Welcome to Dorset Humanists

Dorset Humanists is a welcoming group for humanists, atheists and agnostics who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. We meet in Bournemouth for informative and enjoyable presentations, debates and discussions on a wide range of subjects including ethics, science, religion, philosophy, politics, our environment and much more. We also organise regular social events.

In 10 years 'No Religion' population increases from 15% to 25% in England & Wales

The British Humanist Association and National Secular Society comment on the data in England & Wales.

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) comments on the Census 2011 data here & here with a 5 minute summary video here.

Other Census 2011 info from Dorset Humanists here.

Christians have declined in numbers across all age groups below 60 since 2011

People with No Religion have increased in numbers across all age bands since 2001
UK born with No religion have increased by 5.8M, Christians decreased by 5.3M

The ONS 18 page pdf on Religion and Non-Religion in England & Wales:-

  • The number of people with no religion has increased across all age groups, particularly for those aged 20 to 24 and the 40 to 44. (page 1) & Interactive Graph
2001 Christian v Non-Religion with 20-24 age highlighted
2011 Christian v Non-Religion with 20-24 age highlighted
  • The majority of people with no religion were White (93 per cent) and born in the UK (93 per cent) and these groups have increased since 2001. (page 1)
  • People with no religion had the highest proportion of people who were economically active, Christians and Muslims the lowest. (page 1)
  • In the 2011 Census, Christianity was the largest religious group in England and Wales with 33.2 million people (59 per cent of the population). The second largest religious group were Muslims with 2.7 million people (5 per cent of the population). The proportion of people who reported that they did not have a religion reached 14.1 million people, a quarter of the population (25 per cent). (page 1)
  • The overall population of England and Wales grew by 3.7 million between 20011 and 2011 to reach 56.1 million. In 2011, there were 4.1 million fewer people reporting as Christian (from 72 per cent to 59 per cent of the population), 6.4 million more people reporting no religion (from 15 per cent to 25 per cent) and 1.2 million more people reporting as Muslim (from 3 per cent to 5 per cent). There are many factors that can affect the number of people affiliating with a religion including demographic changes, migration and changes in reporting. (page 2)
  • People with no religion had a younger age profile than the population as a whole in 2011. Four in ten people with no religion (39 per cent) were aged under 25 and over four in five (82 per cent) were aged under 50. This compares to 31 per cent and 65 per cent for the population of England and Wales respectively. (page 2)
  • People were less likely to report being Christian across all age groups in 2011 than 2001, particularly those aged under 60. The male 35 to 39 age group decreased the most with 47 per cent reporting as Christian in 2011 compared to 66 per cent in 2001. (page 3)
  • The number of people reporting no religion has reached 14.1 million, an increase of 6.4 million since 2001. There were increases across all age groups. The largest of the increases was for those aged 20 to 24 and the 40 to 44 where there was a rise of 637,000 and 620,000 respectively. As was the case in 2001 there were more men than women in 2011 (55 per cent to 45 per cent). (page 5)
  • Younger people were more likely than older people to report no religion. However, there has been an increase in the reporting of no religion across all groups between 2001 and 2011. Nearly a third (32 per cent) of people aged under 25 reported no religion in 2011 compared to a fifth (19 per cent) in 2001. (page 5)

  • All local authorities saw an increase in no religion across all broad age ranges with the exception of Harrow and Newham. There were five local authorities where over half of people aged under 25 reported no religion (Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Norwich, Rhondda Cynon Taf and Brighton and Hove). Caerphilly saw the largest percentage point increase for this age group with 23 percentage points. The lowest proportions were in Newham and Brent with just 9 per cent of under 25s reporting no religion.
  • 93 per cent of people (13.1 million) with no religion were from a white background. (page 7)

  • The number of people with no religion with a White British background has increased by 5.6 million (from 7.0 million to 12.6 million people). (page 9)
  • Over nine in ten people (93 per cent) who had no religion were born in the UK. The rise in the number of people reporting no religion was largely among UK-born. Numbers have almost doubled with a rise of 5.8 million people, from 7.2 million to 13.1 million. (page 10)
  • The group with greatest economic activity in 2011 were those with no religion at 74 per cent. The groups with the lowest levels of economic activity were Muslims (55 per cent) and Christians (60 per cent). (page 12)


