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Religion in the United Kingdom

The country has an area of 94,525 square miles and a population of 61.1 million. Christians make up 72 percent of the population, including the Church of England, Church of Scotland, the Roman Catholic Church, Protestants, and many unaffiliated Christian groups. In 2003 the Office of National Statistics estimated 29 percent of the population identified with Anglicanism, 10 percent with the Catholic Church, and 14 percent with Protestant churches. In December 2007 a survey reported that the number of Catholics attending Sunday services had overtaken the number of Anglicans doing so. A September 2006 English Church Census reported that Methodists were decreasing as a percentage of the population, while members of The Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints (Mormons), Pentecostal churches, many churches from Africa, and the Eastern Orthodox Church, almost entirely immigrants, were increasing.

There are two established (or state) churches -- The Church of England (Anglican) and the Church of Scotland (Presbyterian) -- but Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland do not have "official" religions. The 1921 Church of Scotland Act reorganized the Church as Scotland's national church based on a Presbyterian system but not dependent on any government body or the Queen for spiritual matters or leadership.

As regards its hold upon the people there are no trustworthy statistics, but on the upper and upper-middle classes the hold of the Church of England was very strong. Among the working classes the greater majority are nominally adherents of the Church of England, but a great deal of the religious life is Nonconformist. As against Nonconformity the Church of England is little organized for political activity, and its hold upon the people and its influence are very intangible and indeterminable quantities.

Individuals with no religious belief constituted 15 percent of the population. Muslims composed 3 percent of the population. The Muslim community is predominantly South Asian in origin, but other groups from the Arabian Peninsula, Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Levant are represented. In addition, there is a growing number of indigenous converts. Although estimates vary, the Government places the number of mosques in the whole country at one thousand. Groups comprising 1 percent or less of the population include Hindus, Sikhs, Jews, and Buddhists. Individuals from Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, and Sikh backgrounds are concentrated in London and other large urban areas, primarily in England.

Attendance at religious services was significantly different from the number of adherents. According to Christian Research's Religious Trends report released on May 8, 2008, four million Christians attend services on a regular basis (defined as at least once a month) in the country. These figures do not include Northern Ireland, where higher percentages reportedly attend both Catholic (more than 60 percent), and Protestant (more than 35 percent) services. The report stated that more than 50 percent of Muslims regularly worship at mosques. Figures for Jews and other religious groups were unavailable.

Religious affiliation was not evenly distributed among ethnicities. According to the 2001 census, approximately 70 percent of the white population described themselves as Christians. Nearly 75 percent of black Caribbean respondents stated that they were Christians, as did 70 percent of black Africans. Meanwhile, 45 percent of Indians were Hindus and 29 percent were Sikhs. Approximately 92 percent of Pakistanis and Bangladeshis were Muslims.

In Northern Ireland, where divisions between nationalists and unionists evolved largely along religious lines, the 2001 census showed that 53.1 percent were Protestants and 43.8 percent were Catholics. Many Catholics and Protestants continued to live in segregated communities in Northern Ireland, although many middle class neighborhoods were mixed communities. The policy of the Government remained one of promotion of religious tolerance.

As of 2009 more than 30 percent of state schools had a religious character. Nearly all of the approximately 7,000 "faith schools" in England (numbers are not available for Scotland and Wales) are associated with Christian denominations, although there are Jewish, Islamic, Sikh, (and one Hindu) schools. The law requires religious education for all children, ages three to 19, in publicly maintained schools. In England and Wales it forms part of the core curriculum in accordance with the Education Reform Act of 1988. In Scotland religious education of some sort is mandated by the Education Act of 1980. However, the shape and content of religious instruction throughout the country is decided on a local basis. Locally agreed syllabuses are required to reflect the predominant place of Christianity while taking into account the teachings and practices of other principal religions in the country. Daily collective prayer or worship of "a wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character" is practiced in schools in England and Wales, a requirement that may be waived for students who obtain permission of the school authorities.




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