Christians in decline across the ELL boroughs and non-believers increase

St Paul Old Ford Church, Bow Pic: John Salmon, Wikimedia

Across all four ELL boroughs, the number of people who describe themselves as Christians has significantly decreased, while other religions and those with no religion have increased.

Census 2021 data revealed that the number of people who identify as Christian has fallen to below 50 percent in England and Wales for the first time.

Between the last census in 2011 and the 2021 census, the number of Christians has dropped from 59% to 46% and the number of people who describe themselves as nonreligious has risen from 25% to 37%.

This national trend is repeated across Croydon, Lewisham, Hackney and Tower Hamlets. The graph below compares the changes in the top three answers between 2011 and 2021.

The largest increase was in the number of people who do not identify with any religion. Across all four boroughs, between 2011 and 2021 the number of people with no religion increased by 46%.

Data created by Ed Holt

Richy Thompson is the director of public affairs for Humanist UK, a charity which promotes secularism. Thompson thinks the increase across the country is because “as time has gone on, people are looking to science for answers to questions religion used to answer."

He added: “People’s moral decisions are now being made on humanist lines, religious groups are at odds with people on many issues, such as abortion."

Hackney saw the largest decline in residents who described themselves as Christian, dropping by over 15,000. The number of people with no religious affiliation increased by 33,000 in Lewisham, representing the largest increase.

Father Prem, a priest at St Edward King & Confessor Church in New Addington, wasn’t surprised by the decline in practicing Christians in Croydon. He said: "There had been a decrease at his church. Some elderly people stopped coming during covid and haven’t come back."

Tower Hamlets saw an increase in people who identify as Christian by just over 400.

April Keech is a part time assistant priest at St Paul Old Ford Church, Bow. She believes the increase in Christians is because “churches have opened their doors, not just on Sundays but six days a week. We (the church) also do a lot of charitable work for the local community." Keech mentioned the large number of “independent churches” in Tower Hamlets as another factor.

Across the boroughs, the number of people practising faiths other than Christianity has increased since 2011. In Lewisham, the number of Muslims has increased by 5,000.

East London Mosque at midnight during Ramadan Pic: Imán

A spokesperson for Deptford Islamic Centre claimed this is due to “the high birth rate among Muslim families and the community outreach work the Islamic Centre does.” They also said that the number of people converting to Islam has “increased slightly."

Orthodox Jewish group in Stamford Hill Pic: Alan Denney

Hackney’s historic Jewish community also increased. A spokesperson for the Jewish Leadership Council believes this is due to the “high concentration of orthodox families in Hackney who typically have large families."

They said: “The number of Jews has declined elsewhere in the country but in areas with large populations of Orthodox Jews we’ve seen large increases, away from Hackney this is the case in parts of Haringey and Islington."

They added: “Growth would be greater (in Hackney) if house prices were cheaper, many people have been priced out," the spokesperson added.

More census data from 2021 is expected to be released in the new year.

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