British Religion in Numbers (BRIN) inform that 'A general statistical bulletin about the release contains (at pp. 15-17) a short analysis of the religion data, focusing on the distribution by age within gender for nine religious groups. People of no religion have the young profiles (with median ages of 30 years). The proportion under 25 years of age professing no religion is 39%.' The statistical bulletin is here:

BRIN repost the ONS key points but also elaborates on them:-

  • the number with no religion has increased across all age groups since 2001, but especially for those aged 20-24 and 40-44, while the growth for women (89%) has been higher than for men (78%)
  • 93% of Christians are white (7% more than the national average) and 89% born in the UK, albeit the number identifying as white British was lower in 2011 (86%) than in 2001 (93%) – in fact, the net reduction of 4,100,000 Christians between 2001 and 2011 would have looked a lot worse had it not been for an increase of 1,200,000 non-UK-born partly offsetting the fall of 5,300,000 among UK-born

Prof. David Voas post ‘Religious Census, 2011: What Happened to the Christians (Part II)’ includes (says BRIN) the hugely important estimate that the overwhelming explanation for the net fall of 4,100,000 Christians between 2001 and 2011 lies in the net ‘defection’ of 3,900,000 persons who were described as Christians in 2001 but not so in 2011, cohort replacement and immigration combined only yielding a net loss of 200,000 Christians during the decade. This process of defection is strongly age-related; the younger the respondents, the more likely they are to have moved away from self-identification as Christians. 

Add caption
David Voas states that:- 
'... the pattern by age is very similar in the two years.  Parents answer the census questions for their children, and unsurprisingly children around age 10 are described as Christian with about the same frequency as their parents (approximately age 40).  Many people are not inclined to ascribe a religious affiliation to infants or very young children, and conversely adolescents aged 15-19 are starting to demonstrate their independence: these two factors produce the characteristic hump in the reported affiliation of children.  Thereafter one finds the typical generational profile of religious belonging, and affiliation rises steadily from young adults to the elderly.' 
and continues
'Although the shapes of the graphs are much the same in 2001 and 2011, the levels are remarkably different.  Excluding minorities, more than three quarters of people aged 20-24 were labelled Christian in 2001; in 2011 the proportion in that age group was only one half.  The gap narrows as age rises, however.'

David Voas also says that:- 
'If for the moment we ignore immigration, the groups aged 10-14, 15-19, 20-24, etc. in 2001 correspond to those aged 20-24, 25-29, 30-34, etc. in 2011.  We can calculate the amount of drift away from Christian affiliation within each cohort, as shown in the graph above. The first two cohorts consist of children who for the most part would have been ascribed a religious affiliation by their parents in 2001; the very high level of apparent defection is no great surprise.  The change among young adults is very striking, however.  Of people in their 20s and early 30s in 2001 who called themselves Christian, a quarter no longer did so in 2011.'
David Voas talks about The effect of immigration:- 
'These figures are all the more remarkable because they underestimate the amount of drift away from Christian self-identification among people born in the UK (or present in the country in 2001).  The population in 2011 includes immigrants who would not have been counted in 2001.  The non-Christians have been excluded, as explained above, but many immigrants are Christian and relatively few describe themselves as having no religion. The number of Christians born in the UK declined from 35.0 million in 2001 to 29.7 million in 2011.  Over the same period, the number of Christians born outside the country increased from 2.3 to 3.6 million.  In consequence, the total number of Christians dropped by just 11%, although the number of native-born Christians fell by 15%. 
Immigrants are disproportionately young adults.  Of people aged 25-34 in 2011, fully one quarter were born outside the UK.  All of those individuals who did not self-identify with a minority religion are included in the figures used above.  Some would also have been present in 2001, and some will be counted as having no religion or religion not stated, but a high proportion will be Christian.  The defection from Christian affiliation between 2001 and 2011 is therefore underestimated in the graphs above, particularly among young adults, because it is offset by an infusion of Christian immigrants. 
One caveat should be added for the sake of completeness.  This analysis assumes that the numbers of people describing themselves as having no religion, or not answering the question, have not been substantially inflated between 2001 and 2011 by people of non-Christian heritage.  Further checks can be done in due course, but for the moment these results seem reliable.'

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