IN recent years the number of Christians in this country has declined dramatically. The 2021 census revealed that only 46 per cent of people identified as Christian. In 2011 it was 59 per cent. The number of Christians had dropped by 5.5million in ten years.
On closer inspection, even 46 per cent turned out to be an overestimate. The census had asked: ‘What is your religion?’, which is a leading question. When British Social Attitudes in 2018 asked the rather different question, ‘Do you regard yourself as belonging to any particular religion?’ the number of ‘Christians’ dropped to 38 per cent.
Voice for Justice UK (VfJUK), an organisation which advocates for the right to freedom of speech, and to practise the Christian faith freely and without restraint, as enshrined in the Bible, decided to see what this decline in the number of Christians means for the practising faithful. It does not look good. In recent years there have been a number of legal cases involving Christians who have lost their jobs, or been arrested or prevented from practising their faith, many of which have been reported on TCW. It is not just that Christians have become a minority compared with the secular population. It is that practising Christians are a minority within that minority. British Social Attitudes reveals that only 31 per cent of people describe themselves as ‘somewhat, very or extremely’ religious. Since many of these are likely to be Muslim, the number of practising Christians is likely to have dropped well below 30 per cent. Some sources claim the number of churchgoing Christians is only eight per cent. Whether true or not, in this once-Christian nation, practising faithful Christians are a real minority. However you would never know of their limited presence if you read the left-wing press who still (mistakenly) associate this minority with being part of the establishment and as having power and dominance. If only this were true.
Archbishop Welby’s influence, perversely, is associated with his efforts to secularise and destroy what is left of the Church of England. The BSA survey, for example, showed that 61 per cent of the population believe religious organisations have too much power or far too much power. Religious leaders try to influence voting behaviour although the majority of us do not think that they should. Were they thinking of Welby’s climate/Net Zero zealotry? The survey findings also indicate people have less confidence in churches and religious organisations than in schools, courts, businesses and even parliament.
The last time BSA looked at religion was in 2018 when Parliament was in knots over Brexit. Even then the complete lack of confidence in religious organisations exceeded the lack of confidence in Parliament itself. Again, given the revolution which has taken place within the Anglican Church, perhaps that is not so surprising. The Church of England no longer stands for basic Christian principles. This is the kind of baggage Christians have to live with and VfJUK hopes to find out through its own survey what impact it has.
Perhaps what is most notable about this association with establishment religion is the reality that only a very small number of Christians any longer see themselves as Church of England. While 40 years ago over 60 per cent of Christians regarded themselves as C of E, that number is now down to 32 per cent. In fact, the second-largest number of Christians do not have a denomination. These Christians, far from having access to the reins of power, will be struggling to find money for their church buildings and may even be operating out of their own houses or online. The truth is that today’s beleaguered UK Christians are far from flush with money. They have little temporal power or resources and depend on our heavenly Father to survive.
Perhaps none of this matters because, as we are constantly told, we live in a tolerant society. This is the message communicated by 2018 British Social Attitudes. ‘Most people have a tolerant, or at least positive view of members of other religious groups,’ we are assured. But how much has changed since then? Britain has become a much more heavily censored and censorious society – as evidenced by the demonisation of so-called ‘anti-vaxxers’.
And while people are tolerant of other identities, with that ‘tolerance’ enforced, it is not clear if people – and indeed the law itself – are also so tolerant of other beliefs.
Felix Ngole, a top student, was expelled from Sheffield University on account of his private views on marriage and sexual ethics. A few years later he won his case. A court was able to distinguish between expression of religious views and discrimination, an area where many fall short. Now in 2023 he is once again in the line of fire. Because of his strongly held Christian views, a job offer has been withdrawn.
This is not the only case. A school pastoral assistant lost her job as a result of expressing her views on Facebook. This too was eventually overturned. Recently a Christian was arrested when she silently prayed within an abortion clinic ‘buffer zone’ (the clinic was closed at the time). The Core Issues Trust, a Christian counselling organisation, had its bank account closed following a campaign of harassment and intimidation.
Dr David Mackereth lost his job when he refused to refer to men calling themselves women as ‘she’. Giving false witness is a prohibition in the Ten Commandments. To call someone a man if you genuinely believe she is a woman would be a lie and contrary to Christian faith. Again it took a painful five years for him to have his sacking as an assessor for the Department of Work and Pensions overturned.
Unfortunately, there are endless such examples. You can read about them here. The existence of these legal cases has serious implications for Christians. There is a stress which comes from being a member of a group which is being discriminated against. It can also be difficult for minorities when they encounter ideas which are contrary to their beliefs. These psychological observations have been developed into something called ‘minority stress theory’, which provides justification for the propaganda and attention given to LGBT+ minorities and their beliefs.
That Christians are a minority is only part of the problem. Also significant is that the majority are growing increasingly intransigent in their secularism. In 2018, 52 per cent of the British population declared themselves as having no religion, up from 31 per cent in 1983. Significant numbers of these are taking a hardline position, often describing themselves as ‘very or extremely non-religious’. Atheists now constitute 26 per cent.
But while this suggests an increasing divide is emerging between those with no religion and those who are Christian, we should not be discouraged. If we believe Jesus is the Son of God we can move mountains. There is tremendous power in Christian faith.
All of these are topics which VfJUK would like to explore. It would be much appreciated if you could fill in the questionnaire. This will make a valuable contribution to our research.