Religion in the UK

Most religious groups in the United Kingdom do not have a UK-wide organisational structure; some are structured differently in each country, while others have a unified structure covering England and Wales.  

Regular surveys are held in the UK that record the religious affiliations of the population. The following are the four major surveys:

  1. The National Decennial Census
  2. The Labor Force Survey
  3. The British Social Attitudes Survey
  4. European Social Survey

Let’s discuss the UK’s religious composition based on the results of the different surveys.

What is the Main Religion of the UK?

When asked about their religion in the 2011 Census, 59.5% of the UK population identified themselves as Christian. Although this percentage has been declining over time, Christianity remains the main religion in the UK. 

The UK has two established churches: The Anglican Church of England and the Presbyterian Church of Scotland. An established church means having a formal relationship with the state. 

The Anglican Church of England is the primary church of the UK’s largest constituent, England. This is the original church of the Anglican Communion, followed by more than 85 million people who belong to more than 165 countries.

Neither fully Reformed nor completely Catholic, it upholds numerous Roman Catholic customs while simultaneously adopting the fundamentals of Protestant Reformation. The Supreme Governor of the Church is King Charles III, the current Monarch of the UK.

How Did Christianity Become the Main Religion in the UK?

The story of how Christianity spread and evolved in the UK is remarkable. 

Before the concept of Christianity came to Britain, most people living there believed in the Pagan Gods of the Earth and the Roman Gods of the sky.

Christianity started spreading in Britain during the 1st century, a time when it was under Roman occupation. Roman artisans brought stories of Jesus to Britain with them. 

By that time, several Roman religious cults existed in Britain. However, Christianity stood out amongst others because it demanded exclusive adherence from its followers. It required people to dismiss their beliefs in more than one god.

This angered the Roman authorities, leading to widespread persecutions of Christians. They could not meet or worship openly.  

However, the Roman Emperor Constantine liked the concept of a single, supreme deity. He believed that this idea could unite his Empire and contribute to his military success. Consequently, Christian worship was officially allowed within the Roman Empire after 313 AD. 

Christianity spread more in Britain during the 4th century. However, a significant part of the population was still not in favour of this religion; Christians were still a minority compared to Pagans.

After the exit of the Romans, the country was invaded by new cultural groups who brought a new wave of paganism to Britain. Even during these Dark Ages, Christianity managed to survive in some western parts of Britain.

In 597 AD, Pope Gregory of Rome made the first organised attempt to spread Christianity in Britain. He chose St. Augustine to preach to the Anglo-Saxons about the Christian faith.

St. Augustine met King Aethelbert of Kent, the capital of Canterbury. This meeting established the future course of Christianity in Britain. 

Roman Catholic Church remained the predominant form of Christianity in Britain from the 6th to the 16th century (the Reformation period in the Middle Ages).

The 16th century marked the reformation of Christianity in England. The final settlement of Britain into a reformed faith happened when King Henry VIII was not allowed by the Pope of Rome to divorce his wife. He passed the Act of Supremacy in 1534 to break away from the authority of the Roman Catholic Church, becoming the head of the Church of England.

What Other Religions are Prevalent in the UK?

According to the 2011 Census, most of the UK’s population are followers of Christianity. 

The majority of Christians belong to the Anglican denomination, followed by Roman Catholics, Presbyterians, Methodists, and Baptists.

After Christianity, the most popular religions in the UK are Islam and Hinduism.

Muslims first immigrated to Britain more than 300 years ago when many were hired in India to work for the East India Company. The next major Muslim migration to Britain happened after the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869. Most of these migrants belonged to Yemen. Moreover, several Hindu scholars, reformers, philosophers, and the general public from India’s princely states settled in Britain.

Sikhism, a religion that originated in the Punjab region of India, is the next most popular religion in the UK. 

Judaism stands at fifth place in popularity amongst all the religions in the UK, followed by Buddhism in the number of adherents.

Here is a table that indicates the top 5 religions in the UK based on the results of the 2011 Census.

No religion0.4%
Other religion25.7%
No religion stated7.2%
Most popular religions in the UK

Fastest-Growing Religions in the UK

Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the UK. According to the decennial census of the UK, the percentage of Muslims in the UK rose from 2.7 in 2001 to 4.4 in 2011.

This growth is attributed to the increasing conversion of British people to Islam and the rising number of immigrants settling into the country. The largest population of UK Muslims exists in England, followed by Scotland and Wales.

Moreover, the number of people breaking their ties with religion or not practising their religion has also increased over the years. 

What is the Main Religion of Scotland? 

Christianity is the main religion in Scotland. The national church of this country, the Church of Scotland, is independent of state control. This church has a significant impact on the country’s culture.

Other groups of Christianity in Scotland are the Roman Catholics, Pentecostals, Baptists, Congregationalists, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Episcopalians, Methodists, and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Scotland is, like England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the home to many immigrants who brought different religions into the country. After Christianity, the most popular religions in Scotland include Hinduism, Sikhism, Judaism, and Buddhism. Other religions in acute minorities are Bahai, Neopagan, and Rasta.

Moreover, a significant part of Scotland’s population reported having no ties with the religion. Some groups also believe in promoting secularism and humanism throughout the country.

The table below shows the most popular religions in Scotland as per the Census of 2011.

No religion0.3%
Other religion36.7%
No religion stated7.0%
Scotland religion percentage

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