious in England and Wales face everyday discrimination – from getting local school places to receiving appropriate emotional support in hospitals. This Census result should be a wake-up call which prompts fresh reconsiderations of the role of religion in society.’




For further comment or information, media should contact Bristol Humanists chair Chrissie Hackett on 07944 469295 or Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at or 020 7324 3072 or 07534 248 596.

Read the latest Census results on the ONS website.


Bristol Humanists is a partner group of Humanists UK. Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.




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